‘The Mummy’ Reborn Unwraps Dark Universe [Review]
The rebirth of The Mummy is upon us, with the latest reboot of the franchise kicking off Universal’s recently announced Dark Universe of interconnected films that will re-launch all of the studio’s classic horror icons, and it is likely to only get darker from here.
The Dark Universe will next include The Bride of Frankenstein (opening on Valentine’s Day 2019 from the director of Beauty and the Beast), to be followed by Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man, as well as upcoming new takes on Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Opera, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
It is somewhat odd that the studio chose to open their new movie universe with one of its properties that had three official films released within its most recent reboot that started with 1999’s The Mummy starring Brendon Fraser, but I imagine the producers figured it has the success of those action-oriented movies to draw from, with the added bonus of a huge star in Tom Cruise, assuming a hit would be inevitable. The new film even strikes a similar tone to the humor-friendly, horror-lite execution of the Fraser trilogy, while it almost forgets it is supposed to be a horror movie at heart.
Making a Mummy movie that does not serve the horror genre fans is like Marvel making a Captain America movie as a romantic comedy rather than a superhero adventure, so it’s far from what it could have been. But if taken as it is, the new Mummy succeeds in delivering just what it promises, with explosive action, cheesy humor, Tom Cruise in generic Tom Cruise mode, and teasing this new movie universe to come and all the exciting possibilities that still lay ahead.
Of course I wanted more scares and a creepier vibe, as a die hard horror fan and loyalist of the original black-and-white Universal classics that pretty much wrote the book on the genre, but sometimes you just have to take something for what it is, and as such, The Mummy is a lot of fun.
Cruise’s Nick Morton is decidedly amoral enough early in the film to hint at a deeper darkness within that comes into play later, but he’s not corrupt enough to straight up lie, setting up his inner conflict.
Jake Johnson is Cruise’s unlucky pal Chris Vail, who serves as a guide beyond the “veil” (see what they did there) between life and death, in a plot point lifted right out of An American Werewolf In London. He was funny a few times, but I could have done without about half of his scenes in general.
Annabelle Wallis, as Jenny Halsey, introduces Nick to a mysterious organization that identifies, hunts, and then deals with strange and unusual supernatural creatures reported around the world. The group is headquartered out of a museum of sorts called Prodigium, where tons of cool Easter eggs can be spotted, including a vampire’s skull, a claw that looks like that of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and a skull with its top removed as if to allow for the placement of a new brain.
The leader of the group and Halsey’s boss is none other than Dr. Henry Jekyll, played by Russell Crowe, who is the perfect actor for this role that is set up to be the heart of the Dark Universe, a character that will be Univeral’s version of Marvel’s Samuel L. Jackson/Nick Fury who pops up to help link future films together. And while Crowe gets many of the best lines as Jekyll, he is clearly having a great time diving into the chaotic insanity of Jekyll’s alter-ego, Mr. Edward Hyde.
There is also a quick visual reference to the 1999 Mummy movie when that film’s all-important Book of the Dead can clearly be seen inside Dr. Jekyll’s office.
As the titular monster, cursed, mummified, and buried alive thousands of years ago after summoning the god of death and then stripping nude and killing her father, the king, so she could rule for eternity, Sofia Boutella is great and quite creepy as Princess Ahmanet, hellbent on taking her revenge against anyone who gets in her way after she is inadvertently awakened by the treasure-hunting Morton.
Boutella’s Ahmanet is in many ways Universal’s own monster version of Wonder Woman, a respected and proud warrior princess destined to be queen until it is all taken away from her when her father has a baby boy who will now inherit the throne because he is a male and she is not. For this alone, she makes a pact with the god of death, opening the door for the horrors to come.
The best parts of the movie are when Ahmanet first awakens in modern era London. As in previous film incarnations, the creature only regenerates her prior human form after killing enough people, and her earliest appearances as a twitchy, spider-like undead corpse are highly effective.
Tattooed from head to toe and never fully losing all of her mummy wraps (as too many previous mummys have), Boutella is mesmerizing in each scene, a phenomenal physical presence that is at times both strangely alluring and strikingly terrifying.
This is the best version of the mummy character since Boris Karloff’s original portrayal of Imhotep in 1932.
The Mummy lives again, with all the righteous anger and unhinged rage of a woman scorned, and I can’t wait to follow her deeper into this new world of gods and monsters.
Official Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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The Mummy (rated PG13) is now playing locally at RC Theatres in Kill Devil Hills.