REVIEW: “The Mummy” (2017)

mummy poster

One of the most popular (and priciest) trends in today’s movie culture is the shared cinematic universe. Easily the biggest belongs to Marvel Studios. DC Films is following behind them. And then outside of the superhero genre you have 2014’s “Godzilla” and this year’s  “Kong: Skull Island”, the first two films in Legendary’s MonsterVerse.

The more recent entry into this craze comes from Universal Pictures. It’s called the Dark Universe and it’s meant to be a shared-world revitalization of the classic Universal monsters. Some couldn’t care less. As a fan of those great oldies I was anxious to see what they would come up with.


“The Mummy” is the first film to get the reboot treatment and serves as the launching point for the Dark Universe. It’s essentially an origin story but one that doesn’t resemble either the Boris Karloff classic or the more fun-loving Brendan Fraser films. It’s definitely its own thing but defining it beyond that isn’t that easy. Is it an action movie? Is it a horror movie? Is it a Tom Cruise vehicle? Yes to each but especially the third.

Cruise is clearly the centerpiece which works for and against the film. I still like him as an actor and he brings an unquestionable star power to the movie. On the other hand maintaining that star power sometimes outshines everything else. His character resembles roles he has played variations of in other films and he is intent to stick with that type. So much so that when this particular character flirts with some interesting new directions he never goes all the way.

After an obligatory prologue the film introduces us to Cruise’s character Nick. He’s a sergeant with the U.S. military who has a side gig as a soldier of fortune. He and his stereotypical sidekick (played by Jake Johnson) nab artifacts and sell them on the black market. While in Iraq the two stumble across the ancient tomb of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an Egyptian princess who sold her soul to Set, the God of Death (see the aforementioned obligatory prologue). They extract the sarcophagus with the help of Jennifer Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) a spirited archeologist and Cruise love interest.


As you can guess they manage to release Ahmanet (aka the Mummy) and computer-generated death and destruction follow. Nick becomes her conduit, Russell Crowe pops up as Dr. Henry Jekyll, Cruise gets a running scene, and a not-so-likely sequel is set up. Here’s the thing, in between that titillating synopsis are moments of good ol’ corny fun. And there are a couple of action sequences that are pretty exciting. But there is just as much that doesn’t work – the goofy humor, a bad ‘return from the dead’ angle inspired by “An American Werewolf in London”, and any attempt at romantic tension.

In the end “The Mummy” is a generic middle-of-the-road movie. I don’t think it’s as bad as many critics say and it’s certainly not as good as a studio would want. It simply has no true identity. It’s all over the map in terms of tone and quality. With big names already signed up for Dark Universe installments – Javier Bardem’s Frankenstein, Johnny Depp’s The Invisible Man, Angelina Jolie’s (rumored) Bride of Frankenstein – it’s clear Universal has big plans. You would think the franchise launching point would be given a little more attention.



REVIEW: “Annabelle”


One of my favorite horror movie from recent years was 2013’s “The Conjuring”. The film was a huge success banking close to $320 million at the box office. Well obviously Hollywood wasn’t going to let that kind of success rest with just one movie. A proper sequel is scheduled for a 2016 release but in the meantime we’ve been given “Annabelle”, a prequel to “The Conjuring” and potentially a new spin-off franchise. Much like “The Conjuring”, “Annabelle” was a huge box office success raking in over $255 million against its small $6.5 million budget.

“Annabelle” starts with the exact same opening scene that we see in “The Conjuring”. It’s 1970 and three young people are telling the Warrens about their terrifying experience with a doll they believed to be possessed. The film then moves back one year and follows a handsome young couple, John and Mia Form (Ward Horton and Annabelle Wallis). They live in a nice neighborhood in Santa Monica, California and are expecting their first child. John surprises Mia with a doll she has wanted for their nursery. Apparently Mia has a weird taste in dolls because this thing is the ugliest and creepiest looking doll you’ll see.


One night Mia is awoken by screams from their neighbor’s home. While John is checking it out a man and a crazed woman holding the doll attacks Mia. The police show up and kill the man while the woman locks herself in the nursery and commits suicide while cradling the doll in her arms. As a result of the traumatic event and some subsequent unexplained phenomena, Mia asks John to get rid of the doll. The couple have a healthy little girl named Leah, leave their troubling Santa Monica home, and move to Pasadena to start over. But while unpacking guess what they find? Yep, it’s that creepy doll that John had thrown away and as you can guess a series of terrifying occurrences follow.

“Annabelle” becomes a fairly standard mix of haunted house and possession horror. It’s pretty slow moving and it takes some time to get rolling. But when the attempted scares do come they are your garden variety creaking doors, flickering lights, and frightening figures lurking in the shadows. There are a small handful of unsettling moments but for the most part “Annabelle” just doesn’t have the frights I was hoping for. It meanders a bit too much and none of its horror elements feel original. And perhaps the biggest problem – they just aren’t that scary.


Another shortcoming is tied to the performances. I’m not a bit familiar with Annabelle Wallis or Ward Horton but neither offer much in terms of charisma. It’s not that their performances are bad. They just feel terribly generic and by-the-books. Horton and Wallis are definitely likable and they are a very attractive couple, but their relationship never feels authentic. For me there was always a constant reminder that their relationship was scripted. Again not bad performances but pretty dry and buttoned up.

“Annabelle” often teases us with what it potentially could have been. It lays out a promising premise but it never goes beyond the routine run-of-the-mill horror flick that we have seen over and over. I loved “The Conjuring” and I like the idea of having tie-ins which expand the concept. But “Annabelle” doesn’t get the job done and if it does become a franchise, I can’t see myself investing much of my time in it. Simply put, regardless of its intentions and its potential, the film doesn’t do enough. That’s a real shame.