Brace yourselves for some serious critical savagery. It may not be a shock, per se, but the critical embargo lifted on The Mummy today, and Universal's Dark Universe launcher has come in for a serious bruising. The consensus seems to be that it fails in launching a monsters universe, seeing as it has almost no horror flavor, and that a messy, unfocused script gives the characters zero breathing room.
Of course, it's a Tom Cruise movie, so at least we know there'll be running — lots of running. The film's Metacritic average is currently sitting at a truly terrible 35/100. Check out a round-up of some of the reviews below, but remember that there's usually some pleasure to be had in even the most rotten slices of cinema.
Variety: "Cruise's Hero Is Too Wholesome To Have A Believable Dark Side"
In a mostly negative review, Variety praise a couple of the action scenes, but note that director Alex Kurtzman doesn't have many (or indeed any) original ideas, and that Tom Cruise's protagonist Nick Morton just isn't that interesting:
"Jekyll, it turns out, has to keep injecting his damaged hand with a regimen of drugs to avoid turning into Mr. Hyde, but watching all this the audience may be thinking: Whose bright idea was it to mix “The Mummy” with an entirely different formative horror story, as if the two could be cross-bred like some Famous Monsters of Filmland version of the Justice League?"
Polygon: "With More Focus, 'The Mummy' Could've Been Fantastic; Instead It's Forgettable"
In a negative review which questions why The Mummy feels more like a superhero universe than a horrorverse packed with monsters, Polygon can only find any real praise for the performance of Sofia Boutella as Princess Ahmanet:
"The Mummy starts with an intense, questionably placed action scene and ends with one. The movie never lets you take a second to breathe, and that’s a problem.
It wants to tell a story about extraordinary beings with unbelievable powers and grotesque physical transformations; a story about struggling with being exceptional and the downsides that accompany that realization. [But] a monster movie universe without anything particularly scary isn’t just problematic, it’s deceitful.
The only positive takeaway is Boutella’s performance as Ahmanet. Best known for her work in Star Trek Beyond and Kingsman: The Secret Service, Boutella is a treasure in a junky movie. She doesn’t shy away from the grossest scenes, including one particularly cringe-worthy body transformation, and she steals the scene whenever she appears on screen."
IGN: "Tom Cruise Is An Unlikeable Hybrid Of Indiana Jones And Nathan Drake"
Writing for IGN, Daniel Krupa notes that while The Mummy has several interesting ideas hidden in its stash of reimagined characters, none are fleshed out enough to serve up any genuine intrigue:
"Reimagining Dr. Jekyll as a monster hunter has obvious potential, but like so many of the neat ideas stashed away in The Mummy, there’s never enough time to explore.
The mummy [gets] a strong introduction. When she first emerges from her sarcophagus she’s surprisingly disgusting and moves with a creepy, joint-snapping rhythm that is distinct from anything I’ve seen in another zombie movie ... but her final form lacks the visual flair that was always a hallmark of Universal’s classic monsters. It’s hard to see her as anything but a one-dimensional villain."
Let's Not Go Full Postmortem Just Yet
Before the level-headed people of the internet start getting all dramatic about this, the Dark Universe is by no means DOA, even if Universal have to ride that wave of doom-mongering for a while. DC weathered the storm twice last year, and The Mummy can't possibly be a bigger disaster than Suicide Squad.
That said, both of those DC movies made a fairly disgusting amount of money, so The Mummy still needs to bank some major dollar if the next movie in the universe, Bill Condon's Bride of Frankenstein, is to go ahead (that one's due February 2019). In other words, all eyes on this weekend's box office.
Will you give the Dark Universe a second chance if The Mummy underwhelms?