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Cruise’s entombed catastrophe: “The Mummy” is dead on arrival

The Mummy may be the worst film of the year so far. But…

Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis star in a scene from the movie "The Mummy." (CNS photo/Universal)

MPAA Rating: PG-13
USCCB Rating: A-III
Reel Rating: 2 out of 5 reels

This version of The Mummy is the second remake of the 1932 original, and theoretically it is the first in a reboot of the classic Universal monsters series. It’s a neat idea, but this is by far the worst of the three films and a poor omen for the future of the franchise. The first Mummy was a horror film and the second, directed by Stephen Sommers in 1999, was a cartoonish adventure movie in the style of Raiders of the Lost Ark. This Mummy, directed by Alex Kurtzman and headlined by Tom Cruise, tries to incorporate both genres and succeeds at neither. If the Wolf Man, Dracula, and Frankenstein want a prayer of seeing the big screen again, Universal will need to step up its game.

In my review of the last Pirates film, I said that its story was “sloppily put together in what can technically can be defined as a plot.” I should’ve saved that line for this film. The one thing all Mummy films have in common is a tragic story involving love, death, and the unholy quest for immortality. In the first two, it was the high priest Imhotep who was accidentally resurrected and sought to reunite with his lost love. Here, the tables are turned with a quasi-feminist slant. Told through laborious exposition several times, the audience learns the Pharaoh had a loving daughter named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) who was destined to rule over Egypt. Unexpectedly, the Pharaoh’s new wife gave birth a son who would succeed him as Pharaoh. Enraged, Ahmanet killed her father, his wife, and her infant brother. She then made a pact to bring Set – the pagan god of death – into the world through a living vessel, but was thwarted and buried alive.

When her tomb is discovered by Sgt. Nick Morton (Cruise) and his ex-squeeze Dr. Jenny Halsey (Annebelle Wallis), Ahmanet is inadvertently revived and seeks another vessel to bring Death to the world. Of course, she chooses Nick. He isn’t too keen on the idea, so he goes to Dr. Henry Jekyll (yes, that one) for help. Jekyll, however, has his own plans for Nick, and it’s even stranger than being ritualistically sacrificed and possessed by a demon-god.

The Mummy may be the worst film of the year so far, but it appeals strongly to the thirteen to fifteen year-old male bracket—and honestly that’s still half my personality. Dr. Jekyll is the president of a secret organization that combats evil through a combo of cutting-edge technology and ancient wisdom. As he leads Nick through his laboratory, he sees a vampire skull, the hand of Gill-Man, and even a subtle nod to the 1999 Mummy. It’s a clever way to bring all these monsters into one franchise, something like a more mature version of Warehouse 13.

There are plenty of other elements that are incredibly stupid but full of fun silliness. Once revived, Ahmanet must suck the life force from other normal humans to gain strength. When she does this, her victims also turn into undead mummies that do her bidding. Thus, almost all the action is patterned a zombie movies. The mummies chase people who shot at them or hack off limbs with clubs, but one must damage their brains to stop them. Nick also represents the pre-teen fantasy in another humorous manner; he is being pursued by both a sexy mummy and a sexy archeologist. It’s not too far from the problems Archie had choosing between Veronica and Betty, if Veronica was intent on driving an ancient, bejeweled dagger through his heart.

There’s plenty of discussions regarding gods and evil, but The Mummy safely devoid of any real spiritual meaning. For example, crusaders go to Egypt, steal a sacred Egyptian ruby, and bring it to England. When Ahmanet finds their tombs, she revives them, and they submit to her authority. Yes, there were crusaders who went to Egypt, but I’m fairly certain they would not have cared about pleasing a pagan princess. It’s fine to use the supernatural in fantastical ways, but there has to be an underlining logic. Indiana Jones, for instance, wouldn’t use a Hindu priest to get the Holy Grail. One small but interesting facet is Jekyll’s understanding of evil. He believes that the base state of the world is wickedness and that keeping darkness from enveloping the world requires constant vigilance, a philosophy not too far from Calvin’s notion of total depravity. It’s hard to fault him too much when he must take a strict drug regimen to prevent his own shadow side from emerging.

Again, this is a terrible movie, but I couldn’t help enjoying it a bit. It’s definitely not worth the outlandish prices now charged for theater tickets, but well-suited for a Friday night at home with stale pizza when you should be writing your term paper. Finally, it ends with a twist so bizarre that not even Shyamalan could make sense of it. Jekyll and his allies are ready for another adventure, but I’m betting that not many people will be waiting to see what happens.

About Nick Olszyk 88 Articles
Nick Olszyk is Chair of the Department of Religion at Cornelia Connelly School in Anaheim, CA. He has directed several short films and is the new father of the aptly named Nick Jr. He was raised on bad science movies, jelly beans, and TV shows that make fun of bad science fiction movies. Visit him online at his website, Catholic Cinema Crusade.

1 Comment

  1. Nick – Thanks for saving me about $8 – the movie, a small popcorn and a small diet pepsi. (Actually I wouldn’t go see a Tom Cruise movie anyway.)

    The Zookeeper’s Wife and Born in China are the best I’ve seen this year.

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