Universal’s Dark Universe gets off to a bumpy start with a Tom Cruise-led update of The Mummy…
Dating all the way back to the original iteration of the classic movie monster, The Mummy has seen rebirths aplenty through the years with the likes of Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee and Arnold Vosloo taking on the mantle and providing memorable outings for the Universal entity. As a new generation dawns, Universal seek out their own extended Dark Universe, banding together their classic monsters of the past and have their starting point with Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy. But after the failures of Dracula Untold – the original movie set to kickstart this new ‘world’ – can Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe and co convince us that this is a universe worth investing in?
Sadly, it would appear that this up-to-date version of The Mummy is rather lacklustre in comparison to its predecessors, often finding itself tangled in its bandages in terms of the writing and failing to transition well in its combination of horror and action. The first issue arises with its core character Nick Morton (Cruise), a cocky, arrogant and selfish looter whose own desires for self goal lead him and his trusty partner Chris (Jake Johnson) to the ancient tomb of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) as they unwittingly unleash her to the new world. Nick is a character we shouldn’t even want to succeed; he’s brash and only out for himself – basically he is a bit of a dick.
Then there’s the introduction of Annabelle Wallis’ Jenny who, after last week’s high for leading women with Wonder Woman, brings things down a massive notch as she simply plays damsel in distress and stupidly waltzes her way through the film relying upon Nick at every which way. It’s poor writing and serves us up two characters who on plenty of occasions we actually want to fall foul of Boutella’s evil.
But while The Mummy lacks those all-important characters traits of positivity (even Brendan Fraser was at least charismatic and charming enough in the 1999 version), Cruise and Boutella are most definitely the driving force of the film. Cruise runs, shoots and jumps his way through all the obstacles to offer up a feasible leading man and Boutella channels the evil to once again show she’s a blockbuster actress hands-down. Johnson’s comedy sidekick doesn’t quite hit the mark and portly Russell Crowe is merely thrown in as a plot device to expand this universe beyond the sands of Egypt.
What is most impressive within The Mummy is its sheer scale and ambitious nature in visualising the chaos and carnage erupting around our characters. The destruction of London is worthy of plaudits, even if the face in the sand is a little overused now, and some of the stunts performed in true Tom Cruise style are of an impressive level. Sadly though, these are merely a short-term distraction from a film that all too often lacks that exciting punch and cohesive storytelling.
The underlying issue with The Mummy circa 2017 is that it doesn’t quite know how to combine the elements of horror and action to create an ultimately palpable product. The film starts off as an edgy, nervy horror that promises much more to come but in introducing that action we’ve come to know Cruise for, it forgets its ground roots and instead feels muddled and misdirected for the majority.
Not quite the driving force that Universal will have wanted for their introduction of the Dark Universe (which consequently could be the beginning of the end), The Mummy is clumsy and muddled filmmaking that is saved by the collective forces of Cruise and Boutella but leaves little to be desired in terms of an expansive universe. Work in progress this Universal project may be but those building blocks are being weighed down by a lot of issues before they reach the top of that pyramid of success.