With a familiar brand, a cast that included Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe and five years of development time, the 2017 version of The Mummy was expected to be a big enough hit to spearhead a new cinematic universe based around the classic Universal monsters line-up.
Instead the end result was a resounding critical and commercial flop, with the studio reported to have lost around $95 million after production and marketing costs were offset against the film’s $375 million box office take.
Audiences and critics alike were unimpressed by its “mish-mash” of a script, Cruise’s unexcitingly “safe” performance and a general lack of direction. The film received 8 Golden Raspberry nominations including Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay and Worst Actor, which Cruise won.
When you combine the evergreen appeal of Egyptology – a topic which is regularly mined for movies, TV dramas and documentaries, big ticket video games such as Assassin’s Creed Origins, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation and stablemate Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, and even casino games such as this one inspired by the Eye of Horus at SlotsWise, with a big name cast and the franchise’s almost 90 year pedigree, it’s quite a feat to produce a flop on this scale.
Of course, The Mummy isn’t the only film delving into the myths and legends of Egypt to flounder – big call out to 2016’s Gods of Egypt – but it is one whose failure should have been easy to avoid.
Afterall, the studio had already successfully revived the brand less than 20 years earlier with Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy (1999) which took more than $415 million at the box office and spawned both two direct sequels, an animated TV series and a prequel in The Scorpion King.
A further sequel, The Mummy: Rise of the Aztec, was planned but ultimately axed in order to make space for what became the 2017 reboot.
As a consequence of the Cruise film’s failure, Universal shelved plans for a cinematic universe, leading to the mothballing of a Bride of Frankenstein reboot which would have been helmed by Bill Condon.
Instead of a shared monster world Universal eventually decided to opt for standalone movies starting with The Invisible Man, a film whose fortunes couldn’t be more different than the Cruise film’s.
The film has won praise from critics for serving up a well-written and genuinely thrilling plot and strong performances from star Elisabeth Moss and enjoys a healthy 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Box office performance has also been good, with the film taking $124 million against a $7 million budget before its cinema run was curtailed last month.
Even before film’s release it was confirmed that a follow-up is in development, with Elizabeth Banks set to direct and star in a new version of The Invisible Woman.
How that film fares will ultimately depend on whether Universal opts to mimic the ‘generic run-around strung together by acres of CGI’ approach of The Mummy or is willing to give Banks the space to create a deeper story which can reach out to the audience and grow the IP rather than simply cash in on its legacy.
As for Cruise, his next two films once again see him returning to the world of franchises, though this time the Top Gun and Mission: Impossible brands probably have enough lure to guarantee they’ll be box office hits regardless of what the critics say.