‘The Mummy’ has once again returned to the big screen, but this time it is the ‘Iron Man’, the first instalment of a much larger universe full of monsters, aptly titled ‘The Dark Universe’. When Princess Ahmanet is awoken from her eternal curse she proceeds to unleash hell on the world of the living bringing death to all who oppose her and it is up to Tom Cruise to fight this evil force and send her back to whence she came. On top of that, this is also the film tasked with launching the Dark Universe, a franchise that will see the revival of monsters such as Dracula, Wolfman, and Invisible Man amongst many others. And this is where you get into dangerous territory, where a film is given too much to accomplish in under 2 hours. Thankfully though this didn’t turn out to be a disaster, it has issues with focus, pacing, some dialogue, and integration of the wider universe but i thought the majority of the performances were strong, the core plot was intriguing, and the theme of horror helps craft a very specific tone for the future of this universe.
One of the things i was most looking forward to in this remake was the integration of something that was absent from the most recent Mummy films……… Horror. Moving away from the very campy tone of those films and replacing Indiana Jones-esque adventure with some threatening and terrifying horror sequences was a very welcome change in my opinion. It felt so refreshing to be terrified during a Mummy film, there are a number of sequences throughout the film that integrate horror really well predominantly through the use of creepy imagery and eerie environments. There is also an element of ‘the supernatural’ at work here on top of the core Egyptian history elements and this just adds to the overall terror of the film. But it should be noted that this isn’t a straight up horror film, with Tom Cruise comes the integration of basic Cruise-style large action, fast paced action film tropes. But thankfully this is kept to a minimum as in that respect Tom Cruise plays a slightly more subdued role despite still being the key heroic figure.
Speaking of Tom Cruise (Nick) i thought he fit within the film and within the world pretty well, more than i actually thought he would upon hearing of his casting. As i mentioned, he wasn’t the big ‘i can do everything’ action star we are so used to seeing from him, he played his character really well, sold the action and horror sequences very professionally and even added to 2 of maybe the 3 somewhat funny moments. And then you have Sofia Boutella from ‘Kingsman’ fame who i thought was fantastic in this film. She was menacing and her performance behind the mummy made it all the more terrifying. Every second she was on screen you are aware of her looming presence and you really do not want to mess with her. There is one gripe i have with her character which has nothing to do with her performance, it just has to do with how when it comes to dealing with important characters all of a sudden the villain seems to lose a few IQ points. It happens in many movies and it’s just a small gripe i’ve always held.
As for some of the other supporting characters i have to say i thought the character of Dr Henry Jekyll played by Russell Crowe was great. He was a very interesting character with a rich personality and a very interesting history, one that i have a feeling is going to be integral to the future of this universe. Now how the character is integrated into the story is another story. And then you have Jake Johnson who plays Cruise’s partner in the film ‘Chris’……. I really didn’t like his character. He has a very unique role in the film and he was used for certain plot progressing moments and the occasional attempt at comic relief but he just didn’t fit within the overall very serious tone of the film. This is a movie that establishes a dark tone and still wants to have some fun, but unfortunately for this character and the film overall essentially every attempt at a humorous moment seems to fall flat. Also I found it difficult throughout the entire film to gravitate towards Annalise Wallis’ character ‘Jenny’ and couldn’t really get attached to her. I thought she was fine overall and she served her role well but she didn’t have any really intriguing content to deliver, and she is very abruptly introduced in the beginning of the film which is where one of its major problems lie.
Now where one of the biggest issues with this film lies is in the first act all prior to the reawakening of Princess Ahmanet. Up until that point it was very all over the place dealing with setting up the history behind Ahmanet, showing the key elements of the plot that will play a part later, and introducing the major players in the film including Jeckyll, Nick, and Jenny. It was rapidly trying to get through everything by wasting as little time as possible and it was given so much to do that it wasn’t working on a number of levels. Tonally the horror elements hadn’t actually established themselves yet so it was a mess in that department as well. It really wasn’t pleasant to watch and and looked like it was heading down a bad path. But then once it picks itself up the next two acts are considerably better but nor perfect. The pacing continues to be an issue mainly due to one thing…. integrating the introduction of this wider universe.
There were some connections here and there which were fantastic as they were subtle, momentary, in the background, and didn’t stop the progression of the plot. But there were a few sequences that weren’t extremely long but did feel like we had pressed pause on the story revolving around Princess Ahmanet to focus on setting up ‘Prodigium’ and ‘Jekyll’ as potentially the ‘S.H.I.E.L.D’ and ‘Nick Fury’ of this universe. These sequences were awesome and i’d be lying if i said they didn’t get me super pumped for the future of this universe but in the context of this film they weren’t fantastically integrated. Also i have to mention that throughout the film there are some lines of dialogue that really aren’t good, overall the dialogue was pretty spot on but there is the occasional eye-rolling moment.
So in the end despite the lacklustre first act and the poor integration of sequences relating to the wider universe i had a fun time watching this film. The performances were diverse and a majority of them were very strong making for interesting interactions. Also the reintroduction of horror to the Mummy films was much appreciated as it fits incredibly well with the story content and what they have in mind for the Dark Universe going forward. I also actually liked how this film wrapped up obviously i’m not going to go into it but i thought it went for a smart ending and it paid off greatly. Obviously the movie isn’t going to be for everyone but if you want to be kept in the loop with what is going on in yet another multi film cinematic universe you may as well start with the beginning.