As hard as I tried to check my expectations at the door for The Mummy, I just couldn’t do it. In the weeks preceding its release, it became impossible to turn my head whenever some advertisement or report appeared on TV or the Internet. The impression left on me was not promising. Instead of the horror reboot Universal Pictures kept claiming they produced, it looked more like another Indiana Jones-lite action adventure with Tom Cruise replacing Brendan Fraser.
After finally seeing the movie earlier this week, I must say I was not wrong to have concerns. However, they were misdirected. The Mummy was not exactly what I expected. Yes, there were scenes of action and explosions, but mostly during the early part of the movie. The feeling that I had already seen the entire movie in its trailers disappeared after the characters were established and the plot was set in motion. After that, I didn’t know what was coming next.
Further, it turns out that the action scenes were not my least favorite of the movie. My least favorite scenes would be those when The Mummy attempts to be funny and, unfortunately, that is during a sizeable portion of its 110-minute running time. Witty banter between Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) is strained and poorly timed, as if allowing pauses for the audience to laugh (which the one at the screening I attended rarely did.)
On the other hand, the horror elements are indeed a large part of the movie. Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) is a formidable monster that maintains its physical appearance as a mummy through the entire story. Director Alex Kurtzman incorporates camera trickery common in today’s horror films, like the jerky movements of Ahmanet and other living dead creatures as they rise and begin wreaking havoc.
A good deal of the time, The Mummy successfully conveys an atmosphere of fear and dread. As much as we see on screen, there’s an even greater threat that we don’t see. Ahmanet is bad, but she’s trying to unleash an evil worse than her. She was foiled during her attempt to do it when she was living in ancient Egypt, and she’s being foiled now by Morton and Halsey. Along the way, we’re treated to several scenes shot as if they belonged in a pure horror movie.
Coming a week after Wonder Woman, it’s interesting to note the gender reversal in The Mummy. I wouldn’t say Ahmanet is a feminist monster, but Morton definitely replaces the typical woman victim, inheriting a curse when he releases the mummy. She influences his thoughts and knocks him around as he pretty much becomes her bitch. The conflict is within Morton. He’s a cad already, but will the man he is inside emerge to save the day?
You can piece together the plot by what little I’ve just said about it. I’ll add, however, that the action revolves around a dagger that will allow Ahmanet to realize her plan and the jewel that empowers it. Destroying the jewel may prevent Ahmanet from destroying the world, or at least London. The climax is relatively restrained for a summer blockbuster and is preceded by a terrific underwater sequence.
What of this being the first movie in a “Dark Universe” of monster movies? The genesis of a shared universe is no surprise; there’s nothing we learn about it in the movie that we don’t already know. Therefore, it’s irrelevant to whether or not you enjoy The Mummy. Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) runs a secret organization called “Prodigium” that recognizes, contains, examines and destroys evil. It’s a simple way to relate disparate movies in different eras without sharing characters.
Jekyll was a disappointment. Yes, he changes into Mr. Hyde for a few moments, but the effect is lackluster, providing only another opportunity for Morton to get knocked around. (I guess if you don’t like Cruise and would like to see him get beat up, this is the movie for you.) The circumstances surrounding the mission of Prodigium are clever, but we don’t know much about the man himself. Frankly, Crowe is so uninteresting that I don’t care to know more.
If we press the “mix” button on this blender, what do we get? The Mummy is a hybrid with less action, but more horror, than we’ve been led to believe. That’s a good thing. However, it mostly fails in its attempts to use humor and to take advantage of a second classic horror icon. That’s a bad thing. Overall, though, it is a fun movie that I enjoyed. To say it’s not as bad as I expected isn’t necessarily glowing praise, but sometimes it’s the best praise you can give.