The Dark Universe runs into trouble from the start after The Mummy unravels

The Mummy (2017) – Film Review

Sofia Boutella as The Mummy

Sofia Boutella as The Mummy

Universal Studios’ “Dark Universe” – announced last month – is the latest attempt by a Hollywood Studio to ape the success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.

Universal intend to leverage their classic properties from almost a century ago – including Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, The Invisible Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and The Mummy.

Each title has been heavily mined over the years, with some entries filmed more recently than others, and the last time we saw the previous Mummy films was almost 10 years ago with an entry that included Jet Li as the villain alongside Brendan Fraser playing the heroic Rick O’Connell.

This time around the Mummy is female, a former Egyptian princess – Ahmanet – who was mummified after she made a demonic deal with god of death Set and murdered her father and his new wife and male child who was destined to become the next Pharaoh.

All of this is shown off during lush exposition-heavy flashbacks sprinkled throughout the film and look uniformly great with Sofia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond) as Ahmanet.

Tom Cruise is introduced as a wise-cracking Nick Morton (an Indiana Jones/Nathan Drake type character) who uncovers the tomb/prison which holds Ahmanet’s Mummy along with his friend Chris Vail (Jake Johnson, New Girl), and archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis, Peaky Blinders).

Morton becomes mysteriously drawn to the Mummy after freeing her sarcophagus from the prison with the intent of bringing it back to London.

That’s the set-up for a series of well crafted set pieces which look brilliant but unfortunately don’t look like they come from the same Tom Cruise film.

The characters are only lightly sketched during a breezy running time well under two hours giving too little time to set up characters especially if sequels are planned.

Being a monster movie, the film introduces an organisation called The Prodigium, run by Russell Crowe’s Nick Fury-esque character, which appears like it will serve as Universal’s SHIELD for this series of films.

Crowe is handed a lot of film’s remaining exposition but despite some interesting action sequences The Mummy fails to hold them together long enough for them to become a coherent work despite some honourable attempts.

Ironically, it might have been helped if Cruise wasn’t playing the lead role as it’s hard to believe in him as the rogue-ish Morton who has to grow up fast after having his eyes opened to a whole new world.

Soon to be 55, Cruise has done some much more interesting films in his past so he’s capable of putting in a performance in films like Born of the Fourth of July (1989), Magnolia (1999) and Collateral (2004) with the right script.

The Mummy has too much action, not enough horror, or plot

Unfortunately, The Mummy stands firmly in the shadow of Wonder Woman, a far superior film which was released last week, and also pales next to the previous series of Mummy films from almost 20 years ago – the more entertaining family films starring Brendan Fraser.

Fraser would have made a great Nick Morton (Tom Cruise’s character), but when the film does veer briefly into the realms of horror to respect the source material it all to quickly switches back into the action flick mode as though scared.

Unable to vary the Tom Cruise formula, then, there’s not enough jeopardy going on in this film which looks like it’s just an average Mission Impossible style action flick which is trying to scare you too.

Whatever happens to the box office for this film it’s not likely to stop future entries in the Dark Universe – which are slated to star the likes of Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem.

Some of those titles may evoke memories of recent films you might have seen in the recent past but the current Dark Universe of connected stories starts here and no other films are included in it.

It’s just a pity The Mummy kicks off the series with a misstep.

The Mummy (15; sustained threat, horror, brief strong violence; 110 minutes)

Summary: THE MUMMY is a US action horror in which the evil spirit of a betrayed Egyptian Princess is released into the world after her tomb is unearthed.

Rating: ** (A set of Tom Cruise set pieces which can’t be bandaged together into a coherent horror film)