Readers will spot this is a very late film review. To be candid, I saw the film was a turkey by just seeing the trailer, which is a lot better than the film. I duly delegated my notes to the Out tray. Also, I’d published three consecutive bad reviews and didn’t want to add a fourth. Then again, maybe I was fearful of being confronted by Tom Cruises’ minders, representatives of Scientology, who knows, but here it is.
As a child The Mummy was the first film I can recall seeing that scared the hell out of me. For the price of three ‘returnable’ lemonade bottles you got in free to the Saturday matinee, there to see films as old as Methuselah, all black and white and a bit beaten up, such as Flash Gordon, or a Tarzan movie. (One Tarzan movie had a skinny Sean Connery in it.) The films were well out-of date when shown but that didn’t matter to us poor kids.
As soon as the Mummy stepped out of its sarcophagi, leg bandages trailing, and walked stumbling towards the unwary archaeologist, arms outstretched to throttle him, I was under the seat, hiding till the scene was over, fingers in my ears to blot out the screams from other children around.
I can’t vouch for how the experience unhinges a child’s fragile imagination, but from then on I was convinced there was a bogeyman under my bed, and the only way to avoid his clutches was to lie rock still. This I did most nights, to my mother’s evident relief. As an adult, I noted how quietly I lay in bed on my back, undisturbed, not snoring, my arms folded across my chest. Films do have an affect on us.
The original film, unearthed, and rejuvenated, so to speak, was shown in a cinema in a council dumping area outside Edinburgh where they sent undesirable citizens. My stepfather wasn’t one; a gardener for the council, he’d been given a ‘tied’ cottage nearby. The local cinema was in Craigmillar.
The County had seen better days by the time I patronised it every Saturday, and showing films unfit for children didn’t stop them letting us in – the owner needed the shillings.
It was not the first film I’d seen in a cinema. I was taken to see a war film, but I must have made so much of a protest at the sight of men blowing bits off each other that we left the film early. I saw Cruise’s Mummy on my own and thankful I did. I’d feel guilty if I’d dragged friends with me.
Tom Cruise always plays safe. He chooses film subjects that are one small step advanced from his character portrayed in his last film. You know what to expect from Cruise. He’s either Mr Super Tough Guy who always triumphs, as in the Mission Impossible series, or Mr Average caught up in an extraordinary situation, as in the War of the Worlds.
He’s done the odd cameo, the last I think was Tropic Thunder, and he’s played against type, as in the excellent hit man thriller set in Los Angeles at night, Collateral, but he never loses his on-screen persona. That’s his magic, his star quality.
As an actor Cruise has three weaknesses, his lack of height, and a strong tendency to overuse his hands to help express what he’s not all that clever at saying with his voice. There’s nothing still about Cruise. He’s on the move every which way all the time. He is good at running, very good. Almost ever film he’s stars in has to have a running-chase sequence. And he has one other inability, he can’t do Harrison Ford’s rascally cockiness, or Kurt Russell’s sullen roguishness, though he tries, and try hard he does in this film.
Cruise plays the hero often but here in The Mummy, anybody could have played the role. It doesn’t need Cruise’s presence. Morgan Freeman could have played his role, Charlize Theron, or damn it, Brendan Fraser reprise his version.
Apparently Cruise took control of the movie when things went awry. It’s not the first time he’s done that – exercising a stars pulling power. He tried to get behind the camera on his first blockbuster Days of Thunder, but got his ass kicked to the dressing rooms by a ten times as tough production manager.
Planned as the start of a new franchise, Cruise reportedly took firm control of nearly every aspect of the Mummy’s production and post-production, having the script re-written, and the film ultimately re-edited at his command. If Cruise did meddle with the script it shows. He’s got himself saddled with lines like “We are not looters! We are liberators of precious antiquities!” Yuck!
Depending on who one talks to, Cruise is either the main reason The Mummy failed, or its saviour. Whatever the truth, he certainly had his role beefed up, a sure way of knocking other elements out of kilter. In addition, the project has a team of writers following on from its main author, Christopher McQuarrie, another way to knock a project to pieces.
In this Cruise vehicle he plays Sgt. Nick Morton, a treasure-hunting U.S. soldier in Iraq who, a man full of bull and bluster, alongside beautiful (they are always unlikely beauties) archaeologist Dr. Jenny Halsey, (Annabelle Wallis), comes across the ancient Egyptian tomb of Ahmanet, (Sofia Boutella), a princess who once made a pact with Set, God of Death, in an attempt to gain power. By some quirk or typo this Egyptian tomb is buried in Iraq. Don’t ask my why.
Unchained, Ahmanet is a wrecker of worlds, an asteroid on a collision course with earth, and a right Royal pain in the ass, a Queen harpy. She can bring down planes with sandstorms and flocks of birds. She enjoys sucking the life out of innocent bystanders, their corpses magically coming to life again as her personal army of the undead. She one hellova predatory woman.
To cut a sad story to it basics, The Mummy is a plodding, drab, illogical mish-mash. It leaves you hoping the appearance of Russell Crowe will beef things up, but alas, he doesn’t. We get a clunky sub-plot involving Dr. Henry Jekyll, (Russell Crowe), CEO of a very secret organization that “plans to contain evil” (it says in press hand-outs) but seems damn sinister in its own right.
The films lacks a good script, the sweep of Arabian deserts, clever camera work, and some decent humour. A lot of the jokes are weak. There is nothing you can describe as scary, not anything close to that old flick of my childhood. It’s as if Cruise got everyone together on a Monday to tell his creative team his latest great idea, and how it should be incorporated in the already completed script.
With a reported production budget of $125 million and A-Lister Cruise in the lead, Universal Studios expected The Mummy to be a big summer blockbuster in the U.S., but the filmed opened to a very weak $32 million USD in its domestic territories. Looking at it as objectively as possible, a Mummy reboot is one issue, an aging Cruise another.
- Star rating: Two-and-a-half stars
- Cast: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe
- Director: Alex Kurtzman (Some of the time!)
- Writer: Christopher McQuarrie, David Koepp plus four
- Cinematographer: Ben Serisin
- Music: Brian Tyler
- Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes