Tom Cruise tries but can’t save this retread from feeling like a copy of a copy
The past cannot remain buried forever.
That’s both a line of dialogue from “The Mummy” — stated twice in the movie’s first 10 minutes! — and a guiding principle of why, here in summer 2017, we’re being asked to endure yet another version of “The Mummy.”
What once made money will make money again. That seems to be the philosophy at play here, never mind the diminishing returns on the latest entries in the “Alien” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchises.
And never mind that no one is exactly clamoring for the big screen return of “The Mummy” — the movie gods (er, Universal Studios execs) have decreed it is time for another “Mummy” movie and summertime deems that a big blockbuster must open every week.
So here we are, in 2017, blowing the dust off of “The Mummy.”
As far as “Mummy” movies go, this one’s not all bad. Tom Cruise, born movie star, hard worker and American institution, gives his all to make this thing pop. He’s practically willing it to work. But the strain shows, and all that good old-fashioned Tom Cruise charm can’t make this “Mummy” worth resurrecting.
Cruise stars as Nick Morton, a rugged excavator-type who is about 25 years too old to be acting like the impish bad boy for which the script calls. But he has good chemistry with his partner Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), and together you can see the two of them having fun on rogue adventures, narrowly escaping danger, and getting into all sorts of trouble.
There’s not much time for that here. They quickly find themselves on an ancient burial ground along with Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), a would-be love interest for Nick, whom the script flips by having their sexual falling out occur off-screen, before we first meet them. Progress? Some shenanigans lead to the awakening of an ancient Egyptian goddess, Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who has several hundred years worth of havoc she’s ready to unleash.
And there you have it: There are curses, sandstorms, chases, lines about “angering the gods” (oy), a car wreck and a particularly nerve-wracking plane crash that rivals a set piece from a “Mission: Impossible” film. Cruise, as game a star as there ever was, runs and quips and smiles and does all the things you want Cruise to do in a blockbuster. But the Mummy character is a complete dud, void of interest or intrigue or purpose, and without a decent anchor to hang everything on “The Mummy” feels rudderless, an exercise set in motion simply out of obligation.
The obligation here is the launch of Universal’s Dark Universe, because the Marvel and DC franchise pile-ups simply aren’t enough for audiences to keep straight. “The Mummy” kicks off a series that will eventually encompass all the old Universal monsters, including Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man and the other old-timey monsters from decades past, in all new adventures! Can you feel the excitement?
Russell Crowe is on board here as Dr. Henry Jekyll, the head of some sort of monster society that will likely bridge the Dark Universe films. He’s a trigger in and of himself — as soon as he states his name, you’re supposed to light up with anticipation of his turn into Mr. Hyde — but it all feels perfunctory, a rerun we’ve already seen that already feels stale. It’s as thrilling as watching a trailer.
Director Alex Kurtzman does a decent job with the film’s tone, keeping it light and humorous, but the only thing at stake seems to be the future of the Dark Universe, which means more to Universal’s bottom line than it does to modern audiences. The past cannot remain buried forever, but sometimes it should.
Rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity
Running time: 120 minutes