When The Mummy arrives Friday in theaters nationwide, christening Universal’s new “Dark Universe” franchise, star Tom Cruise must not only confront an ancient evil but also fend off fierce competition from Wonder Woman and — worst of all — the wrath of film critics.
The embargo lifted Wednesday on reviews, and it became immediately clear why the studio waited until the eve of the film’s release to open that sarcophagus: Initial reactions are grim, with one critic labeling The Mummy as “the worst movie that Tom Cruise has ever made.” Yes, worse, apparently, than Rock of Ages. The film now carries a rating of 23 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Projections for The Mummy‘s domestic opening weekend were downgraded from an already tepid $40 million to $35 million, in part because of the blockbuster performance of Wonder Woman, Cruise’s popularity overseas is expected to buoy the international box office. What that will mean to the film, and to plans for Universal’s “Dark Universe,” of course remains to be seen.
Here’s a selection of what the critics are saying about director Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy:
Ty Burr, The Boston Globe: “The Mummy is directed by Alex Kurtzman, who has produced blockbusters but never directed one before. It plays, in fact, like a movie directed by a producer, someone checking items off a to-do list rather than telling a story in a consistent tone.”
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: “How meh is The Mummy? Let me count the ways. For all the huffing and puffing and digital desperation from overworked computers, this reboot lands onscreen with a resounding thud. Tom Cruise should have played the Mummy – that way his face would be swathed in bandages and his fans wouldn’t have to see him sweat so hard to get this lumbering loser off the ground.”
Jamie Graham, Total Film: “… while there’s little here to jangle the nerves, The Mummy does wrap up enough adventure, action and quips to make it, if not a scream, a worthwhile Friday night out.”
Jake Coyle, The Associated Press: “For now we’re cursed with The Mummy, a messy and muddled product lacking even the carefree spirit of the Brendan Fraser Mummy trilogy. There are moments of humor in the script by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dylan Kussman, but Cruise isn’t the one (maybe Chris Pratt?) to pull off aloofly referring to the mummy as ‘the chick in the box.'”
David Ehrlich, IndieWire: “… not only is The Mummy the worst movie that Tom Cruise has ever made, it’s also obviously the worst movie that Tom Cruise has ever made — it stands out like a flat note on a grand piano. It’s not that Cruise hasn’t had misfires before (and between Rock of Ages, Oblivion, and Jack Reacher: Never Stop Never Reaching they’re happening at a faster rate), but The Mummy is the first of his films that doesn’t feel like a Tom Cruise movie. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that it never could have been good. It’s an irredeemable disaster from start to finish, an adventure that entertains only via glimpses of the adventure it should have been. It’s the kind of movie that Tom Cruise became a household name by avoiding at all costs.”
Molly Freeman, Screen Rant: “The Mummy’s biggest disappointment comes in its gender-swapped villain. While the backstory of Ahmanet is compelling – a princess whose destiny is taken from her – the movie makes a point of unnecessarily sexualizing her character and, especially, her plans for Nick and the Egyptian god of death. There is a difference between a female villain wielding her sexuality as a tool of manipulation or destruction and a female villain participating in sexualized rituals necessary to fulfilling her goals – the first suggests agency on the character’s behalf, while the latter doesn’t and is instead a choice made by the writers. Additionally, the problem with female villains in male-led stories is that there inevitably comes a time when the male hero fights the antagonist and is shown physically beating her – no matter the context within the film, it’s troubling imagery within the larger context of the world.”
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: “… the story feels as stitched together as Frankenstein’s monster: a little bit of An American Werewolf in London here, a little Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade there, a pinch of Army of Darkness, and some Jekyll and Hyde as frosting. It all feels a little derivative and unnecessary and like it was written by committee (which a quick scan of its lengthy script credits confirms).”
John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter: “Sure, it’s hard to muster anything like desire for another Dark Universe flick after seeing this limp, thrill-free debut. But who knows? Maybe shifting gears to a female protagonist in 2019’s Bride of Frankenstein will do the trick.”
Opening Friday nationwide, The Mummy stars Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance and Russell Crowe.