Tom Cruise is a great cinematic salesman. I swear the guy could be dumped in a red ink soaked carpet store in the most dangerous neighborhood in the world, and he would manage to sell more carpet than anyone else could ever dream of. Part of Cruise's appeal is being able to take any screenplay and setup, and turn it into something not only entertaining, but worth revisiting later on.
Think of Edge of Tomorrow or Knight and Day, a pair of movies with shifting tones and genre-swapping stories that required a palatable star to carry it through to the finish line. Cruise can do that by mostly looking like and talking like Tom Cruise, the well-known movie superstar. You don't put up so many 100 million dollar grossing movies and get nominated for multiple Oscars without being something special.
Unfortunately, Tom Cruise can't save The Mummy, the latest "sorta" remake of a film that came out just 18 years ago with a different actor's name above the title. Cruise is an easy upgrade over Brendan Fraser. That's like replacing a dry pork chop with a juicy steak, but here it simply isn't enough to make this film worth the ticket.
The setup is tirelessly simple: An ancient princess (who happens to be evil and likes to stab dudes in the chest and suck the life out of them, literally) gets put into a tomb for hundreds of thousands of years, before a government contracted mercenary/explorer named Nick Morton (Cruise) unearths it with the help his sidekick Vail (Jake Johnson, not getting enough to do in a comedic role) and a woman with mysterious intentions (Annabelle Wallis).
Rule of thumb: It's not a good idea to wake up an angry mummy (even one played by Sofia Boutella) who hasn't fulfilled her destiny of finding a male soul mate to turn into an undead monster that she can rule the world with. When Morton survives a massive plane crash and starts to see visions and hallucinate imagery linking him to Boutella's evil Ahmanet, he arrives at Dr. Henry Jekyll's (Russell Crowe) doorstep to figure out a way to defeat her. But what exactly are Jekyll's intentions for Nick?
Ridiculous action scenes follow, and it's a matter of Ahmanet stabbing Nick to make him follow her lead, or can he manage to kill her first. By the 90 minute mark, I stopped caring about what happened to who and how they would get it done or if they would die.
Director Alex Kurtzman doesn't do much to solidify The Mummy as being a worthy reboot of a franchise that could have stayed dead with Fraser's mild hero. The last thing Kurtzman did was Chris Pine's melodramatic sleep inducing People Like Us, and the jump in genres shows in the way he fails to make this film interesting.
The biggest disappointment is the screenplay had David Koepp (Pitch Black, underrated science fiction) and the great Christopher McQuarrie (Usual Suspects, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) on its listing. I would think putting those two guys together in a room with a laptop would yield something better than this.
The best thing about The Mummy is a fight scene between Cruise and Crowe that thrusts two of the bigger movie stars from the past 25 years at each other in an extended tussle. It's expected, teased, and is worth the hype that existed as bread crumbs when the trailer was released. If only the rest of the film made good use of that kind of energy.
Crowe is the highlight here, taking a smaller portion sized role for the extra juice on the end of the bone. He seems to be having more fun in a role than I have seen in years. You don't know if you should trust his Jekyll or fear his dangerous Eddie Hyde more. I left the theater wanting more of Crowe's character and less of everything else. Perhaps a spin-off?
There have been hints that this film is connecting with other recent monster flicks for an Avengers type collision flick, but I am not too sure that would be inviting. If they happen to make a run at that, get a better director, and wake the screenwriters up from their writers block slumber. The end of the film leaves the door open for something more, but I'm not sure I want to return to this restaurant.
Cruise has enough energy to power most films, but here his work is simply wasted in a film that grows more tedious as it reaches its conclusion. He made a good effort, but the result is something that can wait for Blu Ray and DVD.
The Mummy didn't need a fresh coat of paint, and that is very evident by the fact that even Tom Cruise can't shine it up enough to be digestible.