I have a profoundly negative impression of this film’s director, Alex Kurtzman. He came from JJ Abrahms orbit and he, with Damon Lindelof and others, have a huge influence on the generally crappy, brash and overblown blockbusters we’ve had over the past ten or so years. And this film exists as Universal’s answer to the Marvel films; that is, to open an interconnected franchise of films. And Tom Cruise has latched onto this opportunity, seeing as he is trying to lock in as many action franchises as he can while in his 50s. And then this film came out to horrible reviews, no one having anything good to say about it. So imagine the situation I found myself in after about 20 minutes, saying “I’m kind of enjoying this,” and a few minutes later, saying: “By George, I kind of like this movie!”
Cruise and his buddy are military dudes in Iraq who use their missions to steal antiquities and sell them for personal gain. In one of the first scenes, and listen, because it’s unbelievable: They go into an Iraqi town to loot it for treasure, a bunch of men fire at them, so they call in a military airstrike and bomb the town, presumably killing numerous locals [not shown], and… onward! No more consequences of that! We can just bomb Iraq towns as a plot point in our shitty franchise-starter monster movie!
It truly is amazing, and it’s one of those things that’s just going to go by without anyone noticing, like when in A Cure for Wellness when a father throws his 14yo daughter onto the bed and feels her up with intention to father a child with her… like, are people aware this stuff is going on in their blockbusters?
Anyway, the bombing exposed an ancient tomb, and the military authorize them to take whatever they want out of it, because you know, Iraq. There are also lines about how Cruise and co are “liberators” or these antiquities, because the Iraqis can’t / won’t care for them. It’s a complicated issue and does your shitty popcorn franchise-starter blockbuster really want to wade into these politics? There’s some lines about how the Egyptians buried the mummy so far away because it’s just so darn evil. Anyway, they take the sarcophagus, get back to England, the plane crashes, the mummy is released, etc., and here’s where things get more outright fun without messy real-world implications.
It’s not worth recounting the plot, except that Cruise dies but is reanimated [but without the icky gray pallor of his other dead buddy] and the mummy wants to use his body to incarnate the evil god of the dead or whatnot. Now we have to step back and get meta again. Okay, so Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch and America as a whole rejected him. So around then he started originating a bunch of action franchises [while other actors his age might be moving into quieter, more serious roles] which read very much as career security; they have built-in future installments. And each of them is built around how Cruise is amazingly badass and makes women’s clits sing like harp strings. Jack Reacher is all about how he’s the ultimate badass and can beat up anyone. In the Mission: Impossible films he is the ultimate badass [and numerous women swoon over him at several points]. In the last installment, this was said of Cruise’s character: “He is the living embodiment of destiny.” And in this one, the ancient queen wants to find the perfect embodiment of manhood to reincarnate her god in, which just happens to be you-know-who.
Tom buddy, you’re lookin’ great in your 50s, but… maybe take it down a notch?
So why did I like it? Because although it’s stupid as fuck, it’s kind of fun and wants to give you a bunch of spooky thrills [while also being a high-octane action movie]. It’s setting this series up as superhero movies—because everything has to be superheroes right now—with everything still being good vs evil, light vs darkness, only their powers are supernatural, concerning mind control, fear instead of physical strength, and set in the monster realm. And this series is more fatalist, more about “you cannot escape,” and “You’re dead now and cursed forever,” instead of the typical mumbo about nothing being impossible if you put your mind to it. And it is blissfully free of bromides about the importance of family. Yes, it devolves into senselessness at the end, but so does everything these days, right?
You just have to get through stuff like large crowds of people running through shards of shattered glass that fall like rain, without anyone getting so much as a scratch.
SPOILERS > > > At the end it’s a bit funny as the generic blonde woman lies dead in a pool of water, and Cruise is supposedly being tempted by the dark side, which results in a series of shots alternating between him being tempted and cuts to shots that may as well be labeled: BUT: THE GENERIC BLONDE WOMAN! I’m succumbing to the dark side… BUT: THE GENERIC BLONDE WOMAN! I could wield power over life and death… BUT: THE GENERIC BLONDE WOMAN!
The movie concludes with Cruise stabbing himself with the dagger that embodies him with the spirit of Set, Egyptian god of the dead—which is, in some ill-defined way, totally different from the mummy stabbing him with the same dagger in order to do the same thing—and he becomes some sort of supernatural being who goes off toward future movies to… fight against the armies of the undead or something? This is how the movie sets up future installments, along with [I didn’t mention this] Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde, who runs a SHIELD / Justice League-like organization to handle supernatural threats in future installments. So that’s how this movie launches its questionable franchise, which I actually didn’t feel used by, maybe just because I knew it was coming. < < < SPOILERS END
So there ya go. Not great, but kind of fun within its limits, and a nice break from beings of great power destroying buildings. We take what we can get.