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Rob Edelman: Tom Cruise, Mummified

Once upon a time, Tom Cruise was a mega-movie star. His hit films, including RISKY BUSINESS, TOP GUN, and JERRY MAGUIRE, were high-powered, popular entertainments, and he demonstrated his depth as an actor by embracing roles in serious films, important films. These include THE COLOR OF MONEY, opposite Paul Newman; RAIN MAN, with Dustin Hoffman; EYES WIDE SHUT, the final directorial credit in the estimable career of Stanley Kubrick; and Oliver Stone’s BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. 

Indeed, in the fact-based BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY, which dates from 1989, Cruise offers a striking, gut-wrenching performance as Ron Kovic, child of the 1950s and Vietnam veteran who was paralyzed while in combat, and who became an eloquent anti-Vietnam war protester

So where is Tom Cruise at in 2017, and how is his most recent film a reflection of our times? Well, for openers, the actor now is in his mid-fifties, and this is a sobering reminder of the swift passage of time. He still is starring onscreen and his latest release is THE MUMMY: a reworking both of a fairly recent series featuring Brendan Fraser and the original, a Boris Karloff classic which dates from 1932. In fact, in a series billed as “Dark Universe,” Universal Pictures reportedly will be resuscitating a host of additional horror film classics. They will range from THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON to THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and THE WOLF MAN, with this new MUMMY the first of the “Dark Universe” films.

In it, Cruise plays a looter of antiquities who unknowingly awakens the title villainess: an ancient Egyptian princess and temptress. And to describe the film as lackluster and downright lifeless is no exaggeration. It is the kind of contemporary Hollywood product that seems to have been spewed out of a computer. The fact that six-- count ‘em, six-- writers contributed to its story and screenplay only embellishes this observation.

Additionally and ever-so-predictably, this MUMMY is loaded with nonstop, jarringly violent and mindless eye candy-style imagery. And these days, with all the casual, everyday brutality occurring across the globe, how can one distinguish between violent images that are genuine, that endlessly show up on computer screens and 24/7 cable news channels, and those that are made-up, that are fashioned to grab one’s attention and keep one entertained? For indeed, this blending of the real and the reel is worrying, disquieting, distressing, unnerving.

Finally, in relation to THE MUMMY, one of its characters is played by Russell Crowe: yet another actor who once upon a time appeared in far-better films. Crowe shows up as Dr. Henry Jekyll, of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE fame, and the presence of this character, beyond being pointless and downright silly, primarily seems to be to set up not one but two separate moneymaking sequels.

Rob Edelman has authored or edited several dozen books on film, television, and baseball. He has taught film history courses at several universities and his writing has appeared in many newspapers, magazines, and journals. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.

 The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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