Director: Alex Kurtzman
Cast: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson
Plot: A rebel soldier and part-time treasure hunter (Cruise) stumbles across the tomb of a powerful Mummy (Boutella) and becomes the missing piece in her rebirth ritual.
The Dark Universe isn’t really going as planned. First, Dracula Untold was supposed to be the opening gambit of this brand new franchise, where the popular Gothic monsters through cinema and literature banded together in a single series, taking the style of Avengers Assemble and applying it to the Hammer movie era. However, that film, rightly so, flopped, its glossy take on the classic anti-hero too superficial to make audiences connect with this brave new venture. Therefore, the producers awkwardly restarted the mission, sweeping Dracula Untold under the carpet and praying that no one would call them on it. Now The Mummy is supposed to be the opening film to the Monsters Universe/Dark Universe, but this film is so riddled with its own problems that it is hard to see audiences loving it any more than they did Dracula Untold.
The Mummy, in fairness, is a much better film than Dracula Untold. Where Dracula Untold failed to connect with the audience’s emotions, at least, there are a few solid portions in The Mummy, where Kurtzman gets the correct atmosphere across. The problem with the Mummy is that it isn’t sure what emotions, or genre, to put at the forefront of the film. For example, if this is a film connected to the Dark Universe, it stands to reason that the popular opinion that this is a remake of Stephen Sommers’ 1999 adaptation of the mythical creature isn’t necessarily true. We should be seeing this as a closer remake to the original 1932 beast, played by Boris Karloff, ripped straight from the cult Hammer horror era. Surely this is the Mummy that would better fit with the vampires, werewolves and Franksteins that it stands to reason the Dark Universe will tackle next. However, Kurtzman pretty much proceeds to remake Sommers’ movie, throwing a cock-sure American soldier, a pretty but intelligent British love interest and a funny guy to round up the threesome of leads. The tone is set firmly in that blend of true horror and entertaining romp, so that whenever the proceedings set to get a little too creepy, a good gag finds its way into the script, lightening the tone. However, in keeping so rigidly to the formula that made the original Sommers’ film work so well, the Mummy never quite feels like a movie in its own right. I couldn’t escape the fact that Kurtzman never managed to get his script from draft one, always doing the expected thing. Boutella’s Mummy committed some vile act in Ancient Egypt, is awoken by our heroes as a rage-filled monster and proceeds to try and continue her ancient ritual to bring evil to the world. Cue plagues of insect creatures (scarabs are sadly avoided, potentially a too-late-in-the-day decision to avoid comparisons with Sommers’ film), mummified zombies and a sandstorm with Boutella’s screaming face visible in the winds. In doing everything you expect it to, it feels a little artificial, like it is missing the original spark that movies of this nature really need. Even in a middle act sub-plot, which sees Russell Crowe’s character attempt some Gothic world-building, it feels so contrived. The twist reveal of Crowe’s character is less a gasp moment and more of an eye-rolling sense of ticking more boxes on the road to connecting the Dark Universe together. Assuming the plan is scrapped once again in a few months’ time…
There are small blemishes of fun though. There are a few early scenes where there is a decent stab at being generally scary. Both Dracula and the Mummy seem to have been so caught up in replicating Marvel’s blockbuster franchises, they have forgotten to create something more fitting of the Gothic characters themselves: something to scare you with. Thankfully, there are a few choice scenes, where Boutella’s Ahmanet is first coming back from the dead, where the chills do sink in. Here minions are the stock zombie figures that make up nameless bad guy red shirts in this sort of film, but their shuffling bones clicking into place upon resurrection, do send a few stabbing chills through your body. And while Boutella is given more to do than Arnold Vosloo was ever given as the Mummy, adding a tragic growl to her dialogue, hinting at depth where the script gives her none, the same flaw remains, where the Mummy is much more fun as a faceless corpses, hauntingly shuffling for its victims at its own leisurely pace. The other divisive factor of the Mummy film is Tom Cruise. On one hand, he is the perfect stand-in for Brendan Frasier. He is the same style of hero, able to jump from comedy riffing to the hard-as-nails action hero that this movie requires. Cruise can both act his socks off when required and handle the hectic stunts this movie needs from him, when it is called upon. The action scenes here (you’ve seen the heart-stopping plane sequence in the trailer), are tense and Cruise handles them like the seasoned professional he is. However, casting Cruise is always a catch-22 scenario, because there is always this unavoidable side-effect that the Mummy is always a few moments away from descending into a Tom Cruise vehicle. Early scenes, where him and Jake Johnson fight off some insurgents are packed with that punchy Cruise humour, the film having fun making the most of Cruise. Boutella might make for a fine villain, but whenever she is up against Cruise, his charisma sucks the spotlight away from her. But just when you think Cruise is stealing the fun from this movie, there is a niggling feeling that maybe he is providing the fun instead. What would this movie be without Tom Cruise? A franchise-building device that steals too much material from the Mummy films before it? Cruise at the very least provides identity and gives us an entertaining thrill-ride as he does so. In a film that looks like it will struggle to stand the test of time, Cruise at least gives us some punchy scenes to grin about.
Final Verdict: Part Mummy remake without original ideas, part time shameless franchise-builder, part Tom Cruise starrer. Too many identities create a muddled final piece.