5.5 out of 10
Tom Cruise as Nick Morton
Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll
Annabelle Wallis as Jenny Halsey
Sofia Boutella as Ahmanet
Jake Johnson as Chris Vail
Courtney B. Vance as Colonel Greenway
Marwan Kenzari as Malik
Directed by Alex Kurtzman
The Mummy is the first film in Universal’s new Dark Universe series, which will unite their classic monster movies into one world.
Nick Morton and Chris Vail are two U.S. Army scouts deployed in Iraq. But they have a little side business going on. As militants destroy archeological treasures, they rescue the antiquities… and sell them on the black market. While following a lead, they are attacked by militants and in the process stumble across an ancient Egyptian tomb buried under the desert.
When they hastily investigate the tomb with archeologist Jenny Hasley, they discover that it is odd for many reasons. First of all, it is an Egyptian tomb in the middle of Iraq. Second, it is not a tomb of someone being ushered into the afterlife. It is a prison for an ancient evil. Soon enough they realize that imprisoned inside is Ahmanet, an Egyptian princess who made a deal with the devil. In exchange for being given supernatural powers and eternal life, she would help usher Set, the Egyptian god of Death, into our world. She only needs a host for him.
As Nick, Chris, and Jenny unwittingly release Ahmanet from her tomb, the mummy princess begins the process of fulfilling her deal with Set. But first she must perform her ritual on her chosen host for Set. Unfortunately for Nick, it’s him.
The Mummy is rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity.
I love the idea of Universal rebooting their classic monster movies and merging them into a cohesive world under “Dark Universe.” While it seems like Marvel is breaking new ground by having crossovers with their characters, these classic monster movies did it first. By returning to those roots, it opens up the door for some fun possibilities. There’s a scene in the film where Nick Morton walks through the headquarters of Dr. Jekyll and his monster hunters and you see all sorts of Easter Eggs teasing what may come. I won’t spoil them here, but if you’re a fan of monster movies, it will excite you about what’s on the way.
On the casting front, Sofia Boutella is great as Ahmanet. She’s quickly becoming the queen of genre films after memorable performances in Star Trek Beyond and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Here she does a great job as the female mummy. Gender flipping the antagonist was a good idea and added a new twist to the classic character. Boutella makes Ahmanet inherently evil, subtly manipulative, and sexy while still being horrific. I also really liked Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll. When Mr. Hyde inevitably emerges, Crowe brings a sinister touch to the character which is in stark contract to Jekyll. It was a fun moment in the film.
On the story front, I liked the fact that they briefly tied the opening of this story to current events. ISIS militants destroying antiquities is a major real world problem. And the fact that they are also selling them to help fund their terrorism is also a tremendous concern. So connecting that to the discovery of Ahmanet’s tomb was a clever touch.
As for the action, there are a few standout moments. If you saw the trailers, then you already got a glimpse of the amazing plane crash scene early in the film. It’s impressive seeing it all in context. Then there are other action scenes where Ahmanet’s shriveled corpse comes to life and starts taking victims’ life force. It puts the horror back in these classic horror monsters. Then a scene where Nick is attacked by swimming mummy crusaders is also visually impressive.
On the negative side, one issue I had with The Mummy was that the trailers spoiled 90% of the film. There were very few, if any, surprises. The film from beginning to almost the last scene is shown in the trailers and commercials. And since the film is less than two hours, that doesn’t leave much that’s new.
The other problem with The Mummy is that most of the film has been done elsewhere and better. Most of the mummy CG effects and scares were done in the Brendan Fraser movies, so they don’t feel new. The reanimated corpses feel like fast zombies or infected we’ve seen in 28 Days Later or The Walking Dead. Dr. Jekyll’s group of monster hunters feel like the BPRD from Hellboy, just without the fun or quirks. But one of the most egregious ripoffs is the fact that they bring back Jake Johnson as Chris Vail in ghost form to have humorous conversations with Tom Cruise. This is exactly like An American Werewolf in London but less effective. All of this gives The Mummy a ‘been there, done that’ feel which makes it somewhat boring. But considering the last Mummy movie was in 2008, maybe this will all feel new to younger audiences who haven’t seen those other films.
Another significant issue is Tom Cruise as Nick Morton. He seems terribly miscast in this role. Nick feels like he was written for a 20-year-old actor in that he is brash, morally corrupt, and a scout in the army. At 55, Cruise seems more like he should have been playing Dr. Jekyll rather than Nick. And I always felt like I was watching Tom Cruise playing an Indiana Jones knockoff. I think a young unknown actor would have been better…and cheaper.
By no fault of Universal, The Mummy has some bad timing in light of the recent terror attacks in London. Seeing windows blown out and people running through the streets of the city screaming is a little too close to what we’ve seen on the news. And considering these Jihadists always call Westerners “Crusaders,” it’s a bad coincidence that many of the corpses attacking Tom Cruise are Crusader knights. I don’t think there was an intended subtext there, but it’s not a big stretch to think there could be.
Finally, for a movie that wants to be “the Avengers of monster movies,” I was disappointed that there was no post-credits scene teasing the next “Dark Universe” film.
If you’re bored and want to see a summer popcorn flick, The Mummy might be mildly satisfying. But I honestly felt like this could be more of a renter than a required big screen experience.