In 2014 it was believed that the Luke Evans-led Dracula Untold was going to launch Universal Studios’ proposed shared universe of classic movie monsters. Dubbed Dark Universe, the ambitious project akin to the connected phases of Marvel and DC films ultimately let that idea fall to the wayside when the aforementioned feature was hardly the moneymaker the studio expected.
So it falls to The Mummy to truly kickstart the franchise, but what clearly hopes to be some sort of fresh spin on the genre with a gender-swapped villain, is ultimately little more than a typical action feature with a slew of horror-lite mythology thrown in for good measure.
Reminiscent of the 1999 Brendan Fraser (remember him?!?) feature, the storyline here is by-the-numbers as Tom Cruise‘s roguish soldier Nick, Jake Johnson‘s “comedic” sidekick Chris, and Annabelle Wallis‘ intellectual Jennifer stumble upon an ancient mummified evil and unintentionally unleash it on an unprepared London; prior to this, Alex Kurtzman‘s actioner attempts to create something of a back-story between Cruise and Wallis, so that their “love” for one another appears a bit more feasible as the film progresses.
For the first half-or-so of The Mummy, things to be sailing relatively smoothly as the film presents an interesting-enough tale regarding the titular villain, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), and it weaves both action and horror together appropriately enough in the initial stages. Similarly, the introduction of Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe) doesn’t feel nearly as forced as it could given his placement is clearly a wink to the shared universe that is to come; and Jekyll’s alter-ego Mr. Hyde does make a rather spirited appearance, allowing Crowe to temporarily ham it up in one of the film’s more entertaining moments.
As much weight Crowe hopes to bring to the role though, it’s difficult to overlook the script’s downfalls. Clunky dialogue, and the necessity for characters to explain just what is going on, leaves the script from Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow), David Koepp (Inferno, Panic Room) and Dylan Kussman (TV’s The Steps) to underwhelm with lines that evoke laughter rather than earn the dramatic effect that is so clearly attempted.
Whilst Cruise’s archetypal hero is cut directly from the 1990’s cloth, there’s no denying that the actor still brings his usual charm and charisma to the role – even if it doesn’t feel entirely natural to see a superstar like Cruise in a throw-away vehicle like this – and it’s his dedication to the lunacy around him that keeps The Mummy afloat. Johnson’s sidekick bit falls flat on every level, and Wallis’ damsel in distress act does little the actress little favour, leaving Boutella as the sexualised villainess to act as the film’s other saviour.
Before the film descends into complete ridiculousness, there’s a sense that this proposed Dark Universe could hold some promise as the set-up for Ahmanet displays a sense of old-fashioned fun that feels essential to bring other characters to fruition; The Invisible Man with Johnny Depp and The Bride of Frankenstein with Javier Bardem have both already been announced, as well as this film offering sly references to the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Dracula.
Not a film that feels like the starting point of a franchise, despite its clear “to be continued” ending, The Mummy is little more than a surface-level popcorn action film that disappointingly squanders any promise it showcases.
Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Mummy is in cinemas now.