Saturday 17 March 2018

The Mummy bombs in the US - did Tom Cruise’s meddling curse big budget horror?

Tom Cruise attending the Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation premiere at the BFI Imax in London.
Tom Cruise attending the Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation premiere at the BFI Imax in London.

Adam White

Tom Cruise's fiddling may have been responsible for the sinking of his would-be franchise-starter The Mummy, according to reports. While the big-budget horror reboot hasn't been an enormous failure at the global box office, it severely underperformed in the United States, throwing an early spanner in the works for a 'Dark Universe' of films tying together such vintage horror heavyweights as the Invisible Man and the Bride of Frankenstein.

According to Variety, The Mummy radically changed once Cruise signed onto the film, the superstar demanding creative control over every aspect of the production, hiring longtime collaborators to work on the script, and significantly altering the film's plot to give him more prominence in the narrative – at the expense of the actually Mummy.

The story reveals that Sofia Boutella's Ahmanet, the titular Mummy herself, was originally the film's co-lead, until Cruise decided to eliminate much of her screentime and introduce a new plot strand which saw her possess Cruise's character. Universal Pictures were reportedly unhappy with Cruise's script changes, but decided to go along with them due to Cruise's star power.

Second chance at life: Sofia Boutella plays Amunet in The Mummy

Cruise also seemed to dominate on set, micro-managing production and taking control of key action sequences. Director Alex Kurtzman, who had previously only directed the flop family drama People Like Us in 2012, was reportedly left with little say during shooting.

The Mummy movie review: Reboot of a great horror franchise is half-hearted and short on ideas 

Once production was over, Cruise personally cut the film together alongside his longtime editor Andrew Mondshein, after he and Universal both decided that the project wasn't working. But this reportedly only added to concern amongst Universal bosses, who grew panicked that the star was "turning a horror film into a Cruise infomercial."

(L-R): Actors Annabelle Wallis, Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella attend 'The Mummy' New York Fan Event at AMC Loews Lincoln Square on June 6, 2017 in New York City. / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISSANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images

A statement from the studio, however, claimed that Cruise didn't negatively impact the film in any way, though didn't outright deny any of the stories reported by Variety.

The Mummy is the second Tom Cruise vehicle in three years that was reportedly plagued with production trouble, with Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation shut down for a week mid-filming to accommodate the writing of a new ending. Unlike The Mummy, that ended up actually benefiting the film, which received strong reviews and grossed nearly $700 million worldwide.


The Mummy likely won't make it to that figure, and its reported $190 million budget (plus $100 million to market) means it'll need to cross at least $300 million at the global box office to even start to make any profit.

While Universal continues to point fingers amid the failure of The Mummy, it's the third time in a month that a major studio has decided that expensive, underperforming reboots and sequels were felled by outside factors, and not because nobody actually asked for them to exist in the first place.

According to Deadline, executives at both Paramount and Disney blamed Rotten Tomatoes and their aggregated critics scores for the recent US failures of Baywatch and Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge, claiming "Pirates 5 and Baywatch aren't built for critics but rather general audiences, and once upon a time these types of films — a family adventure and a raunchy R-rated comedy — were critic-proof. Many of those in the industry severely question how Rotten Tomatoes computes its ratings, and the fact that these scores run on [online movie ticket seller] Fandango is an even bigger problem."

This has led some studios to reportedly ponder whether they should only hold critics screenings on the day of release, so as not to influence so-called "general audiences", or cancel them all-together.

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