The other day, director Dan Trachtenberg wondered on Twitter why some movies that are only okay get completely destroyed while others are bafflingly elevated by the critical community:
Will always be confused when mediocre movies receive heaps of praise or heaps of shame. Always feels arbitrary.
— Dan Trachtenberg (@DannyTRS) June 11, 2017
I’m not sure if he’s referring to anything specifically here, but The Mummy certainly falls into the latter category for me, a movie that is inoffensive at best, and comes off as a craven cash-grab at worst. In our podcast review of The Mummy, we weren’t huge fans, but I was a bit confused at why critics decided to take a huge dump all over this one, when other equally terrible films this year have not endured such harsh treatment.
— Rotten Tomatoes (@RottenTomatoes) June 9, 2017
I can’t speculate too much on when/why critics sense blood in the water and try to bury a film. But what’s indisputable is that this one certainly has created a lot of anti-Cruise sentiment.
Many observers (including me) think Cruise needs to change career trajectory. Here’s Chris Eggersten writing for The Hollywood Reporter:
It’s hard not to be disappointed by all of this. Cruise is undoubtedly one of the greatest stars of the modern era, and over the course of his long career he’s consistently championed original projects over release-date slot-fillers. Like him or not, his reputation as a star who cares deeply about the quality of the films he puts out is beyond refute. While his current trajectory doesn’t necessarily suggest he’s getting lazy (I honestly don’t think he has it in him), it is an indication that he’s finally been forced to concede to the demands of an industry that has left old-guard action stars like him scrambling to find their place.
As Hollywood is playing the blame game on what went wrong on “The Mummy,” which had a measly domestic opening of just $32 million, many fingers are pointing to Cruise. In the same way that he commanded the stage at the film’s premiere, leaving his cast standing awkwardly by his side, several sources close to the production say that Cruise exerted nearly complete creative oversight on “The Mummy,” essentially wearing all the hats and dictating even the smallest decisions on the set. On stage, Cruise admitted his own perfectionist tendencies. “I don’t just make a movie. I give it everything I have and I expect it from everyone also.”
Universal, according to sources familiar with the matter, contractually guaranteed Cruise control of most aspects of the project, from script approval to post-production decisions. He also had a great deal of input on the film’s marketing and release strategy, these sources said, advocating for a June debut in a prime summer period.
I found this piece to be odd because I’d always just assumed that Cruise exerted significant creative control over most of his films, whereas this piece presents it as a revelation. Cruise is one of the biggest movie stars in the world and, for most of his career, he has understood what makes a good action film (he’s a producer on all the Mission Impossible films, which have grossed over $2 billion worldwide). I would’ve found it strange if Cruise hadn’t had a huge amount of veto power on The Mummy, which is presumably the studio’s first entry into their Dark Universe of films.
In a recent issue of The Ankler, Richard Rushfield takes aim at the absurdity of the Variety piece:
Will you just look at that! A star throwing his weight around on a set and taking over everything! And just because Universal had, “contractually guaranteed Cruise control of most aspects of the project, from script approval to post-production decisions.” It’s like he took that contractual guarantee literally! When all Universal meant by it was as sort of a big cuddly bear hug.
But what’s a poor little studio to do when their star out of nowhere, with no warning at all that he can be a little controlling, suddenly wants to run the ship.
Anyway, good job, entertainment media. You actually made me feel bad for Tom Cruise and The Mummy this week. A high accomplishment.
[Note: The headline of this blog post is not meant to imply that Tom Cruise should be left alone for his complicity in Scientology’s abhorrent actions. Those he should still be held accountable for.]