Friday, June 16, 2017


I always thought it a little weird that movies are screened to "test" audiences before releasing them. Does this mean that the makers of these movies so out of touch with what audiences want to see that they have to serve it up to them before hand? It's these "how are we doing?" moments that really show how insecure the entire organism of Hollywood is. I wonder what test audiences thought of THE MUMMY, Universal's initial entry into their new, "Dark Universe".

When I first heard that Universal had plans to reboot its famed monster movies, I was momentarily excited. Only momentarily. At the expense of sounding anachronistic, I knew that there would be zero chance of seeing a modern revival of the classic monsters from the 30s and 40s. So far, the closest thing to that was 2010's THE WOLF MAN. Universal lost money on it, as it did not recoup its production costs.The L.A. Times called it one of the most expensive box office flops of all time. Personally, I liked it, with the exception of Anthony Hopkin's character, Sir John Talbot, and Emily Blunt as Gwen Conliffe, and the over-the-top father and son werewolf mashup at the climax of the movie. Well, I guess besides Benecio del Toro's role, the rest of it kinda stank. What made it work were the sets and the atmospheric cinematography. Otherwise, I was underwhelmed. The 1999 Mummy reboot fared considerably better, as it was a good, original story and included a charming cast of characters. I can't say the same for the two sequels that completed the modern trilogy.

Now, U is poised to again reintroduce its line of venerable monsters to the world, calling it the "Dark Universe, and beginning with, yet again, THE MUMMY, which opened last weekend. The results? Tepid is not too strong a word. Domestically, it brought in a measly $32.2 million, while its closest rival, WONDER WOMAN, buried it under $57.2 million in its second week. This does not bode well for a franchise that was, in the past, a studio lifesaver.

The critics have unanimously lambasted it. In the Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern called it "truly incomprehensible" and "defying comprehension". He went on to say that it was "subprofessional chaos with vague aspirations to parody." Ouch.

Tom Cruise landed the role of the adventurous archaeologist who battles the reanimated creature from ancient Egypt (played well, so it's been said, by the attractive 35-year old Algerian/French dancer, Sofia Boutella, sporting enough tats to make the target audience happy). Cruise, who shocked audiences by being chosen to play Anne Rice's immortal vampire, Lestat on the screen, has come full circle in the horror genre. Morgenstern calls Cruise's role in THE MUMMY, "unlikable" and "unheroic". While this is not the career-ender that some critics assert, Cruise is showing his age (he'll be 55 on 3 July) and hasn't been seen in a film of note in a while. Even his last Jack Reacher movie, NEVER GO BACK suffered as much from his wooden performance as the story did, even though it was adapted from Lee Child's book.

In all fairness, I have not seen the movie, and don't plan on it until it is released on DVD. That's how excited I am about it. Universal executives said that THE MUMMY's poor box office performance won't disuade them from releasing other films in the Dark Universe series. Next up is BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN in February 2019. It's a long wait, but it will hopefully give Universal enough time to get this one right.

Below is an article from the new 'zine, HORRORVILLE, describing the development of THE MUMMY.


Jim Clatterbaugh said...

The wife and I saw a double feature of WONDER WOMAN and THE MUMMY Kast weekend and enjoyed both immensely. I had zero problems with the reboot and look forward to more of the Dark Universe films.

John said...

That's good news, Jim! There have been many times that I have ignored critics and ended up enjoying the movie that they didn't for whatever reason.


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