Universal Pictures had, once upon a time, the original cinematic universe: their horror movies.
Now, in light of cinematic universes being all the rage, the studio is attempting to reboot them into a modern-day one called the “Dark Universe”. The first movie in this proposed line is The Mummy, a big budget remake starring Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, and Sofia Boutella as the title creature. Here’s a SPOILER FREE REVIEW.
It’s not very good.
I should probably point out that, as it is, I am not much of a Tom Cruise fan. I find him rather…bland most of the time. Even in movies I’ve seen with him that I’ve liked, rarely does it have anything to do with him. Of the movies he’s made that I actually liked him in, well, there’s Collateral, Interview with the Vampire, and Tropic Thunder. That’s it. He doesn’t do much for me.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that the movie in question has to suck. The problem is there isn’t much original to this Mummy. The original movie with Boris Karloff is a modern classic. And, quite frankly, the movies that came after it in the original Mummy series were a bit fun too, though they dropped almost all of the original Mummy’s backstory, plus Karloff was gone. But those were fun B-movies that worked where the slow-moving Mummy would cause problems usually until someone remembered he was flammable.
Heck, the 1999 Mummy with Brendan Fraser had this sort of B-movie charm with what were at the time state of the art special effects and a silly sense of humor. It helps that the Mummy in both Karloff and Fraser’s movies was Im-Ho-Tep, cursed for the crime of forbidden love, giving at least the 40s version of the character a sympathetic backstory.
That’s more or less gone with Boutella’s Princess Ahmanet. Her motivation is different, but only marginally sympathetic in many ways. Passed over in the royal succession after the birth of a baby half-brother, she takes care of her family as a blood sacrifice to a dark god in the opening sequence and is cursed to being mummified alive and buried somewhere far from Egypt. Does this mean they pulled her brain out with a hook through her nose? I’m gonna guess probably not. Cut to modern day where amoral treasure hunter Cruise finds her coffin and ends up cursing himself as her new betrothed for a scheme millennia in the making.
The problem here is, like many of the subpar movies I’ve seen lately, is that The Mummy doesn’t quite know what sort of movie it is. If it’s a horror film, which you would hope Universal would be doing with its monsters, it’s limited to some jumpy scares in the early going and that’s about it. As a summertime action/adventure film, it’s generic. There’s maybe some life from Jake Johnson as Cruise’s somewhat comedic sidekick, and Russell Crowe is back to help jumpstart a new cinematic universe with some scenery chewing as mild-mannered Dr. Henry Jekyll and then as the more violent and physically strong Edward Hyde. Annabelle Wallis is here as Cruise’s love interest, a blonde woman of questionable usefulness named Jenny.
This is the second time I’ve seen Wallis in a confused summer movie so far, and, well, at least King Arthur had some spirited scenes to it. Director Alex Kurtzman, a longtime blockbuster screenwriter, doesn’t have much new or innovative on display here. I don’t think I saw anything really new here, and quite frankly, this line and scene should not going through my head as Cruise’s Nick Morton is trying to avoid some underwater undead crusader knights:
Will there be more of the Dark Universe? If there is, they better be better than this. At least bad DC movies have a distinctive style that makes them bad and memorable. The Mummy is just generic. Six out of ten sentient sand storms.
That said, Crowe’s Jekyll’s office is full of what look like Easter Eggs referencing other monsters. That was a little cool.