In just a few short days, Universal will be rolling out The Mummy in theaters nationwide. Set to be the first film in the Dark Universe, Universal's shared monster movie continuity, the Tom Cruise-starring The Mummy needs to be a success. But the film is being released during an extremely crowded summer, just one week after Wonder Woman and less than two before the fifth Transformers movie. This is leading some to assume that The Mummy will be a flop.
Well, I am going to go out on a limb and say that not only will The Mummy not flop, it's going to be a success for Universal. Before we move on to that, though, let's define "success." Will The Mummy make over $1 billion worldwide? No, of course not. It isn't The Avengers. Even Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will likely fail to reach that height. A better benchmark is probably the $500 to $600 million worldwide range. That is where the two movies in the Kong and Godzilla universe landed.
Next we have to figure out what The Mummy needs to do critically. This is important for two reasons. First, films that get good reviews generally do better than those that do not. Second, even if The Mummy is a success financially, it needs to earn at least middle-of-the-road reviews if Universal wants to build any goodwill for future movies in the Dark Universe. What do we consider "good reviews?" Being certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes — generally over a 75% — would be a huge step in the right direction. But honestly, getting just over a 60% would probably do the trick.
Taking much into consideration, I am pretty confident that The Mummy can succeed on both benchmarks. Of course, I am more confident in its box office prospects than I am with how it will do with critics — after all, I have yet to see the movie. But there are reasons why I believe the film will resonate with critics and with audiences. And there are more than a few reasons why I am in no way prepared to project The Mummy as a flop.
The Mummy at the box office
The Mummy is only the latest remake of the 1932 movie of the same name. The first, though the story was entirely new, was the Stephen Sommers-directed and Brendan Fraser-starring The Mummy. That film spawned two sequels, The Mummy Returns and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Each of the three movies in that franchise received a rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But still, all three The Mummy films earned over $400 million at the worldwide box office.
Taking that into consideration, let's look at 2017's The Mummy. When we line up the upcoming film alongside the prior three, there seems to be no comparison. There is absolutely no question that Tom Cruise is a bigger star than Brendan Fraser. Further, the upcoming film also features Academy Award-winner Russell Crowe, as well as up-and-coming star Sofia Boutella as the titular Mummy. On paper, it just seems like this new The Mummy is exponentially more appealing than those starring Brendan Fraser.
Assuming this is the case (and honestly even if it isn't) this should mean The Mummy can safely reach $400 million at the worldwide box office. But the overseas box office has grown quite a bit since 2008, the year Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was released. Think about this: In 2008, eight films earned over $300 million at the box office overseas. In 2016, there were 19 films that accomplished that feat. In 2017, there are already nine films that have earned over $300 million overseas.
It just simply isn't as difficult to reach $400 million worldwide now as it was when the last The Mummy movie hit theaters. Of course, $400 million is a long ways away from the $500 to $600 million we are using as a benchmark for The Mummy's success. But considering the brand name recognition of The Mummy and the growth in the international market, this film should be able to easily out-gross the Fraser films worldwide. And then, of course, there is Tom Cruise.
The Tom Cruise factor
Love him, hate him or have zero feeling for him whatsoever, it is hard to argue against Cruise's draw at the overseas box office. Let's face it, he is a huge star. And having Cruise's name attached to a brand like The Mummy should lead to a strong performance outside of the United States.
The last few Tom Cruise films to carry some name recognition include the Jack Reacher movies and, of course, the Mission: Impossible sequels. While the Jack Reacher films only earned between $160 and $220 million worldwide, they were smaller movies with less bloated budgets than The Mummy. What I am more interested in here, is how the films did overseas when compared to their domestic gross. And each movie's overseas tally came close to doubling its domestic tally. The Mission: Impossible movies generally do even better overseas, with Rogue Nations' overseas gross being about two and a half times its domestic.
This is a a common trend with Tom Cruise movies. Other high budget Cruise pics like Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow (each of which under-performed domestically) were saved by a hefty overseas tally. Those films grossed $286 million and $370 million, respectively, even without a brand name like The Mummy.
If we apply Cruise's history to The Mummy, it would appear that the film would likely gross at a minimum $200 million overseas, assuming the film gets to $100 million domestically, which it likely will considering its projected opening weekend of $35 million. It is far more likely, though, that the film's overseas gross will be even more lopsided than we've seen in the past. The last Mummy film, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, grossed nearly three times its domestic tally internationally. If The Mummy plays a bit more like a Mission: Impossible movie, we could safely assume it will take in over $300 million from overseas markets alone.
The biggest wild card with The Mummy will be its reviews. Outside of a few critic-proof franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean and Transformers, a bad Rotten Tomatoes score can be a death sentence for a big-budget film. I suppose one could argue that The Mummy is critic-proof, especially when looking at Tomb of the Dragon Emperor's 12% score, but I am not prepared to go so far, especially since this is a new franchise. So, it is important that the Tom Cruise-starring film isn't destroyed by critics.
Without seeing the movie, it's impossible to know for sure that The Mummy will avoid such a fate. But its cast and crew do suggest that it could safely navigate the bumpy Rotten Tomatoes waters. First, one of the writers on The Mummy is Academy Award winner Christopher McQuarrie. The Usual Suspects writer has had a string of successes lately, as his last two films as a writer (Edge of Tomorrow and Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation) have all been certified fresh, with the latter two earning over a 90%.
Then, there is Tom Cruise. Though he has appeared in some real duds, generally, Cruise makes pretty good choices when it comes to his movies. Out of the eight wide release movies he has appeared in since 2010, four have been rated fresh, three of which earned over a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps more importantly, though, is that Cruise's movies are almost never completely lambasted by critics. Since 2010, his worst-reviewed film on the aggregation site is Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, which sits at 37%.
While none of this guarantees that The Mummy will garner strong reviews, the cast and crew's history suggest that we should not be so quick to assume that the film will be completely dismissed by critics. And should The Mummy garner middle-of-the-road to even strong reviews, Tom Cruise and his international following should be enough to jump start Universal's Dark Universe.
The Mummy will be released in theaters nationwide on June 9.