Everyone has to start somewhere, right?
It’s an odd thing to say about a property that has such deep cinematic roots as ‘The Mummy,’ but in the eyes of Universal Pictures, who are using this new film as a “launching pad” into their ‘Dark Universe’ classic-monster shared universe of movies, this take on the classic creature is very much designed as a jumping-on point for audiences. Universal has big plans for the ‘Dark Universe’ – and a lot of those plans will revolve around ‘The Mummy’ doing well at the box office.
Like many “firsts” – first issues of comic book series, fist albums by bands, first novel in a series – there’s a lot of exposition to be done, in order to ensure that viewers have all the information they need to effectively move forward. However, the expository scenes of ‘The Mummy’ are not the problem here; in fact, I found the film to start very strong as it worked to set things up for the audience. It’s in the action scenes and the climax of the film, unfortunately, where things start to fall apart – and I’m not just talking about body parts falling off the decaying titular character.
Opening with an extended voiceover from Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), viewers get the information they need about how supernatural monsters have existed in the world for thousands of years, and how there is a “shadow organization,” Prodigium, who are working to keep the world safe from these potential threats. Soon the opening scene that explains the origin of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) – the Mummy herself – melds into our opportunity to meet Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), a highly dysfunctional not-quite-a-couple who stumble upon the ruins of Ahmanet’s tomb together. With the help of the US Army, Ahmanet’s sarcophagus is being transported by plane to the States for study – but wouldn’t you know it, something goes wrong and the plane crashes in England (would a military plane flying from Iraq to New York really end up over England in its flight path? Not really, but movies!). Things keep going wrong from there, as the mummified princess gets on the loose, havoc gets wrecked, and it’s up to the very vaguely good guys to stop her.
In a pure entertainment form, ‘The Mummy’ will certainly deliver for most. The action scenes are well done – particularly spectacular is the big plane crash scene – and Boutella’s sometimes-CGIed Mummy and her ever-growing army of undead minions have some truly frightening scenes. It’s in the finer details, sadly, where the film starts to lose its steam. Prodigium, with their secret base full of cool-looking artifacts and machines and for all their talk of being the “front line” of the world’s defense against the supernatural, just seem to be a bunch of dudes running around London with guns. Aside from Dr. Jekyll, they are all just a bunch of nameless grunts, which seems like lazy story-building to me.
Speaking of Jekyll: Overall, I was really disappointed in how this character was handled in this film. I understand that he’s here mostly to serve as a “bridge” to the future ‘Dark Universe’ films – but both his presence and his ability to change into a “monster” himself feels extremely shoe-horned into the movie’s narrative. And yes, we do see him change into Mr. Hyde briefly (but really, if you know an evil monster lives inside of you, can’t you come up with a better routine from keeping him under control that simply injecting yourself at the very last second, every time?), but even this is odd – Hyde feels more like an annoyance than a true threat. It’s possible this is exactly the vibe that the creative team was going for, in order to utilize the character as such in future films, but as it stands now, with only the one story to go off of, it seems very strange.
I’ll try to keep things vague and not to get spoiler-y here, but the conclusion of the film gets tangled in its own web, and may leave many viewers with more questions than answers. Not questions to be answered in follow-up films; rather, logistical questions about how characters survived certain situations, how their actions ended up causing the supernatural results they do, and – as is often the case with potentially great movies going bad – how the “bad guy” was defeated so easily after having spent the entire film being such a powerful badass.
Leaving a sour taste in your audience’s mouth is not the way you want your first world-building film to go, I’ve got to think. ‘The Mummy’ is not a “bad movie,” per se, but it definitely gets dragged down by having its plot set up situations that it can’t realistically work itself out of. Our screening of the film was in 3D, and it was an absolute waste of resources. I can’t say for sure if it was an issue with the theater or the way the film itself was shot, but the words on the screen were fuzzy and absolutely nothing on-screen looked like it was in any more dimensions than those on a movie being played on a flat screen. My recommendation is to save the extra money and skip the 3D on this one.
This probably isn’t the way that Universal wanted the ‘Dark Universe’ to be kicked off. I do believe there is promise in their strategy, however, so I hope that ‘The Mummy’ doesn’t prematurely “wrap up” those plans! Sorry… I had to.
‘The Mummy’ will be released in American theaters on June 9, 2017.
Tony Schaab wonders where Green Rangers come from – I guess if a Yellow Ranger and a Blue Ranger love each other very much… A lover of most things sci-fi and horror, Tony is an author by day and a DJ by night. Come hang out with Tony on Twitter or follow him on Facebook to hear him spew semi-funny nonsense and get your opportunity to finally put him in his place.