Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
I’ll be the first to admit that I love the classic Universal Monster Movies. Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, the original Mummy and so many more have shaped cinema into what it is today. Much like every other film studio these days when it comes to old films, Universal decided to resurrect these classic films and reboot them for modern Hollywood, creating an all new cinematic universe entitled, “Dark Universe.” Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy, is the first entry into the franchise and stars Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Russel Crowe and Sofia Boutella. Pretty stacked cast right? So the film should be good, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t. Let me explain why!
The Mummy tells the story of Nick Morton, a soldier of fortune who scavenges ancient sites for timeless artifacts and sells them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner Chris Vail come under fire from an attack in the Middle East, the ensuing fire fight unintentionally unearths Princess Ahmanet, an Egyptian Princess who was betrayed and entombed under the desert for thousands of years. With Ahmanet’s powers continuing to grow and evolve, Nick Morton and his rag-tag group must fight to stop the resurrected monster as she embarks on a vicious rampage through the streets of London.
As I said before, The Mummy is the first film in a planned cinematic universe centred on classic movie monsters. In short, we are off to an extremely rocky start. And I’m not talking about Man of Steel rocky where it was a divisive film that had both positive and negative reviews (I actually really like Man of Steel). This film almost stumbles at every single turn. Its biggest blunder is how overstuffed it is. It tries to tell a contained story about how Boutella’s titular mummy was wronged and now she’s back to wreak havoc along with attempting to shoehorn in numerous mentions to the wider universe. It’s got no real direction. Considering The Mummy is written by six different people, this isn’t a surprise. It would seem like each writer was told by the studio to include something and they all did without coordinating with each other.
The performances for the film are a very mixed bag. The clear show-stealers are Sofia Boutella as The Mummy and Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Boutella especially gives it her all in a role that came so close to being extremely poorly written. She’s scary, action packed and has a fascinating yet treacherous on-screen presence that makes you wish there was more of her in the film. Crowe is meant to fill this universe’s Nick Fury role in the sense that he (and his organization) are what brings each film together. He brings a real mysterious feel to his character and performance as hero/monster made for some extremely fun moments on screen. Tom Cruise is above-average in The Mummy. He’s really just playing Tom Cruise in the film. His actions scenes were okay and more of the same when compared to his other films. Annabelle Wallis stars as the female lead, Jenny Halsey and, like Tom Cruise, gives an above-average performance. It’s a shame because her character was so thinly written that I was surprised she even played a role in the film but, for what she was given, it was decent. Jake Johnston and Courtney B. Vance are completely wasted in the film. That’s all I’m going to say.
Alex Kurtzman, who is known for writing Transformers, Star Trek and Star Trek Beyond, is the director for this reboot. This is his second directorial effort following the underwhelming People Like Us and it doesn’t seem like his direction has improved. Let me put it this way. DC and Warner Bros. took a chance on Patty Jenkins when they hired her to direct Wonder Woman despite her only directing one film prior and it totally, 100%, completely paid off. Universal did the same thing with Kurtzman and the outcome just isn’t the same. Kurtzman’s direction for the film is average at best. Since there is so much happening over the course of 2 hours, you constantly feel lost in the scene. It’s not all bad though. The action sequences in the film were shot pretty well and are a lot of fun. Let’s talk about that.
The action in The Mummy is fairly exciting. It’s all over the place and a lot of it is confusing but that doesn’t take away from the enthusiasm of seeing Sofia Boutella absolutely wreck everything in her path. What doesn’t help is the fact that the trailers for The Mummy basically showcased every action scene that was in the film. All the main one’s actually. So, going into the film, you know what to expect from the big moments and, while they are still thrilling, the mystery feel the film was trying to play up immediately went away. The final act was especially underwhelming and it showed that Kurtzman’s still green when it comes to directing. It is motionless, expectable and all kinds of puzzling as no one really knows what to make of what is transpiring on screen.
The overall set design on the film is a major positive. The design of the tombs and underground settings were crafted wonderfully with CGI being used nicely to enhance the surroundings of the characters. If anything gave the film a true Universal Monster vibe, it was the cinematography and settings for the film.
Brian Tyler seems like the go to guy when it comes to composing action films and he does not disappoint in this outing. Tyler’s score gives a real sense of scary, mysterious and the adventurous tone the movie is desperately trying to show. Every time Boutella appeared on screen, Tyler’s music was there to further enhance the deadly nature of the character and it was great.
Last point, and it’s a big one. This film does not, in any way, shape, or form, top Brandan Fraser’s 1999 version of The Mummy. That movie may be average at best, but it’s so much fun.
Overall, this is not a great start to the Dark Universe. Does this change my level of excitement for the cinematic universe? Not really. I’m still intrigued. There’s nothing really about this film that should get you excited about what’s to come though besides Russell Crowe but even he isn’t the film for as much as you want him to be. The action is average, the performances varied from great to underwhelming and, despite promises of a scary reboot, the film doesn’t deliver on that either. I love monster movies, and Sofia Boutella is great here, but I’m hoping that Universal gives future films to seasoned directors and cuts down on the amount of writers used for these films.
Nick’s Rating – 3.6/10
Artur’s Rating – 3.6/10
Mathew’s Rating – 3.5/10
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The Mummy awakens in theatres on June 9th, 2017