Release Date: June 9th, 2017
Universal Studios was once well-known for its monster movies. Long before superheroes dominated the big screen, theaters were playing movies like Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932) and Son of Dracula (1943). Each of these films focused on another monsters in the Universal universe. Such monster movies eventually lost popularity but Universal is planning to bring the franchise back to life in the Dark Universe, a new cinematic franchise focusing on these well-known characters.
The beginning of that franchise is The Mummy, now in theaters nationwide.
This character was recently rebooted in 1999 with Brendan Fraser leading the cast but this new movie is a step away from even that recent reboot. It’s a fresh start that unfortunately doesn’t feel fresh at all.
Tom Cruise stars in this new monster movie as Nick Morton, a scheming thief who accidentally uncovers a tomb in modern-day Iraq. The tomb is the residing place of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). In ancient Egypt, Ahmanet had betrayed her own family — selling her soul and murdering her father and his young child — and was mummified alive as a result of her betrayal. Her body was condemned. Morton’s antics lead him to accidentally revive the Princess’ spirit and she’s chosen him to be the vessel for the evil spirit she wants to bring back to life.
For the feature’s first thirty minutes, the drama plays out like a traditional monster movie. There’s action and adventure and some exciting special effects. There’s also a valuable sidekick, played here by Jake Johnson (New Girl). The exciting introduction to the story works well, inviting viewers back into this fantastic world of monsters and horrific creatures.
At some point though, the script loses its momentum and the story’s twists are as lifeless as the title character. For one, Morton is mysteriously guided by the ghost of a deceased friend who makes wisecracks throughout the story. The comedy is there but the concept never completely works, making this a strange decision on the part of the filmmakers.
It doesn’t help that in the film’s second hour, the fast-paced action of the beginning is replaced with more strange narrative decisions. Part of it is likely due to the fact that The Mummy was built to launch a new cinematic franchise meaning that some plot threads are included but never fully developed. For instance, the character of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) is introduced in the feature’s latter half and steers the characters in another strange direction.
“Welcome to a new world of god and monsters,” he proclaims as if welcoming not the characters into their new environment but viewers into this new franchise. It’s obvious that the introduction to the character isn’t meant to stand alone. Jekyll will likely return in a follow-up feature.
The journey ultimately ends on a painfully silly note. Throughout the whole feature, there are certain rules about good and evil that seemingly apply. In the final act, those rules are thrown out the window in an effort to end the story on an upbeat note. Instead, the conclusion feels unearned and goofy.
It’s a great letdown from the beginning of the movie that set this story up as an old-fashioned monster movie. The elements are here for that but they ultimately get lost in a movie that’s more interested in creating a franchise and keeping it alive than it is in telling an exciting story.
John Hanlon is our film and television critic. He can be followed on Twitter @johnhanlon and on Facebook here. He maintains his own site at JohnHanlonReviews.com
Review by: John Hanlon