19 June 2017

The Mummy review

Opening with a good 10 minutes or so of extended flashbacks and unengaging, blandly narrated exposition, The Mummy is a film that starts off badly and only goes downhill from there. That's probably not going to come as too much of a shock thanks to the laughably unimpressive trailers and the critical mauling that it's already received, but that doesn't make it any less true - The Mummy fails at pretty much everything that it attempts, whether that be simply entertaining its audience for 110 minutes or getting us excited about future films in what Universal were hoping would become a Marvel Cinematic Universe-esque shared franchise. This is the studio's second attempt to revitalise their old Universal Monsters properties after Dracula Untold failed to set the world on fire three years ago, but already I think it's pretty safe to say that The Mummy's Dark Universe won't fare any better - it certainly doesn't deserve to, that's for sure.

The Mummy follows Tom Cruise's Nick Morton, a soldier/treasure hunter in modern day Iraq who accidentally unearths the tomb/prison of Ahmanet, a Princess who was kept hidden from history after selling her soul to the Egyptian god Set and attempting to give him a physical form. After freeing herself from her sarcophagus by causing the plane she's being transported in to crash, Ahmanet resumes her efforts to give Set a physical body, and decides that Nick is the perfect vessel for that.

In truth it's difficult to really know where to start with The Mummy, such is the magnitude of its many failings. Unlike a lot of recent big budget disasters, this isn't a potentially decent film butchered in post-production - from the ground up, The Mummy is a film that simply shouldn't exist, deeply flawed at seemingly every level of film-making. Director Alex Kurtzman has just one previous director's credit to his name, and that lack of experience behind the camera couldn't be any more obvious - The Mummy is a really poorly directed movie, and that's a problem that hinders it at every turn.

Every creative decision made seems to be the wrong one, and even when the film does stumble across a potentially interesting concept, the frustratingly inept execution of said concept ensures that it's never anything more than mediocre at best. Take the film's action sequences, for example - without exception, they're all ruined by the kind of amateur film-making that you really wouldn't expect to see in a film of this size, poorly paced and badly shot to the point where any impact they may have had has been entirely stripped away. One thing I can say about The Mummy is that it may be the loudest film ever released - Kurtzman seems to think that sheer volume is the key to making effective action sequences, only adding to just how obnoxious The Mummy is.

It's also one of the most ineptly written films I've seen this year, completely lacking any real sense of structure to wrap its plot around. It may not be as messy as, say, Suicide Squad, but that's not through lack of trying - the entire middle section of The Mummy only exists to help establish the rest of this DOA franchise, a diversion that only further undermines the already lackluster story. On top of that, The Mummy is saddled with the impossible task of making general audiences care about these entirely one-dimensional characters - it's clear that the Dark Universe, like so many other would-be cinematic universes, still hasn't figured out that the key to success is not telling us that there are more films to come, but simply ensuring that we want to spend more time with the characters we're introduced to.

But most insidious of all is how The Mummy doesn't even have the good grace to be overtly, obviously terrible. This isn't a "so bad it's good" movie, one to be seen and laughed at and enjoyed in ways that the film-makers never intended - instead, it's just really bloody boring and entirely unremarkable thanks to all its aforementioned problems, and unfortunately those problems are ones that general audiences probably won't consciously pick up on. It takes a certain amount of cinematic literacy to really see, rather than just feel, the problems imbued deep within The Mummy, and while no one will be walking away from the cinema with a new favourite film, there are certainly going to be those that mistake The Mummy's consistent failings for plain old mediocrity. We're already living in a time where the quality of tentpole films seems to matter very little to the studios making them - I'd hate for them to think that The Mummy was in anyway acceptable.

There's a lot more that could and should be criticised, least of which is the impossibly bad judgement behind taking these iconic horror characters and forcing them into yet another bland action franchise, but I wasn't joking earlier when I said that it's difficult to know where to start with The Mummy, and as such I've already spent far more time and effort thinking about it than anyone should have to. Ultimately, The Mummy is exactly what happens when a bad director is hired to make a movie based on a bad screenplay that was written around a bad idea - you end up with a bad movie.

1 star

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