With a rather soft $31 million opening weekend and an astonishingly low 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, it is probably safe to say that The Mummy left a whole lot to be desired. The Tom Cruise-starring pic is supposed to be the first film in Universal Pictures' "Dark Universe," but is now relying on international grosses to break even — hardly the start the studio was hoping for. So what went wrong with The Mummy, a film that appeared to have the makings of at least a fun popcorn flick?
According to a new report by Variety, Tom Cruise took "an excessive amount of control" over The Mummy's production, and had the last say on nearly every creative decision, no matter how small. Onstage during The Mummy's Manhattan premiere, Cruise told the crowd, "I don't just make a movie. I give it everything I have and I expect it from everyone also." It appears he was not exaggerating one bit.
The Mummy was helmed by longtime scribe Alex Kurtzman, whose only previous credit as a movie director was on the unremarkable film People Like Us. Kurtzman's relative lack of experience as a director, and the pressure to get the first picture in a large franchise right, could be what led Cruise to take on such a large role behind the scenes.
Sources tell Variety that Cruise had a say in everything from the writing to the editing of The Mummy. In fact, the actor brought on additional writers to rework The Mummy's script, resulting in a larger role for the actor, possibly at the expense of Sofia Boutella's screentime as the titular Mummy. Apparently, Universal executives were not in agreement with several of the changes made to the script, but fell in line with Cruise's wishes anyway.
While it is possible that the film was doomed from the start and that Cruise prevented the movie from being an even bigger disaster, The Mummy may very well serve as a cautionary tale for future tentpole productions. Not long ago, a movie's box office success could almost be assured by the inclusion of a top-tier star. With Rotten Tomatoes' growing influence on audience decisions, and a larger reliance on established properties like young adult novels and comic books, those days seem to be over.
On paper, The Mummy could have been a success. It shared a name with the highly successful franchise starring Brendan Fraser, starred an up-and-coming actress as the main villain and was billed as a callback to Universal's classic monster movies. Perhaps if the film was in the hands of a filmmaker who asserted more creative authority, with less interference from its lead actor, The Mummy could have gone the way of Wonder Woman instead of Fantastic Four — OK, it's not that bad. Perhaps Universal will make some changes for the next film in the franchise.
The Mummy is now playing in theaters.