There’s an amusing meme doing the rounds at the moment, depicting forgotten action heartthrob Brendan Fraser reacting to the lukewarm reviews for Tom Cruise’s The Mummy.
Fraser starred in the 90s trilogy based on a similar Egyptian myth in a series of films that had him on course to be the Poundland Harrison Ford before a few ill-advised choices put paid to his A-list status.
What the meme and most people currently slating the new version of The Mummy fail to realise, however, is that it’s Tom Cruise who will have the last laugh this time round.
Because, whether you like it or not, The Mummy will make its money back and a whole lot more besides. Variety has already reported that the film took a whopping $52 million in its opening weekend alone in China, helped in no small part by Cruise’s enduring appeal in the Far East.
In fact, while The Mummy faltered at the US box office with a $32 million opening gross, it’s been a different story overseas with a gross of just $174 million racked up in a few short days.
That development might prompt groans from some but here at loaded, Cruise remains something of a guilty pleasure and, in these most uncertain of times, a reliable old hand for delivering solid action with a few laughs thrown in for good measure.
Let’s start by saying something contentious: The Mummy really isn’t as bad as everyone is making out.
Yes, it’s far from Cruise’s best work but, at the same time, it’s nowhere near his worst, delivering some eye-catching action set pieces that include a pretty impressive plane-crash escape and a memorable encounter with a certain Edward Hyde (more on him later).
It keeps things light too, with Cruise bouncing off both Annabelle Wallis’ Jennifer Haley and Jake Johnson’s Sergeant Chris Vail to excellent comedic effect in a way that’s reminiscent of both Indiana Jones (to some extent) and Fraser’s Mummy movies.
Granted, the plot and overarching concept of Universal Dark is undeniably silly, but then weren’t the original Universal monsters that to begin with? And in a cinematic landscape littered with dark, brooding and deeply serious superhero movies, why not have something that’s a little tongue-in-cheek and B-movie-ish?
That’s not to say that The Mummy is a perfect movie or likely to be winning any kind of accolade anytime soon, but it’s good, enjoyable popcorn fodder at a time when a little bit of escapism is definitely on the menu.
Perhaps this is nostalgia. Perhaps, The Mummy is truly terrible film made enjoyable to fans of a certain generation for the sight of Tom Cruise doing some trademark running, or having seven shades of shit kicked out of him by Sofia Boutella’s Princess Ahmanet, but we’re unconvinced.
After watching a whole host of brainless but enjoyable Vin Diesel movies, whether it’s Fast and Furious or xXx, get glowing reviews despite suffering from problems similar to the ones witnessed in The Mummy, it feels like Cruise may not be getting a fair crack here.
Too often in recent times, reviewers have been eager to stick the boot in on certain films in the hope of “going viral” with some damning review. Enjoyable movies like Baywatch and King Arthur have been labelled among the worst of the year when, while something of a mixed bag, are actually anything but.
For Cruise, there’s a feeling that his off-camera antics and general perception in the wider public has coloured the viewpoint on his cinematic output.
Over the past few years he’s produced several excellent Mission Impossible movies while
both his Jack Reacher films, are slick, well-plotted, thrillers of the kind not seen since the heyday of Jack Ryan in the ‘90s (Matthew McConaughey’s The Lincolin Lawyer is the only thing that comes close).
Oblivion, another innovative sci-fi affair, was panned by critics despite offering up some interesting and thought-provoking ideas and a cool concept that was well-rendered on the screen.
The Mummy isn’t as good as Oblivion but it’s a damn sight more enjoyable than critics are giving it credit for and – and here’s the most contentious point – it’s as good, if not better than Fraser’s Mummy movie.
Starring alongside Rachel Weisz and John Hannah, that particular effort is worth revisiting for the fact that it might jog a few memories as to how bad it actually was – and it is very, very bad.
There are faults with The Mummy, of course – it’s a tad too long and Cruise’s relationship with Johnstone’s best buddy character is borrowed almost wholesale from An American Werewolf in London.
However, it’s still an entertaining way to spend an evening and features a memorable performance from Russell Crowe, who is suitably daft as Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde, almost stealing the show with his transformation scene and subsequent attempt at a cockney accent.
His own Jekyll/Hyde movie is already shaping up nicely while we can’t wait for some of these characters to combine in their own Avengers-style adventure.
There will be those that groan at the thought of more Mummy films and the Universal Dark franchise to come but Cruise and the filmmakers will have noted the lukewarm response and will look to improve on things next time out.
And that can happen – anyone who saw the shift up from Captain America: The First Avenger to Captain America: Winter Soldier can see it’s possible. In Cruise we trust.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.