Universal Studio’s much ballyhooed “Dark Universe” appeared to be off to an inauspicious start in producer/director Alex Kurtzman’s ‘The Mummy,’ the latest incarnation (or is it reincarnation) of one of Hollywood’s classic monsters harking back to the days of Boris Karloff. Lambasted by critics and shunned by moviegoers, ‘The Mummy’ bombed with a disappointing domestic take of $32 million on opening week and suffered a steep 60 percent drop over the past weekend. The final nail seems to have been driven into the $125 million dollar movie’s coffin before you can ask “What the hell happened?” Well, something funny, that’s what. With the savvy Tom Cruise at the helm, ‘The Mummy’ proved to be a mega-blockbuster hit overseas, particularly in China. The film has now grossed nearly $240 million worldwide, of which less than $50 million came out of the North American market. Just let that sink in for a minute. What would Hollywood do without the Chinese?
The critics are right though. The story (credited to Kurtzman, Jon Spaihts and Jenny Lumet) is pretty bad. Cruise plays Nick Morton, a sleazy ex-Special Forces sergeant and shameless tomb raider who had no qualms selling priceless artifacts that belong in museums on the black market for personal gain. When he accidentally awakened the mummy of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an Egyptian princess who sold her soul to Set and murdered her own family for the throne but was thwarted in her quest to become queen of Egypt, Morton must draw upon every ounce of his wits and ability in order to prevent worldwide catastrophe with the help of archeologist and out of central casting cookie-cutter blond sidekick Jenny Halsey (Anabelle Wallis).
The main problem with ‘The Mummy’ isn’t that it’s unwatchable. The problem is that it cannot be judged on its own merits without comparing it to the 1999 version directed by Stephen Sommers starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz and John Hannah. While that movie was no masterpiece by any stretch, it was fun and the perfect Indiana Jones-inspired popcorn flick. By contrast, this latest is a weak effort that’s a sloppy slapdash mish mash of various influences, and the film suffered for it stylistically and tonally. I mean, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, really? Also, Cruise and Wallis lacked the sheer on-screen chemistry of Frasier and Weisz. If anything, this film brings to mind another expensive and messy failure, 'Van Helsing,' whose director happened to be the same guy who directed the 1999 version.