Ok, Let’s talk about the Universal Monsters.
I really enjoy the Universal monster movies. From the 1930’s onwards, Universal made some really cool, fun films. Sure, they don’t tend to match their books, but then again they weren’t intended to, they took the bare minimum from them and made movies. But Universal likes to remind you constantly that they made these and they will never ever stop doing that, hence, why we seem to get year on year, re-boot after re-boot, after re-boot!!! The past few years have not been an exception. Universal have seen the success that Marvel has had with their Cinematic Universe and attempted to do their own take on this, deciding to combine all their monsters into one shared Universe, that they have nicknamed The Dark Universe. They have even made an entire production company to help produce the films. However, my problem with the Dark Universe is, where is it going?
The first movie was Dracula Untold, which was one of my earliest reviews for the website, but that was all the way back in late 2014, so if you thought that Batman v Superman was way too long after Man of Steel, that is nothing compared to how long we have been waiting for this Universe to get started. Dracula Untold, however, didn’t really allude to the idea of the various other monsters existing in the Universe, since it was essentially a prequel to Dracula. I must be honest, a re-watch of Dracula Untold has really soured my opinion of the film. This was worse than I remembered it being, and I thought it was a phenomenal mess, though I do think Luke Evans has the potential to make a really good Dracula in a more faithful adaptation of the book.
The Mummy was quickly announced to be the second in this series, it will be followed up by several other films, including next year’s Bride of Frankenstein. But that’s the thing about The Dark Universe, all of these films have been announced but only Bride of Frankenstein has a release date, which will be next year. We have no clue when we will be seeing the others. Also, what is the end game with this Dark Universe. The Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes each make sense, these are comic Universes where characters regularly cross over and have two major team-ups that can act as big events: The Avengers and The Justice League respectively. The Universal Monsters don’t really have that. Sure, there were the films, House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, that sort of crossed over the monsters, but even then, it wasn’t a true cross over and I’m not exactly sure why they would want to do that again considering those films were more cheesy than frightening! But, nevertheless, I decided to give my thoughts on The Mummy as a whole, that being said, I don’t have much experience with the Mummy films that Boris Karloff starred in, though I was a fan of the trilogy of films that Brendan Frasier was in that were directed by Stephen Summers. Despite the reduced quality of The Mummy Returns and the third mummy movie, though I will admit that The Scorpion King is one of my favourite guilty pleasures.
This mummy movie, has been directed by Alex Kurtzman, who will be producing The Bride of Frankenstein in 2019, although only holds one feature credit prior to this, which was 2012’s Pupils Like Us, he mostly works as a writer, having been one of the screenplay writers for Star Trek Into Darkness, though he had also written scripts for the phenomenally painful Transformers films, well at least the first two anyway. How does his term as a director stand however and does The Mummy give us faith in the Dark Universe?
The Mummy starts by giving us the back story of the daughter of the Pharaoh Ahmanet, (played by Sofia Boutella), who in her lust for power, made a deal with the God of Death Set and murdered her father and newborn brother and her punishment was mummified alive after failing to perform a ritual to bring Set into the mortal world. Several centuries later, two treasure hunters Nick Morton and Chris Vail, (played by Tom Cruise and Jake Johnson) on a trail of a map that they stole, discover her tomb in Iraq, though the map’s original owner Jenny, (played by Annabelle Wallis) comes to them with the intention of taking it back to her employer. However, after a plane crash, it soon becomes clear that Ahmanet has chosen Nick to be her new sacrifice to bring Set into the mortal world, but she is captured by a new organisation, led by Dr Henry Jekyll (played by Russell Crowe), however, this organisation may not necessarily be able to hold her though, as her powers grow and will she be able to perform the ritual to bring Set into the mortal world.
If there is a way to describe the Mummy, it is that it is very, very complicated and almost unnecessarily so. Don’t get me wrong, The Mummy, has an audience. My girlfriend, who I went to see this with enjoyed the movie, however, at best I could have said it was just ok at times. Its first biggest problem is that a large portion at the beginning of the film is really dull. It really wants to remind you about the Brendan Frasier mummy films, especially the early portions, but it’s not nearly as fun as that film. The first portion feels like you are playing the Stephen Sommers film, but with a dark, dull and moody filter, which fails to recognise what made that film so good. The Mummy was at least a fun movie, it’s very much the definition of what I think a good summer blockbuster is. It also screws up in a couple of places, for example, one comparison between this and the Stephen Sommers film is that both the main villains are mummified alive, but Stephen Sommers actually understood there was a process to mummification, this one just buries her alive, there is no real process to it, you didn’t just automatically mummify if you were born in Egypt. Granted, there are some decent scenes, and I will admit the stuff with the tomb is pretty good, but all things considered, at the end of the day, it’s still rather dull. This is because such a large portion of the early part of the film is devoted to exposition. There is so much exposition in this film and it causes a lot of moments to really drag. The editing doesn’t help, but we will get into that later.
Oh boy, there is a lot more to talk about with this film.
The Mummy is at its best when it is pretending to be a big fast action film, when it’s trying to be a slow burner and set up its Dark Universe, that’s when it feels like it is dragging the most. But, I am at least grateful that this film is giving us some idea of what the Dark Universe could potentially be and that’s what I appreciated most from the film. However, I don’t need that! I just need these films to be completely self-contained. I don’t need Dracula and Frankenstein to exist in the same continuity, I don’t think that’s what Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley were thinking when they were writing their respective books! However, the fact that there was some fun in this film and it didn’t completely emasculate its monster, meant I much preferred this to Dracula Untold and there are definitely some positives to say about that.
Right, when it comes to the positives about the cast, I am going to say it out there, the ones who impressed me the most were: Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella and Jake Johnson, who I all enjoyed. Annabelle Wallis, though she is trying her best, but the material she is given doesn’t do her any justice and I am just going to say it, as much as I like Tom Cruise for the most parts, (I personally have some misgiving about some aspects of his personal life, but I won’t let that affect my judgement) I can’t see him as a character. Any time he gives a performance, you just see Tom Cruise. I have the same effect with Jim Carey and Leonardo Dicaprio and if it wasn’t for Deadpool, even Ryan Reynolds will be starting to get to that point. But with Tom Cruise, it’s really noticeable. In fact he is playing a very similar character to his Mission Impossible character in this film, if that guy was trying to be Brendan Frasier in the Mummy. There’s not really that much else to talk about with the cast, I thought the rest of the cast were half-decent, all things considered.
Now we are going to talk about the effects. Jesus Christ, the effects in this film are all over the place. Some of them are pretty decent, others are phenomenally awful!! It also amazed me how much some of these effects were again trying to replicate the Stephen Sommers film, some of them looked note for note, especially the face appearing out of the dust thing. That’s basically replacing the face out of the sand in the Stephen Sommers film!! The biggest difference, however, is that that film at least had an excuse of the time it came out, this film has been made several years later! Do you want me to judge this film on its own merits or not!
I also want to say that there is no reason to see this film in 3D. I saw the 3D version and I frankly stopped noticing the effects so quickly. Plus, so many scenes are shot at night and in very dark environments, which hinder the 3D because of the darkening effect of the glasses. How many times do I and several other film critics have to say it! 3D is at its best when there are plenty of light, bright environments!!! I would have thought everyone would have got that since 2011’s Priest and it’a appaling 3D conversion.
The action scenes really vary. Some of them are shot pretty well, but some of them are edited appallingly. I am really wondering what the end game has in mind with some of these scenes, because some of them just seemed to stop. Granted a couple of them are quite good, especially the final fight scenes, however, not all of them are really of note.
The Mummy is an interesting experiment and is ok in a quite a few parts, especially the stuff with Dr Jekyll, however it doesn’t change the fact that it is a rather weak and confused film on a technical level. It desperately wants to get people interested in The Dark Universe, but I think it won’t do that good of a job. Though I certainly preferred this film much more to Dracula Untold because at least this film attempted to give me something interesting and didn’t demasculate its monster.
I think it’s worth at least one viewing, but I wouldn’t rush back to see this ever again, I just thought this film was ok at times, but a bit of a technical mess. I think Tom Cruise tries his best, but once again, I don’t see him as anything other than himself, I have really struggled to see this guy as a character. This films biggest problem is that it doesn’t separate itself enough, (with the exception of the parts that are meant to set up the idea of the shared Universe) from the film that was directed by Stephen Sommers and starred Brendan Frasier, which meant it was very hard to take as a film on its own merits. See it if you must, but I think there are better blockbusters coming out next month which will be worth saving your money for.
And here’s my colleague Ren’s review of it
If you haven’t heard of it already it should certainly be on your radar by now.
Universal Studios have launched their own movie franchise, titled ‘Dark Universe’, undoubtedly to rival the surge in popularity in recent years of the Marvel and DC cinematic universes.
The Dark Universe seeks to unite several of the most well-known horror icons into a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-esque series of films, the first of which being The Mummy.
The Mummy actually originated in the early 1930s – a pursuit of Universal Studios to embrace the rising popularity of ancient Egypt in pop culture at the time, 10 years after the discovery of the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, and the alleged curse bound to his resting place… The 1932 production gained instant recognition, and is justifiably regarded as one of the most recognisable horror films of the modern cinematic era.
Following on from the tale’s original iteration came two further franchises before the one we see in cinemas today, but I’m sad to say that this one falls woefully short of the 1999 – 2008 comedic action trilogy I’m sure we’re all familiar with.
The film follows the US forces’ resident treasure hunters Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Sgt. Vail (Jake Johnson) as they plunge headlong into a rebel-held village in the Middle East. The escapade lands them in the deep end, as they are suppressed and forced to flee by enemy fire, prompting them to call in an air strike for support. Missiles bombard the village in a rather spectacular display of pyrotechnics, and as the resultant explosion hits, a rift in the desert opens up, and what seems to be an ancient Egyptian tomb is unearthed.
Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) arrives on the scene as an archaeological consult to examine the tomb, prompting Morton and Vail to enter and explore its forgotten depths.
Shortly, the party encounters what seems to be a pool of mercury (believed by the Egyptians to act as a nullifier for evil forces), warded by a ring humanoid jackal statues (representative of the god Anubis, who guards the afterlife) facing inward to the pool. What the explorers soon find out, is that within the mercury is housed a warped sarcophagi, kept beneath the pool by a chain and pulley system. Immediately after, Morton suffers a strange vision: A woman in the desert beckoning him,
Informed by Colonel Greenway (Courtney B. Vance) that the forces holding the village need to withdraw due to an approaching sandstorm, Morton makes the snap decision to release the sarcophagi from the pool. As they do this, scorpions emerge from the shadows of the tomb and swarm the group, wounding Vail with their venom. With Vail in tow, Morton and Halsey escape the tomb as the sarcophagi is secured with the intention of transporting it back to Cairo for research.
However, all does not go according to plan…
The venom brought on from Sgt. Vail’s wound causes him to expire, and soon after his corpse is reanimated, attacking and killing the Colonel. This forces Morton to put down his long-time friend. As he does this, a huge murder of crows flies headlong into the aircraft, causing it to crash over England. Morton manages to attach a parachute Halsey as the craft careens toward the ground, saving her, but ultimately resulting in his own death.
(Most of the events beyond this point are fairly spoilerific, so I’ll touch only on the details)
Morton awakes to the cold embrace of a body bag, managing to remove himself, he finds himself in a morgue. Halsey is present to identify the bodies, enters the morgue and finds Morton, who suffers further delirious visions in the form of his deceased friend, Vail.
Invited to a shadowy organisation, dealing with borderline mythological threats, Morton and Halsey meet Dr Jekyll (Russel Crowe), who informs the two that the Mummy inside the sarcophagus (Sofia Boutella) is an ancient princess, struck from historical records, who made a pact with the dark god Set in order to manifest him in human form. Thus, Morton, Halsey and the organisation must contain the threat of the Mummy, so as to prevent the incarnation of evil being brought to the world.
So, going into the cinema, I expected a jaunty, quirky adventure with as much character as the ’99 film, starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz – sadly, I was left disappointed.
Universal’s attempt to shoehorn Cruise into the stereotype of dashing rogue felt forced, a flaw that was highlighted in a modern setting. The trope has been done to death unfortunately, Harrison Ford probably portraying the most iconic characters in this role in Han Solo and Indiana Jones. While it was a good attempt to make Morton an engaging character, they tried to add depth through commentary and a love interest in the form of Halsey. This ultimately culminates in an unsatisfying conclusion at the end of the film, but one that nonetheless hints toward the future of the franchise.
The narrative structure the movie chose to embrace was fractured and hard to follow. As Morton struggles to free himself of the Mummy’s curse, he has visions of his dead friend Vail, who attempts to lure Morton into the grasp of the Mummy to complete the prophecy. What I think the writers were trying to achieve with this approach was a sense of duality: whether the thoughts in Morton’s head were actually his own, or if it was the curse gnawing at the back of his mind. In practice however, this attempt to control the narrative simply left me confused. Not confused in the sense I described before, but confused because it was well…confusing, and also made little sense.
One of the good things about the film were the special effects and action scenes. The Mummy was a physically repulsive creature in herself, and the undead legions she commanded were truly horrific. You will have seen in the trailer, but this film contains an underwater zombie chase scene (very enjoyable and serves well for pacing). In addition to this, there were some scenes in the film that I genuinely did not anticipate, and in terms of creativity, these areas would have been nice to see some expansion.
In particular, I’m referring to the prevalence of the organisation within the film. When Halsey and Morton are taken to the organisation HQ, we catch glimpses of classic horror tropes (a fanged human skull, a webbed hand, and several other references stuck in rather clever places) stored in laboratories and storage cases. The organisation sets itself up to be a unifying feature between the Dark Universe movies to come, and is without doubt the place to look to for information regarding future films in the franchise.
In terms of acting, Sofia Boutella’s portrayal of the Mummy was worthy of note. With her only well-known performances being in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond, she is a budding talent in terms of A-List productions. Her body acting in this role was, as we have seen in the past, excellent, suiting her movements well to those of an ancient Egyptian mummy (as best as one can).
Unfortunately, I don’t think many aspects of the writing allowed the actors to embrace their full repertoire. Russell Crowe, for example. An excellent actor left festering in the wake of poor writing and singular character motivations; a sacrifice in the name of laying the plot for future films.
So all in all, The Mummy was a pretty shoddy way to kickstart Universal’s latest venture – I sincerely hope that the coming additions to the franchise will show greater mettle (The Bride of Frankenstein is looking at Angelina Jolie to portray the titular character, and The Invisible Man is also set to star Johnny Depp, with such great actors they certainly have potential!), because in all honesty, The Mummy possessed no charm, did not engage the viewer, and was fragmented and difficult to follow.
I would not recommend paying to see this film.
Well that’s a negative review after two very positive reviews, so you are probably hoping I am going to get something positive for next week, WELL, TOO BAD FOR THAT, because next time we are doing Transformers the Last Knight and believe me, the trailers make it look like this one is going to be painful.
Calvin – Nerd Consultant
Share This Post: