In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.
“Welcome to a new world of Gods and Monsters.” So says Russell Crowe, aka Dr. Jekyll, aka Mr. Hyde as he welcomes Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) into his lab, and we, the audience into the newly established “Dark Universe.” Comprised of all the beasties and freaks in their Monster canon, Universal is attempting to cash in on the exact same thing as every other studio with intellectual property to exploit. The only thing separating Universal’s Universe from the rest of them is that it’s going to be damn near impossible for film bloggers to talk about it without using the word “universe” to the point where it loses all meaning.
Universal has chosen to kick things off with The Mummy, and it’s a smart move. Mummy flicks have classically been adventure films more than they’ve ever been horror, and it’s in this aspect that the latest iteration rises to the occasion. Caveat: the film is a bit of a mess story-wise, complete with underwritten characters and a ton of dangling threads which hopefully indicate a thoroughly planned out universe rather than a script written by committee. Unfortunately, I do believe the latter is the case, but such is the nature of this sort of thing. While it seems unfair to all of the singular movies in the world to forgive a somewhat incomplete one based solely on a business plan, welcome to 2017. The Dark Universe is coming and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Nothing. And since the movie opens with a Dark Universe logo, we are forced to take it for what it is – a request for money.
That said, these criticisms are small potatoes for me. The Mummy is a LOT of fun. This is due to the fact that it commits to a very specific tone right off the bat all the way through to the end. It’s a circus of practical set-pieces (CG enhanced, of course), practical stuntwork, and cheeky humor. And it’s one of the few modern actioners where the hyper-cutting shaky cam is at a minimum, THANK GOD(s). Tom Cruise might be a psycho, but his thetan-free body seems to be impervious to damage, and he is more than happy to take a beating for our entertainment. I am thankful to be able to see it happen. The dude is a savant when it comes to being entertaining, and he’s firing on all cylinders here. Shame his character is so underwritten, because the dude has an unspeakable amount of energy in every scene.
The setup is simple. During a not-so-routine treasure expedition, artifact thief Morton and his buddy Chris (Jake Johnson, heavily underused) stumble across an ancient tomb. This tomb is remarkably different than any in history: instead of serving as a shrine to departed royalty, it appears to function more as a prison. Whatever is buried here is meant to stay here, but since this is The Mummy, our heroes and their underwritten archaeologist friend Jenny (Annabelle Wallis, female), decide to excavate the mysterious sarcophagus. During the flight home — well, you know. We get that bonkers zero-grav scene from all of the trailers. The mummy escapes her tomb, Jenny takes the last parachute, and Morton goes down with the plane. Mysteriously, Morton survives the wreck and finds that due to a curse, he is now under the mummy’s protection. She plans to use him as a vessel through which to resurrect an evil demon.
Ya know, mummy shit.
Along the way we meet Dr. Henry Jekyll, who it appears will be functioning as the connective character for the Dark Universe. His mission is to study evil in his steampunky laboratory while staving off his own genetic proclivities toward evil with regular injections of science juice. The Universal docket does not have a solo film scheduled for Jekyll/Hyde as of yet, but I would certainly like to see more of this character in the future. When Russell Crowe is having fun, he’s damn near transcendent in the way he can wield goofiness. He’s having a TON of fun here.
Another performance to savor that of the mummy herself. Sofia Boutella has had the fortune/misfortune of coming to fame behind CG enhancement and heavy prosthetic makeup. Yet what would be a handicap to most only manages to highlight her talents as an actress. Playing a jacked up lady mummy is a dream role for anyone with a taste for scene chewing, and Boutella goes big. Her character, just like the rest, is not nearly as fleshed out as it wants to be, but she brings a level of pathos to it that the script probably doesn’t deserve.
Before you ask, yes, I prefer Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy. Literally everyone who I’ve talked to about this movie has asked me that. Yes, I miss Brendan Fraser as much as you. Don’t be too upset, though. The previous mummy movies have made an indelible stamp on the genre: Forevermore, no mummy movie will be complete without a sentient sandstorm with a face.
Many will say that The Mummy could have been better, and while I wish it was, I really don’t think it could have been. As for the Dark Universe, I’m excited and intrigued.
The Mummy opens in Philly theaters today.