You’ve probably made up your mind about The Mummy already, but honestly, it a good – and scary – ride!
When two US military recon scouts see an opportunity to steal treasure from a village in the Persian gulf, they come across an ancient Egyptian burial ground that is more like a prison than a tomb. When an expert from Britain arrives hot on their heels and has them excavate the sarcophagus, they unleash a curse upon them all, potentially dooming the world in the process.
There are several things straight out of the gate that put The Mummy at a disadvantage: one, this is yet another reboot/remake of a concept over eighty years old, two, the trailer wrongly depicts this as a full on action movie when it isn’t, three, it stars Tom Cruise, and four, it is the beginning of yet another “expanded universe” only for Universal Studio’s monster movie franchises. Woof. You can be forgiven if one, several or all of these elements put you off watching this film.
However, despite some very rocky opening scenes, The Mummy was not half bad; certainly above average and doesn’t deserve the huge criticism being leveled at it.
Maybe I had such low expectations going into it that I was more surprised than angry.
Maybe starting with the negatives is wise, and honestly, the biggest one is Cruise himself. Not that he is phoning it in or giving a bad performance, in fact quite the opposite; he looks like he’s having an absolute blast! Probably the most entertaining and self-aware Cruise has been in a while. But, it is that self-awareness that didn’t jive with the rest of the film.
Tom Cruise is larger than life now, and while the film does try to paint him in a morally grey manner – he is a thief and a mercenary who is chosen by an undead Egyptian demigod to be the vessel for the God of Death – there’s still a lot of cheeky winks at the camera, deliberate writing as if the film knows this character is Tom Cruise. It is extremely subtle, but it is there: his character Nick exclaims that he’s protecting his face during a moment of carnage, or villainess Ahmanet closely studying his perfect teeth. Etc etc. The film would benefit – in the long run – with a less well known actor, despite Cruise probably giving the film the attention Universal needs to finance the Dark Universe.
The opening starts with one too many flashbacks and a jump to modern, war-torn Iraq where we see Cruise and his companion Vail dodging bullets, explosions and collapsing buildings. This is the weakest part of the film and risks losing audiences who were hoping for a return to the film’s horror roots.
However the film is about to get creepy. Despite Ahmanet’s “prison” being absurdly easy to open, and Cruise hanging onto an airborne plane again – albeit impressive – the film does eventually get into a dark and horror-centric vibe in the second act. Dropping all of its trailer’s promise of action-over-scares immediately. Practical effects on the undead monsters, Gothic and eerie sets (be it in ancient Egypt or rural England) and the one stealing the show is rising star Sofia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond) as the monstrous Ahmanet as she slowly restores her human form. If you have a fear of creepy crawlies, spiders and rats, you won’t like Ahmanet’s choice of fear tactics. This film is easily scarier than this year’s Alien: Covenant.
This all comes down to a surprising move on Universal’s part by making The Mummy a 15 certificate (an R-rating in America) which is an incredibly ballsy move, but extremely welcome. Innocent people have their souls sucked out, people are shot, people die. Unlike a family-friendly Marvel clone the Dark Universe could have some extraordinary effects and monsters to show us in the future!
The film was surprising, with its dark tone and visuals (it also threw in the occasional joke here and there to keep some levity) and a strong focus on the monster. Is it perfect? Certainly not. The screenplay could do with some polish. Saddled with the expectations of sequels and crossovers, this film feels like it could easily become unfulfilling; Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll was a great implementation of the classic character, but felt slightly shoehorned in.
Honestly, go in with an open mind and reasonably low expectations and you will probably enjoy this. Similar to Kong: Skull Island, studios appear to be not simply ripping off the Marvel magic but perhaps trying to do their own thing. Whether the Dark Universe works or not, hopefully we get at least a trilogy with this focus on action-horror.