A mummy movie starring Tom Cruise. Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll. The prospect of “a new world of gods and monsters” under Universal’s new ‘Dark Universe’ banner. It’s hard not to be apprehensive about this move to resurrect and position the studio’s iconic monsters as part of a Marvel-like shared universe (the Bride of Frankenstein, Invisible Man and Frankenstein are also on the way).
Fortunately, Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy gets things off to a reasonably promising start with a visually creative and surprisingly fresh take on mummy mythology that’s far removed from the 1932 original and Brendan Fraser remake, which were both period pieces.
The major difference is a gender switch for the monster. The mummy in question is one Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who is next in line for the throne until a baby brother arrives. Invoking the Egyptian God of Death to reclaim what is rightfully hers, Ahmanet is interrupted mid-sacrifice, mummified alive and buried in a secret location in the Middle East.
Unearthed in the present day by soldier of fortune Nick Morton (Cruise) and archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), her sinister sarcophagus is bound for the British museum when a supernatural whammy tears the plane apart, Mission: Impossible-style.
Morton subsequently awakens on a mortuary slab with a psychic link to Ahmanet, who’s now on the loose in London, raising a zombie army and seeking an ancient gem that will summon the God of Death once more.
Enter Dr. Henry Jekyll, a specialist in the nature of evil who intends to capture the mummy to further his experiments. With a lab full of arcane artifacts, he’s destined to become the Nick Fury of this Dark Universe, and Crowe gleefully hams it up as Jekyll’s cockney alter ego Edward Hyde.
Cinematic universes (dark and otherwise) are built on star power, and while Tom Cruise has always been at home in sci-fi and action flicks, he looks positively bewildered when required to fight off undead knights and hordes of rats. Consequently, The Mummy works best as a monster movie (as it should), not a Cruise vehicle, and horror fans will find plenty to enjoy here. There are nods to The Exorcist, An American Werewolf in London, and most notably Tobe Hooper’s insane Lifeforce – which alone should be recommendation enough!
The creation of this new Dark Universe isn’t exactly a big bang, but neither is it a whimper. The Mummy might be an uneasy mix of olde worlde horrors and contemporary blockbuster razzmatazz, but the good news is that this fledgling franchise appears to be heading more in the direction of a modern day Penny Dreadful than attempting to turn these classic creatures into the horror equivalent of the MCU.
In cinemas: June 8, 2017
Starring: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella
Directed by: Alex Kurtzman