The Mummy Review: A Dark Universe Commences

The Mummy faces a challenge. It was not that long ago that Brendan Frasier was battling those dead-in-a-blanket entities with charm, humor and action as intense as an Egyptian sandstorm. The series even went on without him with its Dwayne Johnson-starring spin-off. But, Universal Pictures has a shared universe on their hands that they’ve possessed for decades upon decades and in a time when studios not only have tent poles and franchises, now a shared universe where individual characters are featured in their own series of films and come together every now and again for a shared universe ensemble that is top heavy on that movie marquee with star power.

So, when it was decided that The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise this time out, was going to get the redo, it wasn’t simply another studio revisiting a story that was successful (or sometimes not-so-successful) not too long ago. This Mummy is the opening chapter of a world that will include new movies starring Russell Crowe as Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hyde (who debuts in this film and will supposedly be ever present throughout them all), Javier Bardem as Frankenstein’s Monster and Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man. Oh, lest we forget that Dracula will be returning as well, a star has not yet been announced.

Watch for clues throughout The Mummy for that expanding world of “Gods and Monsters.” But this film first and foremost has to stand on its own.

The Mummy is a decent summer actioner that has some incredible action sequences and CG effects that the early Mummy movies could only dream of achieving. What else works for this film is director Alex Kurtzman’s use of practical effects and location shooting. One example is a plane crash scene that arrives near the beginning of the film. That was a real plane diving towards the Earth with stars Cruise and Wallis literally bouncing off the wall!

Cruise’s Nick Morton is part of some sort of military group (who or what it is doesn’t seem to be that important). He is joined in his desire for treasure in the corners of the world where he finds himself stationed (currently, Iraq) with Jake Johnson’s Chris Vail. They have stumbled on an Egyptian antiquity with Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), an expert in the field that is hundreds of miles away from where anything like this has ever been discovered. There is a reason. Buried in that mummified chamber of death is an Egyptian princess (Sofia Boutella’s Ahmanet) who did the unthinkable. Thinking she was assured the thrown in ancient times, her father betrayed her and had a son. She killed them all and wound up buried alive and taken far away. Through something Cruise does (which we could have told him not to do), she is awakened. But not so fast… first she and her tomb is brought to London where you just know she is going to wreak some serious havoc.

While in the English capital, Cruise meets Crowe’s Dr. Heckyl (and also Mr. Hyde) and much is explained about the world of “gods and monsters” that is supposed to provide us the background for this monstrous rebirth of Universal’s prize historical horrific cache. It does, but The Mummy is bogged down by such things. Instead of giving a straight Mummy story that would have still managed to set in motion this Dark Universe, we have a muddled storyline that seems to be held back by certain boxes that need to be checked in order to world build.

The thing about other shared universes, such as The Avengers, is that each member of that collective ensemble has had a chance to shine on their own… without the burden of feeling as if the wider scope of this cinematic universe depended on being a part of the first chapter. Can you imagine Iron Man mired in references to Captain America, Thor and more? Hardly! The Mummy does do that and therefore it makes it difficult for the story to shine on its own.

It’s a fine enough Cruise vehicle and it is nice to see him working in the “horror” genre, and I use that word loosely because this is more action adventure than horror… but still, there are many, many hints of that world. The scenes with Crowe and Cruise are electric and it’s terrific to see two of the biggest stars in Hollywood pair up and truly get to go tête-à-tête.

Johnson is a terrific sidekick, but he is wasted in a role that experiences a fate that might be necessary to the story, but fails the actor in terms of what he can bring to a project. He is both funny and fierce and the potential for him to uplift some of the staler scenes is lost with the material he is given from the script by David Koepp and several others. Wallis is fine, but she too isn’t given much to do other than provide necessary plot movement lines to further our story from a scientific/historical perspective. The breakout star in this picture is the same one that riveted us in The Kingsman: The Mummy herself, Boutella. From the way she carries herself as she comes to life, to the flashback scenes where her wicked royal does her dirty work, the actress continues her hot streak that should continue to sear as audiences discover her latest work.

Now, Cruise… let’s just say that he is an interesting choice to play Nick and it is an interesting choice by him to be in this movie. It’s a role, in his hands, that fits his screen persona. It is just that it feels a little bit off in this world littered with the supernatural. He makes it his own, but we’re not sure it should have ever been his to begin with.

Grade: C+