'The Mummy' Review: A Thrilling Start to the Dark Universe's Monster Mash
By John Boone
Photo: Universal Pictures
It feels appropriate, if not a bit on the nose, to kick off a summer teeming with remakes and reboots and cinematic universe-expanding episodes with a movie that is all the above. The Mummy, which is both a reboot of the 1932 The Mummy starring Boris Karloff and the 1999 franchise starring Brendan Fraser, is also the first installment in the soon-to-be expansive Dark Universe. (The movie universe that will bring together Dracula and Frankenstein and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.)
This retelling of a retelling begins with a prologue that sheds light upon one of history's so-called "darkest secrets." Ahmanet (Kingsman: The Secret Service's Sofia Boutella) is the sole successor to the throne, until her father, the Pharaoh, produces a male heir. Realizing, as we are told, "power is not given, it's taken," Princess Ahmanet makes a pact with the god of death and commits a monstrous crime, for which she is mummified alive.
Five thousand years later, in present day, there is a lot going on. In Iraq, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), a tomb looter moonlighting as a military contractor, unearths Ahmanet's sarcophagus and unwittingly unleashes our titular mummy. In London, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) fronts the mysterious Prodigium, an organization in the business of eliminating evil forces. There are spiders and rats and zombies and curses. It all takes a while to pull together, but it's a good time along the way.
Because, as so many action franchise these days -- Mission: Impossible, Fast and Furious, xXx -- continue to merge into, more or less, the same thing, this is at least something different. It is an action-adventure with the emphasis on the latter, where there are certainly pockets of action but it's not filled to the brim. Where the cruise control is not stuck on "cool," but The Mummy allows room to be silly and scary, too. The frights within may be predictable, or as I like to think of them, classic, but either way, I jumped.
Similarly, Alex Kurtzman (producer of Now You See Me and Star Trek) directs Cruise to play Nick as a character who isn't infallible, who makes some seriously stupid decision and, yes, is cool, but not so cool that the movie becomes boring. There are moments when you almost believe that Cruise might be in peril. (Almost.) There are moments when Cruise is almost comedic. (Almost.) Boutella, meanwhile, is utterly captivating without raising her voice above a whisper, and even more thrilling as she madly vacillates between playing her mummy like a wounded puppy and shrieking banshee. Crowe plays Jekyll like he is spilling sinister secrets over tea and crumpets. (I shan't spoil his Hyde for you.)
The Mummy is blockbuster in the truest sense, both in successes (such a grand scale! Such beautifully cinematography!) as well as pitfalls. It can be clunky and, with a runtime of two hours, drags at points. It almost doesn't objectify the female lead. (Almost.) (Although to be fair, Cruise is equally naked, his 54-year-old muscles rippling onscreen.) The Mummy is sort of like Indiana Jones meets Pirates of the Caribbean meets, well, The Mummy from 1999. As a remake, a reboot and the start of the Dark Universe, it accomplishes what it set out to, because -- may the gods and the monsters that come hand-in-hand forgive me -- I can't help but get excited about what yet another cinematic universe beholds.