The Mummy's place in cinema needs almost no introduction. Whether you know it from Boris Karloff's iconic masterpiece, Brendan Fraser's campy 90s reboot, or the character's hundreds of other on-screen appearances, you already get the general gist of what it's all about. This fresh new take introduces us to a new protagonist, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise). He, along with friend Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), scavenge for treasures overseas that they can later sell on the black market. They think of themselves first, uncaring towards preserving what historical value their treasures may hold, but when searching through the Middle East, Nick and Chris uncover a treasure unlike any they've found before. It's an Ancient Egyptian tomb, curiously found hundreds of kilometers outside of Egypt. Inside this tomb, unbeknownst to either of them, rests an evil waiting to return.
No matter your feelings on the man's personal life, Tom Cruise, as an actor, always strives for authenticity. He cares for his audience, willing to go the extra mile for the sake of entertainment, whether it's climbing up the outside of the world's tallest building or hanging onto the side of a plane mid-flight. His films are entertaining. Even the bad ones, and unfortunately there's a small handful, rarely bore due to his natural charisma and boyish charm. The man knows how to entertain. The Mummy sees him taking on somewhat of a different role. There's still plenty of action, one-liners and an inhuman amount of running (fitting for a monster movie), but he's not reprising the typical Tom Cruise character. Nick is a man who’s absolutely clueless and scared shitless. He's daring, adventurous and willing to do whatever he can to survive, but he's arrogant and headstrong. His own life comes first. Especially as the film unfolds, and Russell Crowe's ambiguously sided Dr. Jekyll comes into the mix, it becomes clear that Nick is way out of his league, making for a surprising subversion from your typical Cruise movie.
The opening sequences, unlike the later moments which I will discus momentarily, have focus. There’s an uneasy atmosphere, full of creepy crawlies of all shapes and sizes. Having the film set in present day London creates a lot of restrictions with its storytelling abilities. You can’t have as many big Egyptian set pieces as previous installments did, and there’s way more cars than there are evil entities. It does something different, yes, and when it’s focusing predominantly on the whole undead mummy storyline, it works as well as it can. Sofia Boutella is wickedly evil as the titular villain. The idea behind her character works. She’s given the groundwork for a compelling villain, both in design and movement. Boutella provides a twisted, uncomfortable walk, enough to put any moviegoer on the edge, but she needs a better movie to work with. It’s a slight, super-minor spoiler, but as seen in the trailer, Boutella’s character spends a big slice of the film held captive, never able to shine or bring on the scares. If given a better-written script, she could’ve been fantastic. Instead, her potential is wasted.
Dr. Jekyll, and the brief appearance of Mr. Hyde, will no doubt play a bigger part in the universe going forward. The Mummy is full to the brim with Dark Universe set up and Easter Eggs, and it's both the best and worst part of the movie. Its biggest problem lies in the fact that this isn't really a Mummy movie. Technically, yes, it is, but it's more so Dark Universe: Chapter 1 than anything else. One of the biggest reasons that the original monster movies worked so well were because you could watch each of them as their own thing, unrelated to the other films in the franchise. Even The Bride of Frankenstein, my personal favourite, makes for a compelling watch without the existence of the first Frankenstein movie. Before crossing over with other characters, the filmmakers first and foremost tried to make a movie that could stand on its own. They didn’t need a thousand sequels. This is a concept The Mummy fails to grasp, putting aside its own story for the sake of setting up others.
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