Out this week in cinemas is the highly anticipated The Mummy starring Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis and Russell Crowe. The Mummy follows Nick Morton (Cruise) he’s a soldier in the American army, but he’s also a thief who along with his comrade in arms Sergeant Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) has been stealing from the enemy to sell off artifacts to the black market. After a night with archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Wallis), Nick uses a map taken from her to find a supposed treasure. When Nick and Chris arrive they come under fire and during the skirmish they accidentally unearth an ancient tomb and what they find within it will change the course of human history.
This is what Alex Kurtzman, director of The Mummy, wants us to believe at least since this film is the first step into Universal Studios Dark Universe. This Dark Universe is where the things that go bump in the night will unite for a cinematic universe that will hopefully rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe and if The Mummy doesn’t succeed then this universe will likely implode in on itself.
What works for The Mummy is the scope of it all, you feel like this world that welcomes the ancient Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) is about to enter a new world, a world of Gods and Monsters as Russell Crowe’s Dr. Henry Jekyll puts ever so eloquently. The powers she commands are only matched by her incredible ambition, and she is brought to frightening realisation with a combination of CGI and plain old hard work by Sofia Boutella. Boutella has crafted a mysterious and elemental creature filled with malice against the world that shunned her and the acrobatic skills Boutella demonstrates adds another interesting element, an element of danger. This sense of scope is enhanced by the impressive cinematography and CGI. The battles between the motley crew of heroes and Ahmanet are impressive, and there are several standouts. A particular favourite is when Ahmanet is contained within a specialised prison, and the following scene between her and the opposing forces is well-choreographed and intense.
Sadly there are issues with The Mummy; the first one is that this is very much a Tom Cruise film. He is front and centre and can seemingly take on anything that is thrown at him even if the very thing that is being thrown at him is a bus. Though the story gives his apparent invulnerability leeway, it doesn’t work as well as it should, and unfortunately, this is due to the shining star that is Tom Cruise. If an unknown had been put in the leading role or even someone with less star power, I could have believed the ridiculousness of some of the scenes in The Mummy. Instead, I was caught up by the fact that Tom Cruise, not Nick was facing off against an ancient evil and he was still the most important character on screen. This problem is compounded by the fact that the majority of the characters are there only to point out how important Nick is and what is happening to the world now that Ahmanet is free. It’s a depressing decision that Kurtzman decided to turn his characters into walking, talking exposition pieces. No one is safe from it, not Jenny, Chris, or even Dr. Jekyll. Thankfully though there is a respite as Crowe puts in a scene-stealing turn as the infamous doctor giving the audience some of the most fun scenes in The Mummy.
The Mummy has the unenviable task of rebooting a long dead franchise, creating an all new cinematic universe and delivering an enjoyable filmgoing experience. And what I got from it was a mixed bag, there are definite highs: the lore is fascinating and fun, Sofia Boutella is brilliant as the titular character, the cinematography and score add an incredible scope to the film and the cheeky Russel Crowe gives a bonkers but enjoyable performance as Dr. Jekyll. Sadly though there are several severe lows: Cruise is too big a star and should have been introduced later in this Dark Universe. The supporting cast is one-dimensional, save for one or two exceptions, and when the film comes to its conclusion, it feels like the Dark Universe has already used up a powerful bullet in its fledgling chamber. Ultimately The Mummy isn’t a bad film but it’s not a good film, it’s okay. And to start off a cinematic universe with such a high pedigree of actors involved you need better than okay.