In the first installment of Universal’s “Dark Universe” film series, Cruise plays soldier Nick Morton, who scours ancient sites for timeless artifacts to sell them to the highest bidder. After coming under attack in the Middle East by a betrayed Egyptian princess, Cruise has to stop the previously entombed monster as she rampages throughout London. Cruise stars alongside Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Russell Crowe, and Courtney B. Vance in the modern-day “Mummy” installment set to release in the U.S. this Friday.
The busy film received overwhelmingly negative reception, with most calling out the movie’s seemingly unrelated interconnected plot of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tied in with an entirely different monster story. Other reviews call out the main story itself, criticizing a jumbled, messy plot.
Universal’s “Mummy” franchise was first launched in 1932, and regained popularity with the Stephen Sommers series that starred Brendan Fraser starting in 1999. With it latest revival, Variety’s critic Owen Gleiberman raises the question, “How, exactly, do you reboot empty-calorie creature-feature superficiality?”
See more critical reactions below.
No one over the age of 10 ever confused them with good movies, but the “Mummy” franchise that kicked off in 1999 had a joyously sinister and farfetched eye-candy pizzazz. “The Mummy” is a literal-minded, bumptious monster mash of a movie. It keeps throwing things at you, and the more you learn about the ersatz intricacy of its “universe,” the less compelling it becomes. The problem at its heart is that the reality of what the movie is — a Tom Cruise vehicle — is at war with the material. The actor, at 54, is still playing that old Cruise trope, the selfish cocky semi-scoundrel who has to grow up. The trouble is that Cruise, at least in a high-powered potboiler like this one, is so devoted to maintaining his image as a clear and wholesome hero that his flirtation with the dark side is almost entirely theoretical. As Universal’s new “Dark Universe” (of which “The Mummy” is the first installment) unfolds, I wouldn’t hold my breath over which side is going to win, or how many more films it will take to play that out. It’s not just that there isn’t enough at stake (though there isn’t). It’s that the movie doesn’t seem to know how little at stake there is.
All of this is to say that not only is “The Mummy” the worst movie that Tom Cruise has ever made, it’s also obviously the worst movie that Tom Cruise has ever made — it stands out like a flat note on a grand piano. “The Mummy” is the first of his films that doesn’t feel like a Tom Cruise movie. The idea that anyone will want to watch a standalone movie about this Jekyll and Hyde is preposterous at best, and sadly delusional at worst. You have to earn an interconnected movie universe, you can’t just assume that people will be grateful you assembled some characters who have nothing in common save for their shared corporate interests. Once upon a time audiences were asked to tolerate Hollywood’s creative bankruptcy, now we’re expected to applaud it — in 10 years, the copyright lawyers might get top billing over the stars.
“But the story feels as stitched together as Frankenstein’s monster: a little bit of “An American Werewolf in London” here, a little “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” there, a pinch of “Army of Darkness,” and some Jekyll and Hyde as frosting. It all feels a little derivative and unnecessary and like it was written by committee (which a quick scan of its lengthy script credits confirms). Cruise turns out to be the film’s secret weapon. He may not be totally comfortable selling some of the film’s jokier moments, but at 54, he’s a seasoned pro at selling narrative silliness with a straight face, a clenched jaw, and a superhuman sense of commitment. I’m not sure that this aimless, lukewarm, but occasionally rollicking take on “The Mummy” is how the studio dreamed that its Dark Universe would kick off. But it’s just good enough to keep you curious about what comes next.
“This has some nice moments but is basically a mess, with various borrowings, including some mummified bits from An American Werewolf in London. The plot sags like an aeon-old decaying limb: a jumble of ideas and scenes from what look like different screenplay drafts. There are two separate ancient “tomb-sites” which have to be busted open: one in London and one in Iraq. In the end, having encouraged us to cheer for Tom Cruise as an all-around hero, the film tries to have it both ways and confer upon him some of the sepulchral glamour of evil, and he almost has something Lestat-ish or vampiric about him. Yet the film really won’t make up its mind. It’s a ragbag of action scenes which needed to be bandaged more tightly.”