It’s a testament to how beloved the 1999 film is when so many people declare the Brendan Fraser iteration as the original. Truth be told, The Mummy was an established horror franchise long before Encino Man turned the concept into an effects-heavy adventure romp. As we venture into yet another retelling of the age-old tale of a wronged Egyptian back for another go at mankind, it’s important to remember that the roots of this franchise lie in the wrappings of terror.
This time, the mummy in question is Princess Ahmanet (absolute stand-out, Sofia Boutella). Destined to take over the rule of her father, Menehptre, Ahmanet is a devout follower of her civilization’s ways…until a baby brother is conceived. Upon learning there will now be a male heir, Ahmanet realizes that her time will never come, and elects to embrace the sadistic power of the god, Set. Captured at the cusp of completing the ritual, Ahmanet is bandaged and buried alive, forced to suffer an eternity for her crimes.
Flash-forward to modern day and we meet Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), a soldier-of-fortune who stumbles upon Ahmanet’s tomb on a treasure hunt. Accidentally waking Ahmanet from her slumber (how Nick simply being present accomplishes this remains a movie mystery) and triggering a curse of his own, he teams up with archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) to thwart Ahmanet’s attempts to regain her power, while removing his own eternal damnation. Along the way, we are also introduced to Dr. Henry Jekyll, the head of Prodigium, a secret organization tasked with tracking monsters and fighting back against the forces of evil. Yes, you read that last part correctly.
I was really looking forward to The Mummy. I love the old Universal monsters and think a modern day universe with them could be truly exciting. That said, what about the movie? Well, I’m going to call it a mixed bag….not terrible, but certainly not great either.
The first third is actually good, really good in fact. We get a nice quick intro to Ahmanet‘s history, some good action set pieces (the plane crash is far more intense than the trailer, almost making me nauseous as we witness Cruise and co. bounce around in Zero-G), great spooky atmosphere, a couple of good scares, and even a few laughs (The Mummy is actually more lighthearted than the trailers lead you to believe, just not Brendan Fraser lighthearted). Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise. You know what I mean. He’s supposed to be a bit of a rapscallion in this, but come on. He’s Tom Cruise. And as stated above, Sofia Boutella as a feminist ahead of her time handles the role with both fervor and intensity, consistently blowing everyone else off the screen.
The story issues start to occur with the introduction of Russell Crowell as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and the Prodigium organization. Not bad things on their own (I don’t care much for this version of Hyde. Jekyll is good though), but they end up derailing the flow of a pretty good and creepy adventure flick. Basically, the desire to build a universe once again results in a film I would best describe as “cluttered”….trying to introduce far too much in one movie. There is still good stuff later in the film, but it ends up being too rushed and sporadically veering away from, and back to, that wonderfully creepy film they were setting up in the beginning. And of course the ending is left wide open, though I will say it leaves one or two characters in very interesting situations.
I think The Mummy’s biggest problem is that it is a couple of different movies trying to fight for space in one 2-hour runtime: a horror movie vs a action movie vs a Tomb Raider type movie vs A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen type movie. That’s what I mean by cluttered. It should have stuck to the horror and action and left the Dark Universe building elements as a brief epilogue.
The Mummy was fun and it will make a great hangover movie for sure: cool action, not too much thinking, a few jump scares, and a villain we can almost identify with. However, it certainly has its fair share of problems. I liked the creepy story and the monsterverse stuff, but they often clashed with each other, thus damaging the film and taking away precious time from each other that could have been used to flesh out the story and characters. And though there are no mid or post credit scenes, keep your eyes peeled for some cool Universal monster Easter eggs. One in particular made my heart soar.
I really hope The Mummy succeeds, as I think the Dark Universe is a great idea. I do have a soft spot for those old monsters, just keep things on a more even track in the future. And maybe, just maybe, toss in a Brendan Fraser cameo for good measure.
Starring Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe
Written by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman
Directed by Alex Kurtzman