Blu-ray Review: The Mummy (2017)

By , Contributor
No sooner have we left the summer movie season of 2017 than we find its entries arriving on home video. The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise, lands on Blu-ray almost exactly three months after its lackluster box office run (also available on 4K UltraHD). This Mummy (it has been nine years since Brendan Fraser's final outing in the previous, unrelated series) is an important new beginning for Universal Pictures. It kicks off their so-called 'Dark Universe' of classic monsters, a shared cinematic universe designed to function like the Marvel and DC series. Russell Crowe costars as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde—a character the filmmakers apparently plan to crossover between multiple 'Dark Universe' films.

But the middling $80 million domestic gross has cast doubts on the viability of the whole 'Dark Universe' franchise. To be fair, the film raked in north of $300 million internationally but that's still not boffo by today's standards (especially for a $125 million production budget). But numbers aside, what counts is the quality of the film. And The Mummy, directed by Alex Kurtzman (primarily a writer and producer heretofore), comes off as a competent but unremarkable action thriller. In fact, it feels like everyone involved (including the usually hyper-committed Cruise) is merely phoning it in, mustering just enough effort to tick off all the boxes on the blockbuster checklist. 
 
rsz_mummy_sofia_boutella.jpg There's a clunky prologue, set in 1127, that sets up the legend of Egyptian Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). Ahmanet sees herself as the heir apparent to her father's throne, but his late-life second marriage results in an infant sibling for Ahmanet. Not relishing the competition to become Pharaoh, she lashes out in the form of a murderous rampage. She winds up mummified alive as a punishment for killing off her family, only to be accidentally resurrected centuries later by intrepid mercenary/adventurers Nick Morton (Cruise) and Chris (Jake Johnson). Legitimate archaeologist Jennifer Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) is mortified by the interference of Nick and Chris, but she finds herself along for their ride as Ahmanet continues her homicidal ways.

As the plot thickens with the introduction of Crowe's Dr. Jekyll, a secret society called Prodigium, and various supernatural complications, The Mummy becomes increasingly confusing. As director Kurtzman fumbles with a story concocted in part by himself (though the screenplay is credited to three writers other than him), it feels like the answer to the film's narrative problems was to throw as many special effects at the screen as possible. A romantic subplot between Nick and Jennifer is DOA thanks to little onscreen spark between Cruise and Wallis. Attempts at humor regularly fall flat. 
 
rsz_mummy_jake_johnson.jpg Crowe turns in the most interesting performance, summoning impressive rage when the Mr. Hyde persona emerges. But perhaps his passion might've made for a better Nick Morton than Cruise can manage. As handled by Cruise, Nick sports a devil-may-care attitude that makes it hard to invest anything in his journey from "in it for the money" mercenary to purposeful, soul-searching individual. Crowe as Nick and Cruise as Dr. Jekyll would've actually been more adventurous, less predictable casting.

But it probably wouldn't have saved the movie from its own lumbering mediocrity. There are a handful of rockin' action set pieces, led by the spectacular plane crash sequence that you've probably already seen in part with the film's trailers. While the big action stuff probably worked better on a giant IMAX 3D screen, the smaller scale of home viewing at least relieves The Mummy of its "summer event movie" expectations.

Universal's Blu-ray is technically beyond reproach, with a perfect presentation of Ben Seresin's gritty, 35mm film-based cinematography. The Dolby Atmos audio defaults to a robust Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround sound extravaganza. Even if the storytelling fails to impress, The Mummy offers reference quality BD presentation.

A sturdy selection of bonus materials includes audio commentary (by director Alex Kurtzman, joined by cast members Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, and Jake Johnson), five minutes of deleted/extended scenes, "Ahmanet Reborn Animated Graphic Novel," and eight featurettes. The most substantial of the bunch is the 20-minute "Cruise and Kurtzman: A Conversation," with the rest falling under the category of short-ish (five to eight minutes each), semi-promotional oriented 'making of' pieces.

Dracula Untold (2014) was originally meant to kick off the 'Dark Universe,' but it wasn't well received and The Mummy became the relaunch point. After its reception, one wonders how integral it will be as the 'Dark Universe' rolls on with next year's Bride of Frankenstein.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is film and music. His new jazz album Good Merlin is now available.

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