Jekyll

Thanks For Bringing Me Back From The Dead, Dude!

The Mummy opens with the Dark Universe logo, an act of laughable hubris that seems even more silly once the film has ended. What a feeble universe launch this is. Curiously enough, The Mummy doesn’t open in ancient Egypt, but rather London in 1157 A.D. We watch as a group of Templar knights bury one of their own in an underground tomb. The knight is buried with a red jewel that will become the film’s McGuffin; one gets the sense that the multiple screenwriters studied the MCU, noticed that characters kept babbling on about Infinity Stones, and reasoned that The Mummy needed a precious stone of its own. Why they felt the need to include Templars is anyone’s guess.

After the Templar intro, we jump to present day, where the underground tombs have been discovered by work crews. Enter Dr. Henry Jekyll, as played by Russell Crowe, the only actor having any fun in this dreck. The Dark Universe wants Jekyll to be their Nick Fury – although just what Jekyll’s plan or goal is is maddeningly vague. Here he serves as an exposition-heavy narrator, laying out for us the tale of the Ancient Egyptian Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella, who deserves better than this movie). Ahmanet wanted absolutely power, but that power was threatened when her father, Pharaoh Menehptre (Selva Rasalingam), sired a male heir. Ahmanet’s solution to this is to summon Set, the god of death, and then slaughter her family. For some reason, it’s not enough for Ahmanet to sell her soul to Set – she also has to find a male to copulate with, then kill, so Set can take over his body. Already, the mythology for this film is muddled and convoluted. Why must Ahmanet have a male counterpart to rule with? Boutella’s visage is all over the advertising for this film, and one gets the sense that Universal was trying to sell her as an alluring, appealing villain, yet the film has little use for her. She spends much of the runtime sidelined, which implies Universal has absolutely no idea what the hell they want from these movies. Are they about the monsters, or about the humans trying to stop the monsters?

Before Ahmanet can complete her dark ritual, she’s seized by guards who mummify her alive and entomb her far away from Egypt – all the way in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). After we get Ahmanet’s backstory the film clumsily introduces us to our main character, Tom Cruise. Sure, the character has a name – it’s Nick Something or Other – but it doesn’t matter. With a few exceptions – Edge of Tomorrow is a good example – Cruise has been playing variations of his Mission: Impossible character for the last decade. But his character in The Mummy is even more of an empty vessel; void of any real characteristics or distinguishing traits. He’s a thief who uses his job as a military reconnaissance man to plunder treasures from Iraq, so I suppose the film is trying to set him up as a bit of a rogue, a cross between Han Solo and Indiana Jones. But there’s no charm to this character, which is incredibly odd since charm is usually all Cruise has to go on. Somehow, the actor’s natural charisma has been vacuumed from every frame of this film.

Cruise’s Nick is teamed with Vail (Jake Johnson), his “comedic” sidekick. Johnson is funny as hell…in other projects. Here, he’s annoying. He spends the first 15 minutes of this movie shouting and shrieking at Cruise, and you can tell it’s supposed to be funny, but it just comes off as grating. We want nothing more than for this character to shut up. After dodging gunfire from insurgents, and calling in an airstrike, Nick and Vail accidentally discover Ahmanet’s tomb – which is what Nick was searching for this entire time. Nick swiped a map from archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), after seducing and bedding her. The film seems to think this will play right into Nick’s charming rogue facade, but it just makes Nick seem even more unlikable and creepy. When Jenny shows up at the site of the tomb, furious at Nick for stealing her map, we get some painfully terrible stabs at humor about how Nick underperforms in the sack, and oh my god, this movie hadn’t even been playing for a half-hour yet and I was already ready for it to end.

The Mummy

Wallis was quite good in the otherwise lackluster Annabelle, but she’s dreadful here. I’m not sure if it’s a case of poor writing, poor editing, poor acting or all three, but Wallis has absolutely no screen presence in The Mummy. And she and Cruise have about as much chemistry together as a water buffalo has with coat rack.

Jenny convinces Nick and Vail’s superior, Colonel Greenway (Courtney B. Vance) to let them explore the tomb. Jenny is understandably surprised to see ancient Egyptian paraphernalia in a tomb in Iraq, and even more surprised when they find a pit filled with mercury. Because Jenny exists solely to lay out exposition, she explains that mercury was used to weaken evil, or something like that. It doesn’t really make any sense, and I’m not even sure it’s supposed to.

Nick, being the oafish man that he is, decides to raise whatever is submerged in the pit, which turns out to be Ahmanet’s sarcophagus. Nick takes one look at the sarcophagus and begins having visions of Ahmanet in the sands of Egypt, seductively thanking Nick for freeing her. A hoard of CGI camel spiders come pouring out of the cracks in the tomb walls, causing the three actors to comically act as if they’re under siege – it doesn’t look the least bit convincing. Vali is bit by one of the spiders, which will cause him to change drastically, because I guess these are supernatural camel spiders.

After loading Ahmanet’s sarcophagus onto a plane, Vali proceeds to go insane. He’s clearly possessed by some sort of malevolent force, and he kills Colonel Greenway in the process (note: why the hell would cast a great actor like Courtney B. Vance only to kill him after four minutes? Because this movie is stupid, that’s why). Nick kills Vali, but the danger isn’t over yet, because a horde of birds attack the plane – you likely remember this scene from the now-infamous trailer that was accidentally uploaded without certain audio elements included. Truth be told, had the film included this error-ridden version it would’ve been more entertaining than the final result. The plane is damaged, spiraling towards earth, and in the hands of a competent filmmaker this sequence could’ve been exciting! Instead, it’s flat and almost incoherent. Nick manages to strap a parachute onto Jenny and save her life, but he dies in the crash. Later, in the morgue, Nick rises from the dead in the morgue without a scratch on him. This is another scene played for laughs, but it doesn’t quite work and no one seems particularly alarmed that Nick is a-okay after such a crash.

Nick is cursed, because Ahmanet wants to use him as the new vessel for Set. Ahmanet rises from the wreckage of the crash and begins sucking the life out of everyone she comes in contact with, restoring her decayed body in the process. She then turns the people she’s sucked the life out of into her own personal army of the walking dead. After attacking Nick and Jenny, Ahmanet is captured by a group of mysterious men in tactical gear. They work for Jekyll, which I guess means they’re meant to be this universe’s version of S.H.I.E.L.D. I doubt they’ll be getting their own TV spin-off anytime soon, though.

the mummy russell crowe

God bless Russell Crowe, who seems to be the only actor in on the fact that this movie is cataclysmically stupid. He hams it up as he lays out a wealth of confusing mumbo jumbo. Ahmanet needs the red jewel – the one buried with the Templar Knight – to finish her ritual. Jekyll either wants to kill Nick, or use the jewel himself to finish the ritual – it’s not clear which. But before he can get on with it, he transforms into Mr. Hyde, because sure, why not? Here, Crowe goes over-the-top to the nth degree, adopting a cockney accent and sporting ridiculous green ghoul makeup.  

From here the film descends into boring chaos, with Ahmanet getting free, CGI disaster movie cliches abounding, and Cruise getting in some of his trademark running. Through it all, a zombie-fied version of Vali keeps popping up to taunt and/or help Nick. It’s clear the filmmakers stole this concept from An American Werewolf of London, yet it contains none of the macabre charm of that film.

The Mummy culminates in Nick finishing Ahmanet’s ritual himself to become an all-powerful being in order to resurrect Jenny, who has been drowned during the film’s climax. He defeats Ahmanet by grabbing her by the throat, slamming her down on the ground and kissing her to death – and yes, it’s about as nasty and misogynistic as it sounds. Nick is now superhuman – a monster, as Jekyll puts it – and he heads to Egypt with Vali, whom he’s brought back from the dead. To hammer this point home, the film has Vali announce, “Thanks for bringing me back from the dead, dude!” Hey, wrap this movie up and bury it in the sand forever, please.

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About the Author

Chris Evangelista is a staff writer for /Film. He's contributed to CutPrintFilm, RogerEbert.com, Nerdist, Mashable, and more. Follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413 or email him at chris@chrisevangelista.net