Director: Alex Kurtzman
Cast: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe
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Shared universes. These days, everyone has to have one. Marvel. DC. Call of Duty. The milkman. But just when you think DC has rushed into its franchise crossovers too quickly, along comes Universal with its own Dark Universe. The plan? An interconnected string of movies boasting A-list stars and classic movie monsters. The problem? They announced the whole thing before they had even thought through the very first one, kicking things off with the 2017 reboot of The Mummy.
There are promising elements to Alex Kurtzman’s thriller, but they never quite come together. Tom Cruise plays Nick, a rascally army type who spends his time stealing treasures from ancient sites and selling the goods to the highest bidder. Our villain, meanwhile, is gender-swapped from the Boris Karloff original: here, The Mummy is Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an Egyptian princess who planned to murder her way to the throne by sacrificing her lover to Set – until she was stopped, entombed and buried underneath several curses. Accidentally unearthed in modern-day Iraq, Nick finds himself shepherding her sarcophagus back to England with archaeologist Jenny (Annabele Wallis).
It’s in this opening half that the unexpected take on the familiar monster actually works, as Kurtzman dials up the soul-sucking horror and Boutella dials up the sultriness for a series of haunting flashbacks and hallucinations. But any intrigue and atmosphere is swiftly lost, as Nick’s plane crashes back in the UK and things descend into generic action.
From then on, the movie just can’t decide what it wants to be: a dark horror movie or a Tom Cruise action thriller. And so we get both, as the screenplay lurches back and forth between each extreme: a bit of gore here, a shot of Tom Cruise running there. It’s an uneven tone that’s summed up by the movie’s best and worst features. On the one hand, we get to see Russell Crowe having a whale of a time as the hammy British doctor in charge of Prodigium, a secret anti-monster society, who gamely lays the groundwork for Universal’s Dark Universe, – with ham rather than concrete. But on the other hand, we get the usually excellent Jake Johnson as Nick’s sidekick, Chris, who randomly pops up every 10 minutes as a ghost to make jokes. He’s so out of place it’s like he’s been Photoshopped in by a school-kid for a laugh, except for the fact that it’s not funny.
Wallis’ archaeologist, meanwhile, is completely wasted in a role that requires her to be the love interest of yet another roguish male antihero, a trope that feels increasingly like autopilot for Cruise. The result is a sea of CGI set pieces that sound good on paper, but wind up being surprisingly boring in action, lacking the wit, heart and humour that made Brendan Fraser’s 1999 The Mummy so charming. The finale comes up with a neat twist on the title that genuinely holds potential, as Cruise takes his character in a surprising direction – what a shame, then, that by that point, you’ll already have switched off. Brian Tyler’s music does its best to revive The Mummy, but with this poorly assembled blockbuster forming the basis of Dark Universe, it already looks like a dead franchise walking.
The Mummy (2017) is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £9.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription – with a 14-day free trial.
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