The Mummy ½

If you want to see everything that's wrong with the current state of tentpole blockbuster filmmaking, you need look no further than The Mummy. A reboot of a once popular property whose most recent film was released a mere ten years ago, The Mummy is directed by Alex Kurtzman, a man who has had his finger in a number of hit or miss blockbusters over the years, but whose only feature as a director was the small drama People Like Us in 2012. Putting him in charge of a giant blockbuster wasn't a good idea to begin with, but of course this movie was made by committee more than it was the man behind the camera (and if recent reports are to believed, star Tom Cruise had far more say in the making of the film than Kurtzman ever did). After the Marvel Cinematic Universe became arguably the most dominant force in the entire industry, it was inevitable that other studios would try their hand at creating universes of their own, and this year is really the first time that we're starting to see the consequences of that belief system being thrust onto the world.

It takes time to develop these things, and now between films like this, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, The Dark Tower, and plenty more, all of those desperate attempts to create something to rival Marvel's success are hitting their first stages of release, and all they're doing is making Marvel's success look more impressive because no one else seems to have any idea how to actually do this universe building thing. Marvel had patience in building their universe, making sure they laid plenty of groundwork and building blocks before hitting the big league. They didn't put all of their eggs into a basket until they knew it was going to work, and always left the door open to make adjustments in case something failed along the way.

So what does Universal do with their so-called Dark Universe that's supposed to combine the might of their myriad classic monster icons like Frankenstein's monster and The Invisible Man? They cast half of the main characters and set release dates before the first movie even comes out, shove a ton of franchise baiting plugs for later movies into the first one, and even release a picture promoting the entire universe with everyone they've cast so far before The Mummy was released to dreadful reviews and disastrous domestic box office. Of course this is all after their original attempt to start the universe, 2014's Dracula Untold, was such a failure that they're pretending it never even happened, and somehow they still had the hubris to go ahead with this approach. Rarely has a studio had as much egg on their face as Universal does with this pathetic property.

There are so many ways in which The Mummy is a giant failure, from the macro to the micro. As far as setting up this huge new universe it's not going to entice anyone to come back for more, but even on its own terms as an individual movie it's a big swing and a miss. For starters, it's hard to even call this an "individual movie" since the thing stops dead in its tracks for an hour in the middle to have Russell Crowe come in and deliver mountains of exposition to set up the future of the franchise. More time is spent in this movie teasing later movies than doing anything related to this story. The eponymous monster herself (played by Sofia Boutella, whose performance is the one bright spot in this movie and deserves to be somewhere else entirely) spends half the movie chained up in a lab screaming. Any ham-fisted claims in the lead up to the film by people involved with it that this is a "progressive" feature due to them having a female Mummy are completely undone by the treatment of the character, and especially by the film's ending.

On top of that, any notion of progressive portrayals of gender tropes would be destroyed by the dynamic between Tom Cruise's leading male character and Annabelle Wallis' damsel in distress, who spends the whole movie screaming for Cruise to save her while he is a giant dick to her. Yet we are forced to spend an entire movie watching Wallis' horrendous performance (she still fares better than Crowe, who seems to be doing his best effort to somehow give a performance worse than his one in Winter's Tale), while several far more talented actors picked up a paycheck before getting killed off within the first fifteen minutes. The movie is plagued by horrific CGI, the many attempts at comedic relief are unbearably awkward and fall totally flat (pour one out for the great Jake Johnson who was apparently being directed for an entirely different film than the one this ended up being), and aside from the heavily marketed plane crash sequence that occurs early in the first act, there really isn't a moment in this film that would wake you up from a light sleep, which is exactly what trying to sit through this will put you into. If nothing else, The Mummy stands out for being exactly the kind of red flag warning for why Hollywood needs to put an end to this kind of rushed, lazy, barely thought out approach that the studios have all taken on in the past few years. Unfortunately, we all know that this is only the beginning and there are plenty more like this to come. Buckle up.