If, by some chance, you find yourself at AMC Assembly Row or Somerville Theatre or your own local theater this weekend or next, ask yourself this question: Are you looking for meaningful, thought-provoking storytelling or a profusion of action with photosensitive epileptic-inducing special effects?
Box office ticket revenue concludes that moviegoers are looking for the latter. Action and sci-fi movies have been the reigning champion of the box office for quite some time now. But should summer movies be exempt of plot and storylines and feature special effects and action in excess in attempt to gain its bigger piece of the pie? If this is what the audience is craving, then why not? Why not give fans of the genre more of what has proven to be a winning formula? So, as you enter the theater, sliding into the rickety reclining movie seat, while eating stale popcorn with overpriced sugar water in hand to watch the latest rendition of The Mummy, keep this in mind: action and special effects first, plot and substance last. Even still, it makes for one hell of a ride; for the summer, anyway.
Blockbuster veteran (and running enthusiast) Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, a member of the U.S. military, who tries to get rich along with his best friend, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), by selling stolen artifacts on the black market. When they stumble upon a map that Morton steals from Jenny Halsey (Anabelle Wallis), with whom Morton has a quick but torrid affair, they accidentally unearth the tomb of the ancient princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). And, of course, shockingly unearth the tomb that awakens the pact that the ancient princess made with evil and horrors that defy all manner of comprehension.
Overall, The Mummy is very entertaining. Its action scenes are akin to a theme park ride on steroids; and there are a lot of rides in this park, perhaps even too many. The special effects are both imaginative and jaw-dropping, consisting of chasing mummies resembling zombies from The Walking Dead, but much faster (i.e. World War Z). However, they don’t eat their victims, instead they suck the life out of them. The friendship of Morton (Cruise) and Vail (Johnson) is full of laughs and affable buffoonery. The pair get into situations that Morton promises to be simple and easy, only to realize that they are in way over their heads. Some of their indescribable circumstances range from discovering the ancient tomb of Ahmanet crawling with spiders to Morton trying to help his friend out of a seemingly hopeless spot in which there is no coming back. It is reminiscent of the relationship between David Naughton and Griffin Dune in John Landis’ 1983 phenomenon, A Werewolf in London.
Unfortunately, the drawback of the film is also its greatest detriment. The plot is exorbitantly convoluted as if the script hopped back and forth between five different screenwriters like a hot potato. In any case, if you are familiar with the storylines of its predecessors, be it 1932’s The Mummy or the 1999 Brendan Fraser-led film of the same name, open-mindedness is beneficial here, because massive liberties have been taken in the 2017 revival. The main reason for this is due to Universal Studios’ attempt to create a franchise of interconnected monster films within a shared universe. But here’s the thing folks, Universal did this already, back in the mid-to-late 1940’s. Obviously, this is a desperate ploy to compete with the gargantuan Marvel Cinematic Universe and the rising DC Extended Universe for colossal audiences and ticket sales. If you ask me, though, it all sounds a lot like the corporate edition of Game of Thrones season 1—Marvel is House Lannister, the DCEU is House Stark, and Universal is House Targaryen. The so-called Dark Universe is a power grab by Universal, plain and simple. However, since this is the cinematic age of the superhero, this tactic looks like a disaster waiting to happen. But, of course, only time will tell.
The Mummy was directed by Alex Kurtzman (2007’s Transformers and 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2) and written by—this may take a while—screenwriters David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dylan Kussman on a story developed by Jon Spaihts, Jenny Lumet, and Kurtzman (you see what I mean? A hot potato). As the first installment in Universal’s recently-announced Dark Universe, The Mummy, which was filmed on a budget of $125M, has amassed $183M at the box office worldwide thus far. So, for those who are excited for the Dark Universe, now you know the studio made its money back (more or less), which means they may just move forward with their plans. Also, despite a 16% score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, 44% of audiences seemed to like the film, so there is a bit of a silver lining to be found here…kind of.
Universal’s 2017 makeover of The Mummy is full of surprises. Some are well-received and others are a head nod in disbelief. However, this film is completely drenched in the spirit of summer blockbuster movies; so the special effects, the non-stop action, and the exaggerated CGI maybe just enough to warrant both your time and your money. But don’t take my word for it, cause that’s a big maybe.