I couldn’t remember exactly when the first of the previous batch of Mummy movies came out and was quite surprised to be reminded that it was nearly 20 years ago (1999)! Starring Brendan Fraser, it was a highly enjoyable dose of fun, Indiana Jones style adventure, disappointingly spawning a number of sequels of diminishing quality. When Universal recently announced that this new offering was just the beginning of their ‘Dark Universe’, the return of another mummy movie made very interesting sense. And with the trailer promising a good dose of action, horror and comedy, not to mention my favourite actor Mr Tom Cruise, I had high hopes for this. However, those hopes soon took a bit of a dent during the last week or so when the poor reviews began to flood in. Following a similar route of Baywatch and Pirates of the Caribbean, it looked like another hugely hyped blockbuster was seemingly failing to deliver.
The Mummy opens with a fair bit of scene setting – 12th century England, followed by modern day England and some dodgy news coverage of an important discovery made by some underground tunnel workers. Then Russell Crowe and his mysterious team arrive and take control of things, with Crowe then narrating the story of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an ancient evil Egyptian princess who becomes imprisoned in order to prevent her reign of terror escalating further. Then we’re back to present day, this time in Iraq, where we’re introduced to Tom Cruise and his buddy. Cruise is Nick Morton, a ‘liberator of precious antiquities’ and they strike it big upon uncovering the tomb where Ahmanet is being contained. Joined by archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), they venture inside and retrieve the coffin for its return to England.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you know what happens next. In fact, if you’ve seen the trailer then to be honest you’ve seen pretty much every element of the movie anyway. The plane carrying Ahmanet back to England encounters a bit of trouble and begins hurtling to the ground in what is one of the more impressive scenes of the movie. Jenny escapes by parachute while Nick remains in the plane as it crashes to the ground. However, for some reason Nick is now Ahmanets ‘chosen one’, something repeatedly hammered home to us via a number of dreamlike sequences involving Nick and Ahmanet. Because he’s her chosen one, Nick finds himself waking up in the morgue, alive and struggling to understand how he survived slamming into the Surrey countryside at high speed. He also begins experiencing some pretty strange and terrifying hallucinations.
Time for Russell Crowe to step in as Dr Jekyll and start explaining about the world of monsters and evil – this ‘Dark Universe’. Jekyll appears to be the boss of some secret society of monster hunters and quickly begins setting the scene for this new movie universe (look there’s a vampire skull! Look there’s a webbed hand from some kind of man-fish creature!). Occasionally he starts undergoing some kind of transformation but is able to halt it by taking an injection to the hand. When he’s unable to prevent the transformation a bit later on, it’s pretty enjoyable. That is, until he opens his mouth and we discover that Eddie Hyde has a bit of a dodgy cockney accent!
As mentioned before, if you’ve seen the trailer then the movie is basically just an extended version of that. There are a number of enjoyable elements, particularly the aforementioned plane crash scene, along with anything involving the zombie army that The Mummy enlists to help her with carry out her plan. But something about it all just doesn’t work and the movie doesn’t seem to flow and grab interest in the way that it should. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was until I remembered that there are in fact six credited writers involved on The Mummy. And that seems to be where a lot of the problems stem from – too many people involved resulting in varying and uneven styles (action, horror, adventure, comedy) and borrowing too much from far too many better movies that have come beforehand (most noticeably An American Werewolf in London). It just never quite succeeds in properly nailing it overall. Far too much time also seems to be spent on universe building rather than focusing on just making this an enjoyable movie on it’s own.
Sofia Boutella is impressive as The Mummy, but doesn’t get much to do apart from looking evil and fawning over chosen one Nick Morton. Even her big London sandstorm destruction scene just seems pointless. Our other female character Jenny, after getting off to a promising start in the movie, is also underutilised and barely registers as being anything but the standard sidekick in danger for the remainder of the movie. If it wasn’t for Cruise and Crowe, things could have been a lot worse. But even then, this movie is definitely a fairly low point overall for Cruise.
Despite all my complaints, the movie wasn’t all that bad. There are plenty of enjoyable moments and it definitely got me interested for the universe that was being teased throughout the movie and in it’s ending. I just hope that future movies in the series will improve upon this one considerably and learn from its mistakes.