Three years ago, Universal Pictures went back to their classic monsters catalog and produced a new version of the familiar vampire tale with Dracula Untold. At some point during the production, someone had the idea to dig deeper into that catalog and create a whole new monster universe featuring their classic characters from Frankenstein’s monster to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. They even added a coda to the film to bring Dracula into the present as a jumping off point … and then the movie flopped. But Universal was determined to have their own CU to rival that of Marvel and DC Comics.
Which brings us to The Mummy, the new jumping off point for what Universal is now calling the Dark Universe (even adding a nifty new logo which is the opposite of the traditional Universal Pictures logo at the beginning of the movie). And there’s probably not a better star to help launch a franchise than Tom Cruise doing what Tom Cruise does best. The film’s story is a bit intricate as it has to function as a stand-alone film and set up the Dark Universe yet to come without feeling like it’s incomplete by the end (which is a fate suffered by Alien: Covenant).
The story finds Nick Morton (Cruise) and his buddy Chris Vail (Jack Johnson), military men who moonlight as mercenary antiquities thieves, chasing some kind of treasure in Mesopotamia, aka Iraq, based on a map Nick claims he was given by a man named Henry. Turns out the map was stolen, and when the two are attacked by insurgents and an air strike is called in, a long hidden Egyptian tomb is uncovered. Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) arrives, as she is the actual owner of the map from Henry, and surveys the tomb with Nick and Chris reluctantly in tow, but with dollar signs flashing in their eyes when they realize what lies before them. Except this tomb seems to be meant to keep something in as there are no provisions for the Afterlife. Nick takes matters into his own hands and shoots a rope that sets off a mechanism that brings a sarcophagus up out of a pool of mercury, leading him to have strange visions of an Egyptian princess who calls him her “chosen.” After several odd occurrences, Jenny is convinced they have unleashed a curse and she’s right. And only one man can help: Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe). But he may have ulterior motives.
If you’re looking at the reviews from the mainstream press, it should come as no surprise whatsoever that they are overwhelmingly negative. The Mummy is not a movie built for critics … except for this one! As a fan of the classic Universal monsters, I have been hoping the studio could finally get their Dark Universe off and running, and I think they’ve done a swell job here. The Mummy is full of great action set pieces, including an awesome plane crash and … swimming zombies! I like that Cruise starts out the film as kind of the anti-Ethan Hunt from the Mission: Impossible franchise, a man of action, yes, but also a guy who is only in this for himself. It takes him a while to finally come on board with all that’s going on, mainly after an incident with Dr. Jekyll changes his mind that things he tries to deny are very real.
The Mummy also does a nice job of subtly introducing the Dark Universe through Henry’s vocation — collecting and studying the evils of the world — and giving us little glimpses of things in his repository including what looks like an arm and webbed hand of a certain lagoon dwelling creature. There are also nods to other films with the inevitable face in the dust first seen in the 1999 version of The Mummy. One of the most obvious nods comes after the death and return of Chris which should remind fans of An American Werewolf In London‘s similar plot device. It’s obvious, but it works well and Jake Johnson gives a terrific performance. Russell Crowe, who usually comes off as a very intense actor and individual, really seems to be having fun here, giving the role just enough seriousness but not taking it too seriously as the proper British Dr. Jekyll. He really gets to cut loose when his Cockney friend Eddie Hyde shows up, and his fight scene with Cruise is pretty epic. I really enjoyed Annabelle Wallis, who has a few more layers to her character than it may seem at first, and Sofia Boutella — who has already logged in memorable roles in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond — is perfectly menacing and seductive as Ahmanet, the doomed Egyptian princess.
If you’re expecting historical accuracy from a story that involves not only ancient Egypt but the Crusades as well — and I have no idea how or if the two actually converge but it’s an interesting concept — you will almost certainly be disappointed. If you’re looking for a movie that delivers some thrills and chills along with action and humor, then The Mummy should be high atop your “must see” list. Ignore the negativity and enjoy the film on its own terms.
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The Mummy runs 1 hour 50 minutes, and is rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity.