Think about the first installment in your favorite film franchise. You’re probably thinking about Star Wars or Iron Man, maybe Raiders of the Lost Ark. These movies set the tone for their respective universes. They’re appetizers, giving you a taste and making you want more. It’s crucial to start a franchise off right, otherwise you can spend years trying to regain your footing. That’s a lot of pressure riding on The Mummy, the first film in Universal’s Dark Universe. Unfortunately, things aren’t starting off so great.
There is nothing original about this movie; it’s just another watered down action/horror. Granted, it’s a big budget tent-pole movie, so no one expects it to reinvent the wheel. But even blockbusters should try and do something new once in a while. Here, the story is predictable, as are the “scares,” and the characters are typical archetypes that we see way too often.
Speaking of the characters, there’s not an interesting one in this bunch. It’s no fault of the actors, but there’s just nothing to make the audience care about them. They’re all shallow, underdeveloped bores. Any major character moments fall flat because they’re not earned. Tom Cruise’s Nick is supposed to have an arc, but there’s no evidence to support it. We only know he has an arc because characters tell us.
And really that’s the problem at the heart of this movie – poor writing. We’re TOLD that characters have arcs. In fact, we’re TOLD everything. There’s more clunky, exposition-laced dialogue in the first hour of The Mummy than there should be in a whole film. Not only that, but the script suffers from terrible tonal issues as well. It tries to be scary, thrilling, and funny all at once, and it falls flat. The humor is forced in way too often, and at the worst moments, for no reason at all. Even worse, the jokes aren’t funny. This movie feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be.
Then, as if this script isn’t bad enough, it commits the cardinal sin of shared universe films. It breaks from the story it’s telling to set up future installments. When will studio execs learn? Focus on the story at hand. Make a good Mummy movie first and foremost, and then audiences will want to see more of the Dark Universe naturally. Forcing in an unrelated scene just disrupts the flow of an already shaky narrative.
As far as redeeming qualities go, this movie looks pretty good. There’s some beautiful cinematography, especially early in the film when it’s set in the desert, and the action sequences are kind of fun to watch. But that’s about it.
The Bottom Line
If the first film in a franchise is meant to be the appetizer, than The Mummy is just bread. It’s fine and you’ll pick at it if you’re hungry, but ultimately it’s bland and unfulfilling. You’ve seen this movie before. Go see Wonder Woman this weekend if you want action. Go see It Comes At Night if you want horror. Just don’t support cookie-cutter schlock like The Mummy.