“The Mummy (2017): Anatomy of a truly bad movie.

Opened with scathing reviews (“Deserves a quick burial”) and a whopping 18% on the Tomatometer, maybe a new low. So I had to see it. Now that it’s mercifully over, I’m sitting back reflecting on the nature of bad movies.

Good movies are easy to dissect. Cinematography, directing, performances, plot all come together as in “Manchester by the Sea” (2016) and “The Revenant” (2016). Bad film is a little more difficult to understand the nuts and bolts, although in the immortal words of SCOTUS Justice Potter Stephens’ comment “I know it when I see it”.

There are really two different kinds of bad films. Bad production and bad writing.

“Cleopatra” (1963) wasn’t bad, just expensive.


The gold standard of bad production is “”Plan 9 from outer space” by Edward D. Wood in 1959.


Bella Lugosi died halfway through the film and was replaced by Edward’s chiropractor in a hood and cape. The production was insanely amateurish using common household items as props.

But much can be forgiven in 1959 low budget productions. The new millennium produced bad writing and very bad screenplays, the gold standard of which is “Stayin’ Alive” (1977), said by critics to be a vision of the end of film as an art form. “Showgirls” (1995), feminine beauty molded into bad taste. “Patch Adams” (1998), did for doctors what Theodoric of York did for the Renaissance. “What Dreams May Come” (1998), a film so profoundly depressing half the patrons went straight home to stick their heads into an oven.

Then came the unchecked hubris of directors/actors. “Battlefield Earth” (2000), the most universally shellacked movie maybe of all time. “Heaven’s Gate” (1980), an incredibly bad film that failed on every possible level, brought down the studio that produced it and destroyed the director’s career. Books have been written about it.

The list goes on and on.

‘The Mummy” with an otherwise stellar cast of Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe and Courtney B. Vance (Law & Order back in the 90s) is in a class by itself.



Bad plot, bad script, bad screenplay, bad acting and gratuitous CGI special effects. A vacuous Full Monte. Possibly the most inane and absurd interpretation of plot particulars by experienced actors I’ve seen in many years.

(Warning: gentle spoiler ahead). Tom Cruise and his pal, “real” soldiers in Iraq said to be out on a “Long Range Patrol”, (presumably for information gathering) but actually sifting through ruins looking to grab artifacts for the black market? In civilian clothes? Then conferring with a colonel right off a helicopter who seems to know them and what they’re up to? An LRRP? A Field Grade officer that even knows what any low grade enlisted guy look like? Think it couldn’t get sillier? Oh, but it does, and never lets up.

One might think that the director is intentionally trying to make a campy film but I don’t think so. Tom Cruise acts like this is a “real” production. Russell Crowe can barely keep a straight face during his antics. I think this was meant to be a serious “horror thriller” film and it definitely succeeds but for all the wrong reasons.

The Mummy is truly a bad film on every level, a frenzied quest for the summit of Mount Bad. A plot so silly it defies rational explanation. Overwrought actors trying to look dignified in simply ridiculous plot lines. What criteria did experienced actors use to choose this script? It’s worse than “Springtime for Hitler” (“The Producers”, 1968). Career enders for all involved?

Probably not. Tom Cruise is a good actor and will go on to make better films. Unsure about Russell Crowe. Critic Glenn Kenny made an excellent point writing for Roger Ebert.com: “As Richard Harris and Richard Burton found out many years before Crowe came along, there comes a time in the career of every loose-cannon macho actor where the any-port-in-a-financial-year-storm approach to career management is all for the best”.

This is a truly terrible experience. Everyone connected with this film should be embarrassed and ashamed of this production, especially outstanding actor Russell Crowe whose contemptibly stupid performance should earn him every Razzie in the book.

I give it ZERO stars out of five creepy CGI manipulations.








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