'The Mummy' Kicks Off Universal's Dark Universe With A Whimper

By James Jay Edwards
Released: June 9. 2017
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An ancient princess is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension.

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Film Review
After a handful of false starts with I, Frankenstein, Dracula Untold, and Victor Frankenstein, Universal Pictures is finally ready to officially launch their Dark Universe of monsters. And they have chosen The Mummy to be the film that breaks the ground.

The Mummy stars Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher) as American soldier/treasure hunter Nick Morton who, along with his trusty sidekick Chris Vail (Jurassic World's Jake Johnson), stumbles upon the tomb of a forgotten Egyptian princess called Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella from Kingsman: The Secret Service) while raiding Mesopotamian ruins in Iraq (yes, hundreds of miles from Egypt). An archaeologist named Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis from Annabelle) is called in to seize the sarcophagus and bring it to London where Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe from The Nice Guys) wants to examine it. But, like any good Egyptian tomb, the catacombs are cursed, and misfortune follows the delivery the entire way. Nick soon learns that he is the subject of the curse, and he hopes that, with the help of Jenny and Dr. Jekyll, he can break it before it consumes him.

The Mummy, courtesy Universal Pictures 2017 All Rights Reserved.

While it's not quite a train wreck, there are big problems with The Mummy. The film was directed by Alex Kurtzman (People Like Us) from a screenplay by David Koepp (Jurassic Park), Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), and Dylan Kussman ("The Steps"), based upon a screen story by Kurtzman, Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Passengers), and Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married). So, right off the bat, the number of cooks in the kitchen should raise a red flag. And The Mummy is just as rambling and unfocused as one would expect a movie with a half dozen very different writers to be.

The Mummy can't decide whether it wants to be a horror movie or an action adventure, so it tries to do both, and in the process, doesn't do either very well. It does do the action a little better than the horror, but that's par for the course for a modern Tom Cruise movie. While thrilling, the action scenes are sterilized by CG effects and separated by long bits of heavy handed spoken exposition that all but ask the audience if they are keeping up with the mythology - none of which is all that important anyway. The Mummy doesn't concern itself with little things like story details, Tom Cruise has places to run to and things to beat up.

The Mummy, courtesy Universal Pictures 2017 All Rights Reserved.

What The Mummy boils down to is a reworking of all of the tired old tropes of all of the old Brendan Fraser The Mummy movies, only with the saving grace of having Russell Crowe light up the screen in between sandstorms and flashbacks. It's the epitome of a slick, big-budget summer movie that's all spectacle and no substance. This is a far cry from Boris Karloff, but be sure to purchase the big tub of popcorn for this cinematic event.

So, while it leaves a lot to be desired as a standalone movie, The Mummy does accomplish its main goal; it sets up the Universal Dark Universe, introducing some of the main players, including Russell Crowe's Dr. Jekyll, who seems to be positioned as the universe's "Nick Fury," the central figure around which all of the other monsters will exist. And he'll have his hands full, as the Dark Universe is slated to include heavy hitters like Javier Bardem as Frankenstein's Monster and Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man. So, The Mummy may not live up to all of its hype, but things are still looking bright for Universal's Dark Universe.
Action Sequences
As mentioned earlier, The Mummy does action better than it does horror, mostly thanks to a single scene. While transporting the sarcophagus to London, Cruise and company's plane crashes, because of course it does - it's cursed. The crash segment itself is phenomenal. It was shot in two locations: one inside of an actual plane, and the other in an exact duplicate of the plane's interior that was built on a soundstage with a hydraulic base that allowed the cabin to rotate in every possible direction. The sound stage footage shows the actors being tossed around the sides and roof of the plane in an Inception-like manner, very tense and suspenseful.

The Mummy, courtesy Universal Pictures 2017 All Rights Reserved.

Now, the footage in the flying plane was shot while the plane performed the same parabola flying technique that is used to train astronauts for the weightlessness of space, so there's a zero-gravity effect that lets the viewer feel the plane falling from the sky. And, because Tom Cruise does his own stunts, it's really him and his co-stars floating around in midair while the plane drops through space. It only lasts for a few minutes, but it's an impressive scene, and honestly, it's the best reason to see The Mummy in a theater.

There are a few other good action sequences in The Mummy as well, things like car wrecks, undead fights, and underwater getaways. But the plane crash is the show-stopper. On the best-of list for cinematic plane crashes, The Mummy is right up there with The Green Inferno, Bridge of Spies, and the first Final Destination movie.
Scary Factor
There's nothing scary about The Mummy. Its focus is squarely on the action, and while it does throw in some undead beings and the title character is an ancient Egyptian princess bent on possession and destruction, the movie inspires no fear whatsoever. Alex Kurtzman did do his homework, and there are plenty of fun references for eagle-eyed and knowledgeable horrorphiles. The film visually quotes everything from An American Werewolf in London and The Shining to The Return of the Living Dead and Inferno - and that's not even counting the numerous little Easter eggs in Dr. Jekyll's lab or mentioning how much the plane crash sequence borrows from Tina's death scene in A Nightmare on Elm Street. So, there are plenty of things about The Mummy that will keep fright flick fans busy, but being scared isn't going to be one of them.

The Mummy, courtesy Universal Pictures 2017 All Rights Reserved.

Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Release Date
June 9. 2017
MPAA Rating
Alex Kurtzman
Production Designer
Casting Director
Music Score