The original Universal Studios Mummy movie debuted in 1932, and was one of the many monster movies that helped put the movie studio on the map. It starred Boris Karloff as the reawakened Egyptian mummy named Imhotep. Accidentally brought back to life, he goes undercover to search for his lost love who may or may not have been reincarnated. King Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in 1922, so mummies were a fresh and new movie monster that really captured the imagination of the audience.
In 1999, the Mummy was rebooted, using several of the same character names from the 1932 original. Directed by Stephen Sommers, it starred Brendan Fraser as he hooked up with Rachel Weisz and Oded Fehr to battle Imhotep played by Arnold Vosloo with his sidekick Kevin J. O’Connor. It was fun, entertaining, and really near perfect.
Recently, Universal Studios decided they wanted to reboot their classic monsters and create a ‘Dark Universe’. This allows them to build a franchise and allow each of the characters to interact with the others, moving back and forth between each other’s movies. This Mummy reboot is the first piece of that puzzle that will eventually include Frankenstein’s monster, the Invisible Man, Dracula, Van Helsing, perhaps the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and on and on. They already have some of the monsters cast (Javier Bardem as Frankenstein's monster and Depp as the Invisible Man), and a new logo.
Tom Cruise – I’m sorry, Nick Morton – seems to be in the military, running scouting missions searching for the enemy. Along with his partner Chris Vail, they remove priceless ancient artifacts prior to them being either discovered or destroyed by enemy forces and then sell them on the black market. They’re basically treasure hunters. One particular mission goes sideways and finds the two discovering an Egyptian burial site in what was Mesopotamia and is now Iraq. That in itself is very interesting, but Jenny Halsey, an archaeologist is all upset because Nick apparently stole the location for this peculiar find after bedding her.
Upon examination of the site, they figure out that it was actually a prison for an ancient Egyptian princess, Ahmanet, who was all set to inherit her father’s kingdom, until he found a new love and had a brand new male heir – shoving her quickly to the side. After using some dark magic to kill both her father and his son, she was quickly captured and mummified alive – then her tomb/prison hidden far away from Egypt – thus why they find her in Iraq. Now, with her prison disturbed, she quickly manages to get inside Nick’s head so that he releases the chains holding her sarcophagus in place. Loading up the sarcophagus to take it back to London, Ahmanet gets a whole flock of ravens to attack the plane, leading to the incredible plane crash you’ve seen in the trailers.
Waking up in the morgue after the plane crash with a toe tag, Nick is perplexed to say the least. Ahmanet, meanwhile, has bounced out of her coffin and is sucking the life out of as many police officers as come to look at the crash site. Mostly restored, she chases Nick and and Jenny through the woods until Jenny’s organization shows up to capture her. Jenny apparently works for the Prodigium – a monster-hunting crew with a mysterious doctor in charge that will function as the through-thread for the ‘Dark Universe’ movies. Inevitably, Ahmanet gets loose, wrecks some havoc, and Nick has to deal with the confusion in his head to save the day.
Directed by Alex Kurtzman, who is really more a producer, the movie is actually better than you’ve heard. It is fun, fast paced, and you know Tom Cruise will commit to those action sequences. And the action pieces are really fantastic - from the bit at the beginning where the tomb is discovered to the plane crash to the fight in Crowe's office. It does suffer a bit from attempting to include some zombie-style mummies, and the effects on those are not as good as they could have been. Again – with Greg Nicotero and his team doing amazing zombie makeups every week on Walking Dead – it’s annoying when CGI rendered zombies in movies don’t look as good. The effects on Ahmanet were pretty good, and she is actually more interesting as she is rebuilding herself then when she finally comes together. The cast is just fine:
- Tom Cruise plays Tom Cruise again (if I hadn’t looked up the character’s name, I would not have remembered it). That’s not an issue for you if you don’t mind Tom Cruise as he Tom Cruises his way through this movie. He does some typical Tom Cruise-y things in this: a lot of running, a lot of action, some Mummy fighting, and well as some tussling with his good friend Russel Crowe.
- Russel Crowe plays the doctor in charge of the organization. I am not going to mention the name – as it is a pretty big spoiler. He will definitely be in the upcoming other movies. It’s actually good casting for him, as annoying as I find him.
- Annabelle Wallis plays Jenny, and is capable as a sidekick for Cruise as he actions his way through the story. She will also be a through-line for the other movies as she continues to help Crowe manage the monsters.
- Sofia Boutella is the brightest spot of this movie and steals all her scenes as Ahmanet. She actually does a pretty good job of trying to convince Cruise that she was the victim in her storyline, even though she did brutally murder most of her own family. Her dance background does allow her to do some really creepy mummy moves.
- Jake Johnson plays Vail, who feels a little unnecessary – he’s Cruise’s sidekick at the beginning, then seems to zombie around in Cruise’s head the rest of the movie, until he’s brought back to life with no explanation at the end of the movie. It makes no sense. He’s there exclusively for comedy relief, and if you find him funny, you’ll love it.
- This movie manages to completely waste the wonderful Courtney B. Vance. He plays the Colonel who Cruise and Vail report to – and after one scene of yelling at them, he gets killed on the plane ride back to London.
Overall, I found it entertaining enough, but my expectations were very low. The tone was really uneven – which is even more of an issue when compared to the 99 Mummy. That movie easily fell into fun adventure movie, with everyone on the same page in terms of the tone and playing the zaniness. This movie can’t decide if it’s focusing more on the comedy or action, which results in the comedy bits feeling really forced and almost disruptive. Also – sure, the double iris thing in the eyes is a nifty effect, but what does that have to do with anything? Is it the dark magic?
Because I have always been partial to the 1999 version – I even listed it on my favorite Top 40 movies of all time - http://jwardadventures.blogspot.com/2016/10/on-turning-40.html - I was really against this reboot. This one actually won a bit of me over when they included a very, very brief shot of an item from the 1999 movie, indicating that both could exist in the same universe, and that really did win me over. Boutella was awesome setting about to bring forth the god Set into a human body, and I am intrigued to see what the next piece of the Dark Universe puzzle will be – rumor says Bride of Frankenstein.
6 out of 10 – Gained points for Boutella, lost points for wasting Courtney B. Vance.
Bonus - behinds the scenes fun.