- As a villain, the Mummy ticks boxes
- Humour and Cruise lift the entertainment levels
- The undead have their moments
- Dr. Jekyll's transformation is a camp disaster
- Offers audiences little to entice them back to the Dark Universe
- Not the strongest choice for the Dark Universe's first episode
The Mummy brings a 5,000-year-old reanimated mummified Egyptian princess (Sofia Boutella) to modern-day London and unleashes a heap of evil. And it seems that the wronged supernatural creature, who was promised by her Pharoah father that she would one day become Queen before being screwed over, won’t stop until she gets what she wants. Namely, Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton, the archaeologist who stumbles across her sarcophagus. It’s up to Morton to work together with Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), who’s in a similar line of work, to thwart the Mummy’s plans – before she claims him as her own.
WARNING – this review contains mild plot SPOILERS.
A Cod Indiana Jones
The Mummy is the first in Universal’s newly announced Dark Universe franchise – a reboot of the old Universal monster movies that include Frankenstein, Dracula and The Invisible Man among others.
Starring Tom Cruise, The Mummy looks to bring star power to the series, which kicks off with a story about a reanimated Egyptian princess who was mummified alive and imprisoned for millennia – until unrest in Mesopotamia unearths her tomb. This happens at around the same time that London’s Crossrail project excavations reveal an ancient burial site hidden beneath the city. It’s safe to say the two are linked.
So, where does Cruise fit in? Well, Cruise is Nick Morton, an archaeologist of sorts. He’s a kind of poor man’s Indiana Jones, working in tandem with buddy Chris Veil (Jake Johnson) ‘liberating’ – rather than ‘looting’ – ancient artifacts for money.
But it’s when Morton comes face to face with Ahmanet – the would-be Egyptian queen stiffed by daddy when he had a son and whose sarcophagus they’ve just loaded onto a plane – that things turn a bit hairy for Morton. It seems she’s chosen our smarmy antihero to be the host she promised to the Egyptian god Set. The one who bestowed her with eternal life and dark powers in return for a mortal man to inhabit.
The rest of the film plays out in London, unveiling mysterious organization Prodigium headed up by Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll and pairing Morton up with dig expert Jenny Halsey to figure out how to put a stop to Ahmanet’s nefarious plans.
Cruise Is Engaging
The Mummy is funnier than you might expect. With Cruise in the hot seat driving the film, it plays to his talent for comedy – even if it does miss some gilt-edged opportunities for a couple of dynamite one-liners. He’s pitch-perfect in one scene where he’s being attacked by Ahmanet in a church.
But the tone is very much adventure romp, pulling away from Universal’s more pure horror roots. That’s not to say there’s no horror here. It taps into the fashion for zombies, for instance, with its tribe of undead. They’re all a bit Walking Dead, if a tad more desiccated – they have had the life literally sucked out of them.
Now there’s a thing that will make your eyes roll. The Mummy is a female villain and her weapon is her sexuality: she sucks your life force with the kiss of death. Yawn.
The Problem With Jekyll
Nevertheless, Jake Johnson as Chris Veil is, like Cruise, charming and funny – thankfully. Dying early on, he’s resurrected by Ahmanet and proceeds to serve her by haunting Morton in a way that’s a lot like Griffin Dunne’s American Werewolf character.
Ahmanet, for her part, is actually slightly sympathetic – in the manner of all good villains, we understand why she’s the way she is. You’d be p*ssed off too if the patriarchy screwed you over and then mummified you while you were still alive. You’d totally want revenge – only all Ahmanet really wants is her rightful role as Queen, and to keep her promise to Set.
It’s Dr. Jekyll that’s a bit more problematic. He seems to be using pretty crude methods to deal with Ahmanet once he has her in his secret facility. She’s chained up and he’s pumping her full of mercury – you almost feel sorry for her. And then when he goes and turns into Mr. Hyde you stop rooting for him altogether. Why? Because he turns from pompous rich weirdo into an uber-violent mockney geezer. Given Crowe’s history with accents, it’s surprising this was allowed.
All the same, he’s conflicted which often makes for interesting character development – there’s definitely potential as we head into the next Dark Universe film. As the film comes to a close, it leaves enough loose ends to keep us marginally interested in seeing more.
Is The Mummy Good?
Perhaps an odd choice for the first film in this new shared universe, The Mummy‘s use of humour helps ramp up the entertainment factor while its horror elements set it apart from other shared universe movie franchises. Offering little in the way of novelty, it’s difficult to rave about this fairly formulaic entry, and Universal will need to up their game if they’re to get audiences excited by the films to come.