White-Knuckle Action and Ghoulish Scares
As the undead do, Universalís stable of legendary monsters rises from the cloak of darkness in the form of The Mummy, which is to be the first chapter in what the studio is calling the Dark Universe, its very own version of a cinematic franchise. Hey, Disney, Warner, and others have their own, so why not Universal? In the upcoming series of crossover films, Johnny Depp is slated to appear as The Invisible Man, while Javier Bardem will become Frankensteinís monster, with Angelina rumored to be the titular character in The Bride of Frankenstein which is set to follow up The Mummy with a 2019 release.
Though it is not known how quick Universal will be to pull the plug on the franchise should The Mummy completely unravel at the weekend box office -- or if it will plow forward regardless, it should be known that the first out of the can makes for an exciting summer night at the movies with plenty of white-knuckle action, ghoulishly orchestrated scares, and some wildly imaginative set pieces we guarantee youíve never seen before. Splurge on that bucket of soda and giant box of Goobers, but most importantly, enjoy your popcorn with The Mummy.
If thereís one thing we can all agree on about Tom Cruise, itís that he never mails in a performance. Though his character in The Mummy feels somewhat underwritten, the actor dives in with that signature Cruise charm and unrelenting gusto. He is soldier of fortune/tomb raider Nick Morton, who along with partner-in-crime Chris Vail (Joshua Johnson), accidentally unleash the cursed Queen Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) from her burial chamber beneath the sands of ancient Mesopotamia (now modern day-Iraq).
We learn that Ahmanet was once first in line to the throne of Egypt, but became angered after her father took another wife and bore a son who supersedes Ahmanetís ascension to head of the Egyptian empire. Banished to the tomb for centuries, Ahmanetís curse is unleashed upon the modern world when Nick and Chris, along with renowned Egyptologist Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), unearth the dark queenís sarcophagus and take it to England for study. Itís in modern day London that the immortal Queen Ahmanetís body is freed to unleash a holy hell upon the city.
The first thing of note about The Mummy is that despite his top-billing, Cruise isnít actually the main character, nor do we really get to know that much about him. The story is centered on its primary female characters. As the recently released Queen, Boutella is very good in the role. Though her character mostly serves as a narrative device and never really gets to become her own thing, Boutella slips seamlessly into character and unleashes her own special kind of wrath upon her unknowing victims. From her disturbing herky-jerky movements as she first emerges from her thousand-year slumber, to her ďundead kiss,Ē sheís both sexy and downright frightening as hell at the same time. And it certainly doesnít hurt that we feel a certain amount of sympathy to her plight. We both love and fear her at the same time. Unfortunately, Wallis is mostly one note and hardly ever emotes, but occasionally hits on flourishes of chemistry with Cruise.
The Mummy really begins to gain momentum as it approaches its third act. We learn of The Prodigium, a secret monster-studying organization that is the home of Dr. Henry Jekyll (an excellent Russell Crowe) and which will serve as the nerve center and connective tissue for all future installments. Thereís also a captivating underwater sequence that features a gaggle of swimming corpses, that will have you struggling to hold your breath as it plays out.
The Mummyís script, from writers David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie, does an excellent job of injecting the story with plenty of nightmarish scares and tons of self-aware enjoyment. And itís pretty darn funny too. Admittedly, it could use a bit more heart and soul, and a higher level science fiction relevance. But as it is, itís clear that Koepp and McQuarrie know what they have here and manage to embalm their ghoulish story in the putrid brew of classic Universal horror, while keeping it fresh with one severed foot in the modern age.
Thankfully, The Mummy never takes itself too seriously, and neither should you.
Beware you mere mortals, The Dark Universe is underway. And for my money, I couldnít ask for a better way to unearth the cinematic souls of yesteryear
(Released by Universal Studios and rated ďPG-13Ē for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.