Universal’s Dark Universe is finally here! The latest shared cinematic universe to hit Hollywood is set to be a monster. No, literally. Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and more of the classic movie monsters in Universal’s stable will be sharing the screen for the first time in more than half a century. Every universe needs to begin somewhere though, and for the Dark Universe, that origin point is The Mummy. But is this universe-starter a big bang or a mewling whimper? Kervyn, Noelle and Nick all checked it out and give their thoughts below!
Stephen Sommers’ 1999 rendition of The Mummy is one of my most favourite films ever. It’s pulpy, swashbuckling adventure at its very best, stuffed to its dusty seams with character and heart. Its cast is all charisma and chemistry, and set pieces just pop right off the screen. Almost none of that can be found in director and cinematic universe architect Alex Kurtzman’s new version of Universal’s classic monster franchise.
To be fair, while the 1999 film was a rip-roaring Saturday matinee serial, this latest iteration is supposed to harken back to the franchise’s pure horror roots with the 1930s Boris Karloff films. And admittedly, Kurtzman does go for that with several dimly lit bumps in the night that should get a mild jump out of some of the audience. However, the film simply lacks the textured macabre atmosphere necessary to truly terrify and ensorcell. As undead mummified Princess Ahmanet, Sofia Boutella just isn’t frightening (not to mention that her origin story makes zero sense or that she completely lacks any logical narrative drive whatsoever). The comedic buffoonery constantly shoehorned in throughout the rest of the movie certainly doesn’t help either.
While I was hoping this tonally jarring goofiness would be restricted to Jake Johnson’s otherwise completely irrelevant sidekick, Tom Cruise’s skeevy soldier turned hero Nick Morton also gets in on the bug-eyed gag action. That is when he isn’t just acting… well, I can’t say “out of character”, because like the rest of the cast he barely has one. Annabelle Wallis’ inept archeologist Jenny Halsey seems to only be there as something for Cruise to either leer at or yank out of harm’s way – a disheartening development in a post-Wonder Woman world, and especially because Cruise’s last few movies have become the Hollywood gold standard for how to handle female co-stars correctly.
Luckily, when The Mummy gets its explosive action into gear it actually excels with a handful of enervating set pieces that feel like they’ve been ripped right out of Cruise’s Mission: Impossible series. Much has been made about a stomach churning freefall plane crash which Cruise had the production do for real instead of CG-ing it up, and all I will say is that the 54-year old actor’s death-wish is totally worth it as it is a jaw-dropping (and butt-clenching) spectacle to witness.
There’s also shady monster hunting society Prodigium and its leader, Russell Crowe’s Henry Jekyll (yes, that Jekyll of “and Mr. Hyde” fame), said to be the crucial connective tissue in this universe, but whose blandness fails to enliven the imagination here. What’s worse, the film as a whole is undeniably about nothing. There’s no engaging hook here, character- or plot-wise. It’s just a whole lot of raggedy bandaged filler barely held together by great stunts, with headslapper of a daft ending tacked onto it. Universal has clearly made this movie simply for the sake of making a movie, just so that they can start somewhere – anywhere – with their universe, but in their desperation have thus undercut the impact any future installments may have.
In short, it may have been better to leave this Mummy buried.
- Score: 5/10
Argh, The Mummy has left me conflicted. On one hand, it’s actually a good deal of fun. On the other, when you delve deeper into its themes and message, it’s a VERY problematic movie – especially in the shadow of Wonder Woman’s release.
Starting with the positives first, if you have kids who enjoy monsters and scary things, The Mummy is an ideal movie for a cinema outing. Consider it gateway horror, as it has intense breath-holding moments (involving rabid undead), but keeps them as such. Just moments. The Mummy’s darkness is offset by a surprising amount of humour that acknowledges the ridiculousness of it all. These instances – some reminiscent of An American Werewolf in London – are welcome as they’re far more unexpected and interesting than the overblown action scenes already given away in the trailers.
Chances are you won’t remember anything about The Mummy a day after watching, but as a slickly-made blockbuster it does its job. You can go home content. Just don’t think. Don’t open that sarcophagus, because inside you’ll probably find something rancid. At an analytical level The Mummy is an anti-Wonder Woman. It is flat-out insulting to the female gender.
You see, the horror that Tom Cruise’s character faces is being under the control of a powerful woman (of colour). The end goal of the movie is for our white male hero to restore the status quo by putting this “monster” woman in her place, stealing her strength and emerging more mighty than she ever was. Adding to this distasteful aspect is the fact that unlike the gorgeous blonde British heroine (who the hero must save, duh!), Sofia Boutella’s Egyptian princess is ugly inside and out. One-note as a character, she is relentlessly power-hungry, sexually manipulative and irrationally jealous of other women. It’s no surprise that The Mummy fails the Bechdel Test.
Cruise makes a likable roguish hero, but he ends the movie as the ultimate Marty Stu. It’s eye-roll inducing and erases even more good feeling generated towards the movie earlier in its run-time. The Mummy 2017: mindless popcorn flick on the surface; off-putting heteronormative white male power fantasy beneath.
- Score: 5/10
- Score: 5/10
Last Updated: June 9, 2017