Talk about sinking before you can swim. The Mummy progresses at a ferocious pace, meaning you're never able to settle into the film. But the summer blockbuster doesn't just trip up over itself -- it might have flattened the intended Universal's Dark Universe in the process.
The zip to The Mummy is its most redeeming feature, as it means there's always something new to contend with, which you briefly hope will save the overall proceedings. But, at the same time, this hurried pace also means that anything worth paying attention to is immediately moved past.
Let's get the basics out of the way before we delve in to the negatives. Tom Cruise leads the charge as Nick Morgan, who stumbles upon the hidden tomb of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) in modern day Iraq. That only leads to chaos, as over 2,000 years ago, Princess Ahmanet allowed dark forces to take over her body. In attempt to rule Egypt, she murdered her baby brother, father, and step-mother, only to be caught and then mummified alive.
Nick Morgan, archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), Morgan's partner Sergeant Chris Valli (Jake Johnson), and U.S. Army Colonel Greenway (Courtney B. Vance) try to transport the sarcophagus back to London, only for some supernatural activities to scupper their progress. Those left alive ultimately meet up with Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), and the mysterious organization known as Prodigium, which keeps tabs on the world's Gods and Monsters, while also occasionally trying to keep the Mummy from wreaking havoc, as well.
The Mummy's set up, particularly the immediate dynamics and patter between Nick, Jenny and Chris, as well as just how quickly it gets into the thrust of its plot, actually suggests that the film could be a swift and playful blockbuster. Unfortunately, it's those same blockbuster elements that The Mummy fails to deliver on. Looking at Alex Kurtzman's resume as a writer, which includes co-scribing Transformers and Star Trek, it's understandable that all of the action beats are there, and they arrive on cue in a relatively smooth fashion. Kurtzman only has a "story by" credit on The Mummy, though, and his main job requirement is as a director, a position with which he badly struggles.
While the opening unfolds without incident, as The Mummy's plot and its characters are established in a solid enough manner, issues soon arrive with the movie's first set-piece: a devastating attack on an airplane that has been in all of the trailers and commercials. Again, it is not overly terrible, but considering a terrifying plane crash is being depicted that features the craft being ripped apart, it is also nowhere near gripping enough. Which is quite a feat, considering that the final shot of the plane smashing down to the ground is undeniably audacious. There's just no build to the sequence, while its most impressive element, which sees Cruise and Wallis struggling in zero-gravity, is both poorly captured and immediately glossed over.
Things quickly nosedive from there, as the film tries to juggle too many balls. Tom Cruise is bizarrely guided by an apparition. We get a feel for just how terrifying Sofia Boutella's Mummy could be, but don't see enough of it, other than her kissing/sucking the life out of unsuspecting London police officers. And finally, The Mummy then goes all Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice on us by shoe-horning Russell Crowe's Dr. Henry Jekyll into the film. At this point, the vague teases at the impending Dark Universe immediately start to weigh what was already a flimsy enough film down completely. Considering that Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise are two of the most imposing screen presences of the last two decades, their combined presence on screen feels shockingly underwhelming, too, while it doesn't help matters that the titular creature in the film spends pretty much the entire second act indisposed, which grinds the film to a halt.
The Mummy's final act far from rectifies matters, though. Instead, it is stagnant, predictable, and even confusing, while Alex Kurtzman's direction is blotchy, as you constantly either feel lost in the scene, completely uninterested, or are taken out of the film by an easy exit or outcome. Universal always knew that they were taking a risk hiring Alex Kurtzman to direct a $125 million blockbuster as his sophomore effort, especially considering his debut outing was the romantic drama People Like Us. While Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman are proof that this trust can pay off, The Mummy is sadly the opposite.
It also doesn't help matters that the trailers for The Mummy have basically shown off all of its main action sequences, meaning you know what to expect and what's still to come as the film begins to fall in on itself. Not even the impressive ensemble can salvage too much, as the dynamics that were teased at the beginning quickly dissolve. Tom Cruise is left floundering, Jake Johnson is completely wasted, and Russell Crowe's involvement feels pointless. Only Annabelle Wallis and Sofia Boutella come out of the proceedings a step up. Considering that she shares most of her scenes with Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis is never overshadowed and more than holds her own. And as with her role in Kingsman: The Secret Service, Sofia Boutella is able to convey so much with so little, and has an alluring yet dangerous screen presence.
That's obviously nowhere near enough to salvage efforts, though, and considering its intentions, The Mummy doesn't deliver the action to enthrall, the comedy to entertain, the horror to unsettle, or the adventure to captivate, meaning that it's a failure on all fronts. We'll just have to wait and see whether it is so catastrophic that it has already rendered the Dark Universe dead on arrival.