“The Mummy” plays as if its creators spent too much time trying to guess what people wanted to see, and not enough on what kind of movie they’d like to make.
It’s a lukewarm, so-so start to Universal’s new “Dark Universe” monster movie franchise.
Intended as a crossover monster series similar to the DC and Marvel superhero films, “Dark Universe” makes sense. Universal has been making money from its stable of monsters since “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” graced screens in 1931.
There even were crossover titles, like 1943’s “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man.”
This “Mummy” belongs to a series of misfires as modern filmmakers try to discover the equivalent of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and creepy castles for today’s audiences.
A 2010 version of “The Wolfman” was a flop, and the 2014 “Dracula Untold” was so bad it was dropped from the franchise.
The Brendan Fraser action/comedy “Mummy” movies were popular, but grew progressively worse, concluding with the unbearable “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” in 2008.
In this new “Mummy,” at least Tom Cruise is on his A game as lovable scoundrel Nick, a military recon man who, with his partner (Jake Johnson), digs up treasure in the Middle East to sell on the black market.
On one mission, they discover the tomb of a disgraced Egyptian princess (Sofia Boutella). Along with a cute archaeologist (Annabelle Wallis) they unearth it, but Nick winds up being cursed. Only Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe) can help!
Cruise brought along his favorite screenwriter, Oscar-winner Christopher McQuarrie, to help with the script, which boasts the names of five scribes with screenplay and story credits.
While individual sections are amusing — such as Nick using detached zombie body parts as weapons on other zombies — other sections are confusing or dull. It doesn’t add up to much.
Universal might have made a mistake in hiring Alex Kurtzman to direct; his debut feature was the perplexingly dopey drama “People Like Us,” and his prior career as a screenwriter was spent on mostly big, dumb, loud offerings, like two of the “Transformers” movies.
Kurtzman relies on a top special effects team for a series of undead soldiers, spiders, rats, sandstorms and other diversions, which are spectacular. Yet his camera placement is rudimentary, generating few thrills.
Worse, “The Mummy” never feels like an actual monster movie. It’s part sexy runway model and part digital glob.
In the classic black-and-white films, the monsters were fascinating and even more amazing than the heroes. This new monster will likely be forgotten before Halloween.
Two and a half stars
Starring: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson
Written by: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman
Directed by: Alex Kurtzman
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes