When an ancient tomb is discovered beneath the desert, the mummified princess inside (Sofia Boutella) awakens to reclaim her destiny that was taken from her so long ago, but in order to complete her ritual, she will need to sacrifice a human life and she has her many-pupiled eyes set on one particularly unlucky adventurer (Tom Cruise). With The Mummy, Universal begins their new shared cinematic universe, which they have dubbed the “Dark Universe,” featuring rebooted versions of all of their classic Universal Monsters. As a horror fan, I have long been looking forward to this movie and seeing how they plan on kickstarting this new series of films. So, does The Mummy do a good enough job of setting the table for the likes of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Wolf Man and more to come along and scare a whole new generation of movie-goers? Read on to find out…
First and foremost, this is an action movie, and if there’s one thing we’ve come to expect from a Tom Cruise movie lately, it’s that there are going be a ton of great action sequences. This film did not let up in that department at all. It seemed as though not ten full minutes would go by without an intense, full-throttle action sequence taking place, and that made for a really fun movie-going experience. In recent years, Cruise has made a real effort to give movie-goers as big a bang for their buck as humanly possible, putting his body on the line to pull off insane and incredibly ambitious stunts, and the plane crash sequence early on in this film is no exception. However, in addition to some terrific action and adventure, as well as some great humor, I thought the horror elements also really worked. The Brendan Fraser Mummy movies didn’t really play this stuff up nearly enough for my liking, so I was pleased to see that horror is still very much a part of these films going forward. As a lifelong horror fan, it’s kind of hard to phase me anymore, but this film made me jump a couple times, so that’s always a plus for me.
As always, Cruise gives a solid performance as Nick Morton, a soldier turned treasure hunter who stumbles upon the find of a lifetime in the Iraqi desert. That being said, however, it sometimes doesn’t really feel like Cruise is playing a character anymore, rather than just being Tom Cruise. That’s not a bad thing, though, if you’re a fan of his. He can pull off these action hero roles in his sleep, but I kind of would have liked to have seen him bring a little something new or different to the actual performance, rather than just focusing all of his attention on things like his latest death-defying feat. I did like that he was a little bit of a jerk, but I could have used a little more than just that.
Annabelle Wallis was fantastic as Jenny Halsey, an expert tasked with retrieving the mummy’s sarcophagus. She really stood her ground opposite some top tier performers here. She had a fun chemistry with Cruise, but I do wish the character was written a little better. She’s a million times smarter than any of the men in the film, and I loved that, but I would have liked for her to have been a bit more proactive in certain scenes, especially in some of the later action-centric moments. I appreciated that they were harkening back to classic Raiders-like adventure stories, but nowadays, I like my damsels in a little less distress. That aside, with the way the character is tied into the overall story of this film: I would really like to see Wallis return for future films. I think she brings a lot to the table that the Dark Universe can definitely utilize.
I was surprised to see Jake Johnson (who I love on New Girl and in Jurassic World) in the film. Having avoided as many of the later trailers as I could (they just spoil too much these days), I didn’t even know he was in it. I thought he added a great dynamic to the film as the comedic third wheel between Nick and Jenny. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I also really enjoyed what they did with his character throughout the film. It was something that, even aside from my ignorance on Johnson’s involvement in the film, I had not anticipated going in. He was probably my favorite part. Just him as a character (and Johnson as an actor) made me forgive things that probably would have bugged me a lot more if I didn’t like the casting as much. Certain plot points with this character could have easily fallen flat in less capable hands.
I thought it was a really cool idea to go with a female mummy for this iteration of a franchise that has been around since the 1930s. I’ve loved Sofia Boutella in both Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond, but both of those roles were a bit limited in showing us what she can really do as an actress. I’ve been eager to see more from her, so I was really interested in seeing what she was going to do as the mummy, Princess Ahmet, in this film. I thought she did a wonderful job of bringing this incredibly powerful and super creepy monster to life. Boutella has such a great on-screen presence, especially for roles of this nature. I also thought the mummy’s design was awesome. She was everything that Enchantress should have been in Suicide Squad without all the gyrating.
There’s no denying that Courtney B. Vance (who won an Emmy last year for his portrayal of Johnnie Cochran in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story) is a great actor, but I feel like he was mostly wasted here in his role as Colonel Greenway. It was pretty much your stereotypical Army Colonel that any physically or authoritatively imposing actor in the right age range could have pulled off, but I can’t really fault them for filling the role with talent. While he plays the part well, I just would have liked to have seen him do more.
Finally, I loved Russell Crowe’s take on Dr. Henry Jekyll. He struck just the right balance in his performance, as one would expect for such a storied character. Establishing someone like Crowe in this role sets up a lot of potential for the future of this franchise and his organization surely has a larger role to play. Now, I don’t consider this a spoiler, because it’s still too early to tell exactly how this Dark Universe will unfold, but one of the things that I found most interesting about Jekyll’s appearance here is that he can actually be used in two different ways: as Dr. Jekyll, he could essentially be the Nick Fury of this universe, enlisting heroes to take on all the monsters of the world, or as Mr. Hyde, he could be the one to bring all of the monsters together for one hell of a monster mash. Either way, I’m totally down for that!
I thought the film was beautifully shot. Alex Kurtzman did an exceptional job directing in only his second big screen effort. This has a much larger scope than his first film, People Like Us, so I was impressed by his ability to helm a film on a comparable scale to some of the blockbusters he’s known for writing alongside his former partner Roberto Orci and I was relieved that it’s a lot better than some of those (see: the Transformers movies, Star Trek Into Darkness, or even **shudder** The Amazing Spider-Man 2). The CG is used really effectively, and for the most part, it looked pretty good. One of the things that really stood out to me was the set design. The tombs and underground sets were all phenomenal, and there was a creepy cobblestone alley that really evoked that classic Universal monster movie vibe for me. The best part, though, was Jekyll and company’s secret headquarters beneath the National History Museum referred to as “Prodigium.” This is an awesome location that makes for a perfect home base for all of the stories in this universe. There are also some pretty sweet Easter eggs for keen-eyed viewers.
Taking a moment to hit upon a few of my issues, some of the character motivations were left a bit uncertain. I could have used a tiny bit more explanation on a couple of plot points, especially in terms of the mummy’s plan, beyond just her goals of obtaining that thing that every single villain ever wants, “ultimate power.” I also could have used a tad more backstory for a couple characters. There were a couple of instances of some really uninspired dialogue. Certain one-liners or retorts maybe could have used a second pass. And this film definitely didn’t need to be in 3D. IMAX, sure, but the 3D was barely even worth it, aside from the incredible plane crash scene.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Mummy. I think that this was an excellent start to the “Dark Universe,” a name that might not stick with a possible lawsuit in Universal’s near future (wish I could say it’s not too late to change it, but they’re already pot-committed, with a massive Dark Universe logo at the start of the film). I do love a good monster movie, though, and I think this one checked just about every box I had for it going in. The action, adventure, humor, and horror all blended together perfectly. I’m really excited to see where the rest of this universe goes, but if the subsequent films are anywhere near as strong as this one, I’ll be one happy horror nerd.