Shared universes are all the rage in Hollywood right now, but so far only the comic book universes of Marvel and DC have managed to get up and running. Universal wants a piece of the action and is developing their own connected films using their catalog of classic monsters for their Dark Universe films. Tom Cruise has been tasked with launching the franchise with The Mummy and it’s clear the Dark Universe has scary prospects as a continued existence.
Cruise stars as Nick Morton, a very Nathan Drake-style soldier of fortune who lives for adventure and the next big score. Along with archaeologist and recent fling Jenny, Nick and his sidekick Sergeant Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) unwittingly unearth the prison/tomb of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) – a rather nasty lady cursed by the god Set after murdering her father and his family when she was bumped from her right to the throne. Events begin to take shape as Ahmanet attempts to resurrect Set while unleashing her power on London and Nick finds himself not only in the middle, but also cursed himself.
The Mummy is a film plagued with problems from start to finish, from head-scratching character moments to excessive “universe building.” But issues aside, the film is a silly, entertaining popcorn flick that is indeed a bit empty, but never dull and never intending to be anything other than summertime spectacle. Once again Cruise is obviously giving his all on-screen and is quite refreshing as a less than moral, rather selfish rogue for most of the film. His absolute commitment to any character he plays and his fearless devotion to intense action sequences are why he remains one of the greats.
Russell Crowe is doing his best Nick Fury as the famed Dr. Jekyll, and is introduced as the head of a well-funded monster-hunting group. His sequences are a definite highlight of the film, and when his alter-ego does show up, Crowe makes the most of it in a really fun scene. Additionally, the marquee plane crash setpiece from the film’s marketing comes too early, but it’s every bit as impressive as teased, and definitely another high point.
There’s also quite a few really interesting ideas presented and neat Egyptian lore that sadly gets short-changed, feeling like pieces pasted in from another (better?) script. Speaking of the lore, the creature designs are very cool and the resurrected soldiers from different eras have great aesthetics: very creepy and decayed. Boutella also has a great design for her Mummy and the actress manages to pull off both sexy and nightmarish.
Most of what doesn’t work in The Mummy comes from frustratingly dumb character decisions, occasionally clunky one-liners and a set of magic rules that seem to constantly change for whatever the scene needs it to be. The third act is easily where the movie goes off the rails and makes some really bad decisions involving Cruise’s character and the future of this film’s roster for the inevitable Dark Universe spinoff films – none of which is how you want to launch a potentially billion-dollar shared universe.
If Universal truly is going all in and continues their plans, hopefully they learn from the good and the bad here (there are quite a bit of both) and course-correct the future films, because the Dark Universe could be a really fun alternative to the capes and boots already thriving together elsewhere, but as a franchise starter The Mummy is definitely no Iron Man.
A vapid yet still passably entertaining summer popcorn flick that's never dull, but not exactly the great start to launch Universal's proposed shared universe.