Release Date: June 9, 2017
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sophia Boutella, and Russell Crowe
Universal’s Dark Universe Fails To Find Its Feet!
Since Universal announced its Dark Universe, there’s been a monumental amount of pressure on The Mummy to succeed. Not only does Alex Kurtzman’s reboot need to satisfy fans of Brendan Fraser’s 1999 movie, but the film is also expected to kickstart a shared universe of monster movies and introduce a handful of interesting characters, all while telling a fluid and entertaining story. So, is The Mummy everything the fans and the studio need it to be? Is Universal’s Dark Universe off to a good start? Well, it’s not exactly that simple.
So many movies crumble under the weight of a cinematic universe, but thankfully The Mummy actually does a decent job of introducing certain ideas for future movies and setting up a shared universe of monsters. It’s always worrying when a film is trying to focus too much on creating a shared universe and setting up future films but thankfully, The Mummy doesn’t beat us over the head with a reminder that it exists within a cinematic universe. Alex Kurtzman introduces Russell Crowe’s Dr. Henry Jekyll naturally and the idea of Prodigium being a set up for this universe was surprisingly one of the more interesting and exciting aspects of The Mummy.
I’ll admit that I was both surprised and worried when Kurtzman cast Tom Cruise as the lead in The Mummy. Don’t get me wrong, I frickin’ love Tom Cruise but this is a genre that we’ve not really seen the actor delve into for a long time and I wasn’t sure if he would suit the tone of the film. Thankfully, I was completely wrong. Tom Cruise brings his standard level of charm to the role and reminds you why he’s one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. This is a guy that always gives 100% to a role and you can feel that determination watching this movie.
Say what you will about Alex Kurtzman’s directing, this film has some amazing visuals. This version of The Mummy looks beautiful and some of the cinematography, especially in the opening desert sequence looks incredible. Then we get to some of the action sequences, which also are shot and choreographed perfectly. Scenes like the plane crash or any of the many shots of Tom Cruise running just look flawless but other than that there’s really not much to admire about Kurtzman’s directing of this movie, which leads me into some of the less enjoyable aspects of this film.
What Didn’t Work?
Possibly the biggest issue I have with this version of The Mummy is the conflicting tones. One of the things that I loved about Brendan Fraser’s films was the balance between fun, silly adventures and horror. Kurtzman attempts to recreate that same balance but unfortunately, things don’t go exactly to plan and we end up with a film that doesn’t really know what it wants to be. At various points of the movie, Kurtzman should have doubled down on the horror element of the narrative but instead, we get a cheesy joke where there could have been a really great moment for the characters. Honestly, looking back I would have preferred for Kurtzman and Universal to go all in on the horror and deliver a really dark, scary version of The Mummy.
There is also a major issue with the pacing of this movie. We never get a chance to slow down and get to know these characters because we’re thrown into one fast paced action sequence after another and if it isn’t an action scene it’s an exposition scene, of which there are many. The film could have benefited from cutting one of the major action sequences and replacing it with a key scene between the characters to really make us care about what’s happening and make us want to see more of these characters.
Talking about characters, The Mummy suffers from not offering the audience enough content to make these characters feel real. Aside from Tom Cruise as Nick Morton and maybe Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll, there isn’t one worthwhile character. Possibly the second most important character in the movie is Sophia Boutella as Princess Ahmanet (the mummy), but the character just doesn’t work and doesn’t fit with the narrative that is unfolding. Ahmanet never feels as threatening or as powerful as the characters claim she is and I wish we spent more time with the monster in this movie, rather than with Tom Cruise or any of the other sideline characters. The monster should be a character that we love to hate and on a certain level we should feel sympathy for the villain but we simply don’t get to see enough of Boutella to make us care about that character and that’s an unforgivable mistake in a movie titled The Mummy.
This is a problem that affects not only Boutella’s character but both Annabelle Wallis and Jake Johnson are incredibly underutilised in this film. Johnson portrays Veil, the goofy best friend but at no point are we given a scene or sequence to show why these two guys like each other, and Veil actually has no real significance to the plot so any screen time spent with the character is wasted. Thankfully Wallis is much more important to the narrative as Jenny Halsey and this character actually opens the door and introduces Nick to the larger Dark Universe but again we aren’t offered any evidence that this is a character that we should care about. The relationship between Cruise and Wallis feels incredibly forced and after the first act is complete Jenny becomes nothing more than a damsel that Tom Cruise must save over and over again.
Finally, what really drags this movie down and stops The Mummy from being an enjoyable summer movie is that every aspect of the narrative is predictable. After the first ten minutes of the movie, you know step by step what will happen next because at the end of the day we’ve seen it before. There’s nothing new or unique about The Mummy and there’s something boring and disappointing about watching a movie that is afraid to take risks and try something new.
At the end of the day, there are aspects of The Mummy that are enjoyable and on a lazy Sunday afternoon I would probably give this film another viewing but it’s hard to ignore the obvious issues within this film. Kurtzman clearly struggled to balance the horror and adventure elements of the narrative and the end result is a messy, boring, and predictable movie that falls somewhere near the bottom of Tom Cruise’s great filmography. There is still hope for Universal’s Dark Universe but things aren’t off to a great start. Hopefully, the studio will course correct and take the franchise down a darker, more enjoyable path.