GREAT START TO DARK UNIVERSE
Film Review by Fiore
Oh, the fickle movie trade publications. Like major media, they trumpet the studio lines and leave legitimate journalism by the wayside. Unfortunately, this also includes their selected film reviews. They are upset with Tom Cruise because his latest film, THE MUMMY, doesn’t foster one of their main agenda items in the H3L propaganda campaign. His next film, AMERICAN WAY, does; and they are already championing that film.
THE MUMMY was victim to a series of poor publicity reports, and nasty pre-release reviews, because Hollywood doesn’t like Cruise in this genre. The trade publications are a glee, touting THE MUMMY made only $50 million opening weekend. What they are not telling you is that it made more than $150 million overseas. The fact is THE MUMMY is a decent monster movie and an excellent introduction into the newly conceived Dark Universe.
Universal Pictures toyed with the concept of resurrecting its classic staple of monsters in modernized films. There was the MUMMY trilogy with Brendan Frazier. These films were largely successful at the box office, but tended to be more action-adventure than monster films. By the third installment, the concept of a living mummy ran its course and Jet Li was brought in to add kung-fu action and abominable snowmen to the storyline.
Benecio Del Toro revitalized THE WOLF MAN, in an excellent film with Sir Anthony Hopkins, but you never saw it in the theatres. It is only available as a director’s cut on home video. The theatrical version was horrendously edited and destroyed the film’s vision.
After the proliferation of superhero movies, and the concept of introducing solo films followed by team blockbusters for both Marvel and DC, Universal decided a similar concept would fit its monster revitalization. Like Warner Bros which created the Monster Universe where Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, Ghidora and King Kong will all span individual and team movie deals, Universal created The Dark Universe, where new versions of The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man and The Creature from the Black lagoon will similarly have solo and team movies. THE MUMMY is the first in the series, and it sets up the Dark Universe rather nicely.
Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, a military operative who is actually a thief and scoundrel. He uses his manly wiles to purloin a map from archeologist Jenny Halsey, played by Annabelle Wallis, which he believes leads to a hidden treasure. Together with his sidekick Chris Vail, played by Jake Johnson, the two set out for untold fortunes, only to unleash an ancient evil; a mummy demon called Ahmanet, played by Sofia Boutella.
This is a stark contrast to the MUMMY legend we know and love. Gone is Boris Karloff’s Imhotep, and Lon Chaney Jr.’s Kharis, searching through the centuries for their long-lost loves. Now, it is the woman who travels time, looking for her man. Can you hear Tammy Wynette singing in the background?
Cruise appears to have fun with his role of Nick. Usually quite dour when playing Ethan Hunt or Jack Reacher, he is more relaxed and roguish in this role as it is similar to a part Johnny Depp would accept. Boutella is aided in her performance by exceptional make-up work, as she was in STAR TREK: BEYOND. Johnson is a stand-out as Vail. Though he meets his demise quickly in THE MUMMY, he returns to consult and advise Nick as a decomposing corpse, much like Griffin Dunne did for David Naughton in AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. While the ploy is familiar, it’s still funny.
The Dark Universe truly unfolds when Nick discovers Jenny is part of a secret society which hunts and contains all forms of monstrous evil. She takes Nick to the society’s headquarters, and there they encounter Dr. Henry Jekyll, played by Russell Crowe. Crowe is rather magnanimous in his portrayal and it is evident he is anxious to make extended cameo appearances in future Dark Universe films. Touring his lab, viewers are treated to a plethora of Easter Eggs for upcoming films, including the infamous arm skeleton of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the skull of Dracula, the bandages and sunglasses from the Invisible Man, and a brain from Abby someone or other, used in the experiments of Dr. Frankenstein.
Once the secret society, Prodigium, is revealed, Nick, Jenny, Dr. Jekyll and Vail set out to contain Ahmanet. At this point, Director Alex Kurtzman utilizes scenes from other horror films to provide an atmosphere of comfort and familiarity. They include the aforementioned AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, where the dead sidekick assists on the current adventure; LIFEFORCE, where a nude nemesis walks the streets sucking the life out of her victims; a nod to the previous MUMMY trilogy with a sandstorm in London, complete with Ahmanet’s head; and a mixture of classic monsters and characters, much like PENNY DREDFUL.
1.1 KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. THE PLANE CRASH
2. THE MUMMY MEETS MR. HYDE
3. THE FINAL RESCUE
Technically, THE MUMMY misses a few steps, especially in the beginning. The opening reels, establishing the set-up, seem disoriented and a bit sloppy. Once again, I attribute this to too many editors on the project. THE MUMMY uses three.
Considering Cruise’s ability to fight in action sequences, the ones in THE MUMMY are more in line with Crowe’s GLADIATOR. They are shot with close-ups and quick cut edits. Not a fan.
Let’s take a look at the report card for THE MUMMY:
1.2 ACTING = B
1.3 CINEMATOGRAPHY = B
1.4 SOUND/MUSIC = B
1.5 EDITING = C
1.6 LIGHTING = B
1.7 SCRIPT = B
1.8 SFX = A
1.9 ACTION = A
While the industry is quick to denounce Cruise for films that do not contain one of their agenda talking points in the plot, the bottom line here, despite their negative press, is THE MUMMY is a good opening film in the Dark Universe. It sets up additional stories and characters, including Cruise’s Nick, who like Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll, promises to make additional appearances in the planned series, especially when the monsters line up for an all-out battle.
I saw THE MUMMY in regular 2D. It looked fine, so unless you are a 3D fanatic, this one plays well in regular format. It is definitely worth a view on the big screen. I would easily watch this one again, before I would sit through a repeat performance of WONDER WOMAN.