"See Tom Cruise try to be Paul Naschy!"
"See Russell Crowe try to be Oliver Reed!"
"See Sofia Boutella win the award for 'Actress Bound in Strappado for the Longest Time in a Major Hollywood Movie!'"
Oh yes, the time has come to talk of Tom Cruise's THE MUMMY, a film released to universally (sorry - well, not really) bad reviews and less than stellar box office. A film poorly received and intended as just the first of Universal's utterly misguided attempt to rip off the comic book concept of a 'Universe' by uniting characters from gothic fiction so disparate in origin, background and incompatibility that only a fool or a genius could give the idea less than a moment's thought. The writers of HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1944) and HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945) must be chuckling in the graves in between their lipless mouths uttering 'We told you guys this sort of thing isn't easy.'
Shall we talk about the film? Is it really as crappy, as nonsensical, as stupid, as hateful, as tear-sheddingly-downright-sad-for-what-might-have-been awful as every single other review has suggested?
I approached the film with an open mind. After all, that attitude is what has led me to enjoying, amongst others, the films of Jess Franco and Paul Naschy - more about Mr Naschy in a bit, by the way. Might THE MUMMY be an unappreciated trash classic?
The first half an hour isn't terrible.
For a start we have Sofia Boutella, the only actor in this who emerges with any kind of credibility intact and I really hope this doesn't harm her career. With any luck her recent turn in ATOMIC BLONDE will help people forget about this. Anyway, Sofia is an evil Egyptian princess, and very good she is in the role, quickly becoming the only character for which we develop any real sympathy. I don't think that's the intention of the film, mind. Sofia gets buried in an unmarked tomb for killing her entire family in style probably deemed unreasonably sexy for the period.
Flash forward to modern day, and Tom Cruise and his friend are Bob Hope / Bing Crosby style soldiers / looters who I think we are supposed to like but we just don't. Some big explosions open up a pit in the town they are planning to exploit and the tomb of Sofia is revealed! Up pops archaeologist Annabelle Wallis and after some horribly awkward, and presumably contractual, dialogue "banter" to establish that Tom is Not Gay we enter the tomb. Cue terrible dialogue from Annabelle, the kind of awful, non-researched dialogue that a five year old writing a story about archaeologists might use before being sent back to their desk by their teacher with lots of red pen all over the story.
Tom releases the mummy, because, in a sense, that's all Tom is there for - to perform this one action and then spend the rest of the movie talking about himself a lot. In fact as the film goes on you get the distinct impression that Tom has either been told (or has decided) to Act Tom Cruise without any consideration for or interaction with the film he's actually in. It's a bizarre, self-contained, goldfish bowl of a performance and is probably the one thing more than any other that sinks this. Except for his co-star who we'll come to in a minute.
The mummy is put on a plane. Tom's friend dies. Tom's friend comes back to life. Tom shoots his friend. There's a fantastic bit where crows bring down the plane and it crashes near Oxford.
Then the movie goes horribly wrong.
While Sofia does the LIFEFORCE thing to give herself form, Tom enjoys a bit of Austin Powers-style nudity that I'm sure isn't meant to be funny before being taken to something called the 'Prodigium'. The 'Prodigium' is possibly the most contrived, godawful, poorly thought out idea in modern big budget cinema to date.
Russell Crowe is in charge of it.
He play Dr Henry Jekyll for no other reason than at one point he changes into Mr Hyde because our five year old has got stuck at that point in the script and has decided to chuck in another monster. The teacher has suggested he go back and make the man Dr Jekyll so the story isn't entirely complete and utter bollocks. It says that on our five year old's script, by the way. In red capitals. When Jekyll becomes Hyde it's like watching Oliver Reed being told that's his last drink of the day, but with nowhere near the sincerity.
Does THE MUMMY have any good features apart from Ms Boutella? Well, the special effects are excellent. If you've ever wanted to see Sainsbury's destroyed by a massive sandstorm this is the film for you. All the opening stuff looks lovely, and some of the production design will have you shedding a tear that so much gothic beauty has gone to such senseless waste. Brian Tyler's music score is fantastic and deserves a far, far better movie to go along with it. Get the CD and listen to it by itself.
Universal's Blu-ray comes with a commentary track from director Alex Kurtzman, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis & Jake Johnson. If you can bring yourself to watch the film again it does contain some interesting insights into what it was like to work with Tom Cruise. Mr Cruise is also all over the making of featurettes, and, like the film, these leave you with a sense of sadness, this time at all these people talking so seriously and earnestly about making the biggest load of old rubbish since Stephen Sommers' VAN HELSING (2004). I liked THE MUMMY more than VAN HELSING, by the way.
Ultimately, THE MUMMY reminded me of a terrible attempt to emulate the films of horror icon Paul Naschy - colourful 1970s Spanish monster movies which chucked in everything including the kitchen sink and usually featured its star as a monster, who pretty much had it in his contract that he got to go to bed onscreen with his gorgeous co-star. At its best THE MUMMY is not as good as Naschy's worst. There is no heart, no soul, no love, no sense, only a sense of desperation on the part of a studio trying to ride the crest of someone else's wave, and star who really shouldn't have been allowed anywhere near this.
THE MUMMY is out from Universal on Blu-ray & DVD and probably all the other platforms as well from Monday 23rd October 2017