If you were like me when you heard about Universal studio’s “Dark Universe,” then you quickly thought about how terrible of an idea it was. Cinematic universes are the hot money-making idea right now given the financial success of Marvel and DC, but taking the B-horror movies of the 1930s and ‘40s and intertwining their stories and building up to some kind of big team-up makes absolutely no sense for a number of reasons. There is absolutely no precedent for this to be done, unlike with the various comic book films of the past 17 years, that is unless you count Abbett and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). It’s also worth noting that this is Universal’s third attempt at rebooting their monster movies, having done a Wolfman film in 2010 and Dracula Untold in 2014. Regardless, they went ahead and did it anyways, kicking things off with perhaps the most boring of the old monster movies: The Mummy.
This new Mummy film, which supposedly exists within the same continuity as the most recent franchise of the same name starring Brendan Fraser (this has no bearing on anything), stars Tom Cruise as a modern day soldier of fortune whose name doesn’t matter because the character is essentially Tom Cruise playing himself. He fights insurgents in northern Iraq with the comic relief friend (Jake Johnson) while also looking for valuable loot to plunder, and a battle reveals an ancient Egyptian tomb (in Iraq) that they explore with the help of Cruise’s former lover: archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis). Cruise discovers the “box”, as he describes it, of the evil princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who awakens to use Cruise’s body to summon the god Set so they can both take over the world with their dark magic.
This entire movie is a disaster, so it’s hard to talk about specific elements and anything that really worked about it. There were a couple of action sequences that had some suspense, but other than those scenes I felt nothing during the mercifully short runtime. The characters and story beats are the same recycled one-dimensional cut outs from every action film and their dialogue is blatantly expositional. On top of the repetitive and in-your-face descriptive dialogue (Cruise is referred to as a thief in many unprovoked instances by other characters), the film heavily relies on flashbacks to re-explain plot points, character motivations, Ahmanet’s powers and confusing backstory, and the magic dagger plot device all of the characters are chasing after. The flashbacks are annoying, but it’s so easy to not care about anything going on that I was almost grateful for them. What was much more annoying was realizing that this film rips off An American Werewolf In London (1981), one of my favorite horror films, in order to keep Johnson in the movie after he gets brainwashed by the mummy and killed so he can explain things to Cruise that you’ve already figured out from the simple visual storytelling. Tom Cruise also just feels out of place in this movie. He may have sold his soul to Xenu to look young forever, but he’s still an old Hollywood A-lister. Too A-list and high profile for a B-action adventure flick like this.
Russell Crowe is in this movie, acting as a catalyst for the film’s plot, and he plays Dr. Jekyll. Yes, that Dr. Jekyll. Apparently Universal decided to go for broke in kicking off their new cinematic universe and tried to insert as many set-ups for future films as they could, having Jekyll be a Nick Fury type character who heads a secret organization hidden underneath London’s Museum of Natural History that hunts monsters all over the world (the film makes sure to show you shots of vampire skulls and other “easter eggs” littered throughout the hideout). Having this in the film is beyond distracting. At least the other comic book cinematic universe films bothered to have a few standalone films to help establish the main players and build up to the reveal of their team up, having no more than a mid-credit tease or a scene at the end of the film. It’s not like The Mummy had any tone or interesting story to ruin, but it’s downright embarrassing how shoehorned all of this extra set-up is. It only allows for giving the mummy faceless men with guns to kill and a pointless action scene where Jekyll turns to Hyde and attacks Cruise.
I told my boss that I saw The Mummy and that it was bad and he responded, “I could see myself hate-watching it, but I don’t think I would want to pay to see it in the theater.” That should be the critic quote they put on the future blu-ray cover. It’s a boring mess of a movie, but thankfully the studios don’t need to care about how good the movies they make are since they’ll be able to make back their money in the foreign markets, so GET HYPED YOU GEEKS AND NERDS FOR THAT NEXT CHAPTER IN THE FIRST PHASE OF THE DARK UNIVERSE CINEMATIC UNIVERSE: The Bride Of Frankenstein (2019)!!!