The scariest thing about ‘The Mummy’ is what the critics did to it

This seems like a dark prophecy come true, indeed.

The Mummy reviews were embargoed until Wednesday morning, but long before critics drew their knives, the signs were there: three screenwriters and three separate "story-by" credits, the premature/forced announcement that it would lead off Universal Studios’ shared "Dark Universe" films, and a newbie director whose writing credits include Cowboys & Aliens, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Star Trek Into Darkness and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Not even Tom Cruise himself — going for some rogue-ish Indiana Jones-type that’s not really his flavor — could save The Mummy from what was to come. In fact, Cruise is just one of the elements that reviewers loathed about The Mummy, which was hovering around 25% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing.

O, the horror.

A sampling of the sand caught in the critics’ keyboards’ today:

Tom Cruise chose unwisely …

Bilge Elbiri, The Village Voice:

The Mummy is the first Cruise-starring picture in decades in which his part seems like it could have been played by anybody. It could be Steve Zahn up there. Or Kenan Thompson. Or, hell, Brendan Fraser.

Daniel Krupa, IGN:

I never came to think of Cruise’s character as anything more than a lying cheat who would occasionally do the right thing. Imagine if there was only ever enough time to show the worst facets of Indiana Jones or Nathan Drake. Cruise is perfectly fine in an unchallenging role, but there isn’t enough time to make Nick into even a generic loveable rogue.

Cruise is in scuzzbucket mode and from his first frame he’s working so hard to make The Mummy a good movie it’s like he inoculates it against the possibility of being all-the-way bad.

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.

… but the Mummy herself maybe wasn’t all bad

Sofia Boutella … stars as Ahmanet, and she is GREAT. Easily the best part of the movie is Boutella. She has such tremendous physicality that even though you can tell there’s some CGI polish applied, you can also tell that Boutella is really crawling around, contorting herself into broken mummy shapes that are easily the creepiest thing in the movie.

Daniel Krupa, IGN:

When she first emerges from her sarcophagus she’s surprisingly disgusting and moves with a creepy, joint-snapping rhythm that is distinct from anything I’ve seen in another zombie movie.

Brian Truitt, USA Today:

Boutella’s mummified villain is the real beauty, a stunning work of creature-feature art with hieroglyphics peppered all over her body. Birds, giant rats and beetles follow her wherever she goes, and Ahmanet doesn’t move like an ancient monster — rather, she saunters gracefully like she’s at Transylvanian Fashion Week, showcasing a deadly confidence.

It tries to have a goofy side, but, um …

Bilge Elbiri, The Village Voice:

There are some weak stabs at humor. Nick’s goofy companion Chris (Jake Johnson) dies early on but keeps coming back for some agonizing repartee. … [The] lines fall flat, and Cruise can’t really do Harrison Ford or Kurt Russell-style roguishness.

Then there’s the shoehorned comedy, with Jake Johnson’s specter aping Griffin Dunne’s character from An American Werewolf in London. (Pro a tip: If your movie is a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas, don’t go out of your way to remind us of one of the few masterpieces of the funny-scary genre.)

… maybe it should’ve just stuck to the action? Or not.

Daniel Krupa, IGN:

From the moment we meet Cruise’s character the movie accelerates towards a breakneck pace from which it rarely escapes. There’s a middle section where he’s endlessly falling into and out of vehicles, fighting hordes of zombies, and generally running in lots of directions.

This is a Dark Universe indeed. Other than the one bit set on a plane plummeting to Earth, the action scenes are shot in such low light that you can barely see what’s going on.

So much of the action takes place in monotonous half-light; so little of it displays even the ambition to show audiences something new — unless we count the Mummy’s eyes, which have two irises each, for no apparent reason other than somebody thought that would look cool on a movie poster.

It’s not coy about launching this ‘Dark Universe’ thing …

Bilge Elbiri, The Village Voice:

As you might expect, we also get some cumbersome world-building involving Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), who heads a secret organization that purports to seek to contain evil but seems fairly sinister in its own right. All that will presumably come into play as part of Universal’s attempt to build out its “Dark Universe” franchise of revitalized monster flicks.

Owen Glieberman, Variety:

The Mummy is a literal-minded, bumptious monster mash of a movie. It keeps throwing things at you, and the more you learn about the ersatz intricacy of its “universe,” the less compelling it becomes.

[Russel Crowe, as Dr. Jekyll] seems to be the Dark Universe’s version of the Marvel movies’ Nick Fury: A behind-the-scenes player who has been fighting all kinds of evil for a long time, and who pops up when screenplays need exposition or a tease for the next film in the franchise.

Daniel Krupa, IGN:

Additionally, reimagining Dr. Jekyll as a monster hunter has obvious potential, but like so many of the neat ideas stashed away in The Mummy, there’s never enough time to explore. I guess that’s what already-greenlit sequels are for.

David Ehrlich, Indiewire:

The idea that anyone will want to watch a standalone movie about this Jekyll and Hyde is preposterous at best, and sadly delusional at worst. You have to earn an interconnected movie universe, you can’t just assume that people will be grateful you assembled some characters who have nothing in common save for their shared corporate interests.