The dawn of the Dark Universe is getting clubbed by most movie critics.
“The Mummy’s” RottenTomatoes.com score is an anemic 17 percent “rotten.” That hardly bodes well for the franchise’s future plans.
Still, not every critic torched Tom Cruise’s foray into the realm of classic monsters. Dave Taylor, a HiT contributor, film critic and editor of GoFatherhood.com, found plenty to admire about the new summer movie.
This critic …. didn’t.
That means it’s time for the latest round of Critic vs. Critic.
Christian Toto: I confess I’m skeptical of this whole new “shared universe” mandate in Hollywood. Yet I love all things Marvel and “Star Wars,” and the new “Wonder Woman” gives me hope for DC’s version of the super shared realm.
And then I saw “The Mummy.” Love Tom Cruise (as an action hero) but found the trailers too busy, too overloaded with CGI trickery. Still, Cruise maintains tight control (get it?) over his film selections. So I held out some hope.
That hope faded within minutes of Cruise’s first screen appearance.
“The Mummy” wasn’t what I feared from the project. It was worse. You can practically see the bean counters rubbing their hands off-screen, hoping their shared universe dreams were on schedule. Script issues? Tone? Logic? Nevermind!
Dave Taylor: It’s not breaking news that Hollywood productions are so expensive now that most studios have become risk averse. That comes out, unfortunately, as a reliance on existing franchises. But we viewers are to blame too, when “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Jurassic World,” “Fast and Furious 7,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2” are all in the top ten best grossing films of all time.
In fact, five of the top 10 films are sequels or remakes.
And in the history of cinema, there’s no greater pantheon of characters that are now very much part of our culture than the Universal monsters. From The Mummy to Frankenstein’s Monster, to Dracula to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so many great gothic and Victorian horror books showed up on the big screen, really helping drive cinema forward in the early days of talkies.
Meanwhile, the history of motion pictures is also the history of egos, sometimes big egos, egos so darn big that they wouldn’t fit through the door of most homes. Egos like that of action superstar and general weird guy Tom Cruise. He’s handsome. He’s intense. He’s worth a zillion dollars and people will line up to go see him in a film, whether it’s “Top Gun” or “Risky Business” or “Mission Impossible.”
Sometimes he is the glue that holds a film together, and sometimes he’s just on camera too darn often, as in the second “Mission: Impossible” movie where they forgot that the entire point of the story was that it was a team working together to keep the world safe.
The long and short of it is that like John Wayne, like Marilyn Monroe, like George Clooney, Tom Cruise plays, well, Tom Cruise in all his movies. People heading to a Cruise movie generally know what to expect. A lotta Tom. That was really my biggest beef with “The Mummy,” therefore, that it was too much about Tom, even though I knew that would transpire.
Still, inspired by brilliant gothic horror TV like “Penny Dreadful,” the latest remake of “The Mummy” keeps the story moving along, brings in just enough creepy zombies and dark rooms, bugs and rats, to offer a chill, and the visual effects and sound are fantastic, producing a movie that looked beautiful.
Christian Toto: Even the worst of today’s movies look gorgeous (see “Baywatch” and “Pirates XMVII” for proof of that). And I’m as obsessed with classic movie monsters as you. I grew up with Glenn Strange scaring Abbott and Costello silly with his flat top ‘do and bolts. Now that’s a movie I’ll watch a 100 times over.
The new “Mummy?” Once is enough.
As for Mr. Cruise, I couldn’t agree more. And yet this film, particularly his first 10 minutes of screen time, played out like a Cruise parody. The tough guy shtick. The banter. The heroism. All … familiar. All … much worse than we’ve ever seen from him. It’s like a computer analyzed his career and spat out a script based on all his old beats.
And those monsters! The new Mummy wouldn’t scare a fly. And Russell Crowe’s Mr. Hyde? Well, if he can barely hold his own with a Cruise character then how scary is he?
A great shared universe franchise doesn’t show you the strings. Here, it’s ALL you see. You can practically see how the pieces will fall together. That’s not storytelling.
And when you can’t get Jake Johnson, Mr. Sidekick himself, to crack us up you’re doomed!
Dave Taylor: I sat next to you at the film screening and could feel your hostile vibes at the one romantic scene where Dr. Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) tells Morton (Cruise) that he’s a good man inside and she just knows that. I felt a bit green at that scene too, but to my view, that was the nadir of what was otherwise a fun and lively film.
Did I grin when Russell Crowe introduced himself as Dr. Jekyll? You bet I did. Could his scary Mr. Hyde be scarier? Unquestionably, and my guess is that the production team will beef that up as the series proceeds.
And if by The Mummy you mean Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) then I didn’t find her terrifying, but I don’t think she was supposed to be particularly scary. In fact, I would argue that [SPOILER ALERT] the organization that Dr. Jekyll heads is the center of the film and will prove to be the center of the Dark Universe. It’s like how Tony Stark’s HQ is the center of all things Avengers.
With the tremendous success of “Wonder Woman,” I am sure that smart director Bill Condon’s next installment in this universe, “Bride of Frankenstein,” will be most interesting as a story, then “The Invisible Man” with Johnny Depp offering, uhm, voice over?
Much more than “The Mummy,” both of those are also political films that originally offered a very distinct point of view and commentary on social values (the original “The Invisible Man” in 1933 and “Bride of Frankenstein” was released in 1935).
Tom Cruise is a polarizing actor. I know people who love him and his films and people who can’t stand him and will avoid any film where he shows up, whether as the lead or a minor character. If you’re in the former camp, I believe you’ll quite enjoy the PG:13 horror film of “The Mummy,
and if you’re the latter, well, it could be “Top Gun 2” and you’ll still skip the cineplex that night anyway.
Me? I’m actually thinking of going to see it in the theater again before it hits the pay channel and DVD route to better enjoy all the dark scenes and gloomy interiors.
Now, it’s your turn. What did you think of “The Mummy?” And which critic nailed it? Please leave a comment below.