WARNING! SPOILERS CONTAINED WITHIN! WARNING!
I’ve never been a fan of the Mummy, it’s one of my least favorite movie monsters, up there with Frankenstein’s monster, and I’ve never been a Tom Cruise fan, having said that the only two mummy movies I own is Hammer Films’ The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb (1964) and Frankenstein Vs The Mummy (2015)—for reasons I cannot put into words I find that Hammer flick fun to watch, concerning the latter you can find my thoughts on that one here for I reviewed it—and the only Tom Cruise flick I own is Edge Of Tomorrow (2014), for more reasons I still cannot put into words Cruise works completely for me in the context of that flick. I’ve seen the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies, and they did nothing for me simply based on the fact Universal refused to embrace the horror of their Universal Monsters legacy and instead decided to do an action-adventure laced with out-of-place comedy. I give the those two flicks points, however, for going the period piece route.
This new Mummy movie, which stars Tom Cruise (I did a double take when I heard he was starring), is supposed to be the beginning of a series of new, interconnected Universal Monster flicks they’re calling the Dark Universe. I really am sick of Hollywood creating all these shared universes, but I’ll admit when I heard about this Dark Universe I wasn’t as incensed as I normally would have been, because Universal has basically done it before (i.e. Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, House Of Frankenstein, House Of Dracula), so, yeah, it makes sense they would want start a new one. Also when I heard that news I just knew they were still going to make them PG-13 action/comedy/horror hybrids. I generally have nothing against PG-13 action/comedy/horror hybrids, or even just plain PG-13 horror (The Gate and Monster Squad are a perfect example of how to do that right), but when they get around to remaking The Wolf Man again . . . I don’t know, have you ever seen a good PG-13 werewolf movie? In fact I can’t even think of one at the moment. Most worthwhile werewolf movies are R-rated, and for good reason, the werewolf is inherently an R-rated monster and I’m not sure I want to see The Wolf Man constricted like that. Personally, I think, The Wolfman (2010) should have been the template for this Dark Universe franchise, but as I understand it since that failed to make the cut at the box office Universal thinks R-rated period monster movies are useless. So, we’re now going to get modern day PG-13 action/comedy/horror hybrids, with big name stars that basically pushes the monsters to the background of their own movies in a way. I mean, come on, when you think about this new mummy movie what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? I don’t know about you, but the first thing that comes to my mind is ‘that Tom Cruise mummy movie.’ I don’t know, maybe, I’m thinking about this all wrong, I mean, The Wolfman (2010) had Benicio Del Toro and superstar, Anthony Hopkins in it.
A few hours ago I watched all the extra features on the disc, and despite it having all the earmarks of what I knew a “Tom Cruise Mummy” movie would look like, in front and behind the camera, the film didn’t look as bad as most reviewers and moviegoers said it was this summer. I’m just moments away from heading into the bedroom and settling down with the flick, and whatever it is I’m about to witness, be it great, terrible or mediocre, right now I’m just praying it’s better than the Brendan Fraser ones.
The first review I came across this past summer was from episode #54 of Shockwave’s podcast; Rob Galluzo and Ryan Turek had seen it before it was released and the one thing that stuck in my mind was how they described Tom Cruise’s performance, like he was doing Bruce Campbell, well, now that I’ve finally seen the movie, I have to agree, it felt like he was trying to mimic Campbell’s Evil Dead character, Ash Williams, which will give you some idea at the kind of comedy you’ll be dealing with in this flick. I do feel Cruise was miscast in this, but in the extra features you’ll learn Universal wanted him for the movie and not the other way around, which is what I always assumed, that Cruise went after this role.
The movie’s mummy this time around is a woman by the name of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), in flashbacks we learn how evil she was and to make sure all the power was hers she made a pact with the Devil (aka Set, God Of Death) that turned her into a living demon. In this form she killed her father, her mother and the child they had, because that child would have been heir to their crown. Her ultimate goal afterwards was to bring Set down to earth by performing a ceremony with a special jewel-tipped dagger she needed to plunge into someone, but this ceremony was interrupted and Ahmanet was entombed alive and buried in a secret place.
Cruise is Sergeant Nick Morton and his buddy Jake Johnson is Corporal Chris Vail, both of these men are tomb looters who sell what they unearth on the black market. It’s during a recent looting and subsequent combat with insurgents that Ahmanet’s tomb is unearthed. Annabelle Wallis is Jennifer Halsey, an archaeologist who’s been looking for her tomb for some time, and had a map to it Nick took after they had a one night stand. This is the starting basis for their relationship. Vail is basically comic relief, but so is Morton, just not all the time.
Morton is cursed the instant Ahmanet’s sarcophagus is unearthed making him the future vessel of Set once Ahmanet gets her ass out into the world and has that dagger back in hand. It’s no surprise Vail is killed off early having been “possessed” and forcing Morton’s hand to shoot him dead on the plane they’re transporting Ahmanet’s sarcophagus in.
The other major character in this flick is Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), the head of this secret society called, Prodigium. They hunt down monsters, study them, then kill them. A tour of his specimen room will reveal the hand of a Gillman, the skull of a vampire and later on the very quick reveal of an ancient Egyptian book that looked like the same one in one of the Mummy movies from the 90s, a tell tale sign those movies are in the same universe as this one.
Crowe makes an interesting Jekyll and you shouldn’t be surprised his alter ego Hyde has a fight with Morton in their secret headquarters in London. I remember a lot of those two 90s Mummy movies taking place in the desert and in a jungle, this new one takes place mostly in and under London.
For horror buffs this movie also comes equipped with some obvious influences from two other well known cult horror flicks, namely An American Werewolf In London (1981) and Lifeforce (1985). If you consider those two films favorites, then you’ll recognize the homages instantly. With John Landis’ movie it’s Nick being visited by his now undead buddy Vail, whose rotting gets worse every time he sees him, but it never gets as extreme as Jack’s, not by a long shot, and his appearances are only limited to two or three visits. With Tobe Hooper’s movie it comes in the form of the dead bodies and how they get that way by Ahmanet. She has the ability to suck anyone’s lifeforce from their body through a kiss, exactly how the space vampire in Hooper’s flick got her lifeforce fix, and the bodies drained of energy rise again also like they did in Lifeforce. Hooper and the FX team dubbed their newly risen dead “the walking shriveled,” and for all intents and purposes the newly risen dead in this Mummy movie are the walking shriveled revisited! Some of them move in the same herky-jerky motion and their growls are almost reminiscent of them too.
There’s a scene in Lifeforce in the final act that has Carlsen (Steve Railsback) driving into post-apocalyptic London looking for that space vampire chick, but his main obstacles are the multitudes of walking shriveled that constantly attack his truck. One of these bastards reaches in wraps its arm around Carlsen’s head. He guns the engine, the shriveled falls off, but not before his arm tears away. Carlsen holds it up nicely to the camera so we can see its twitching fingers before he tosses it out the window. In the Mummy, Nick and Jenny are racing away from Ahmanet somewhere in the countryside, but her “walking shriveled” (now done in CGI) keep attacking the truck, and, yes, one of them reaches in and grabs Nick, before he runs the body into the side of a tree leaving it’s arm behind. Nick quickly tosses it out the window.
Just for the record I didn’t hate any of these “homages.”
My only real complaint is the ending in that I wish it was more downbeat. Not only is Vail killed, but at the end, Jenny dies too, by drowning, but if Nick welcomes Set into his body he’ll have the power to resurrect the dead, so he sacrifices his humanity, becomes some kind of God-demon thing, and brings Jenny back to life. In the final moments we see Vail and Nick back out on the desert with Vail thanking him for bringing him back to life. Those two deaths should have kept; it would have added much needed gravitas to the movie.
This film tanked this summer, so who knows if we’ll ever see that second chapter the movie leaves us hanging on, because Nick is now a human fighting his monster side, and Jekyll wonders if that’s what they need to fight monsters now, another monster.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.40:1 high definition widescreen—English Dolby Atmos, 7.1 English Dolby TrueHD, 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital, 5.1 French Dolby Digital—English SDH, French, Spanish subs
Extras included . . .
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (4 scenes/4:52)
- Cruise & Kurtzman: A Conversation (21:15)
- Rooted in Reality (6:52)
- Life in Zero-G: Creating the Plane Crash (7:32)
- Meet Ahmanet (7:39)
- Cruise in Action (6:09)
- Becoming Jekyll and Hyde (7:10)
- Choreographed Chaos (6:35)
- Nick Morton: In Search of a Soul (5:43)
- Ahmanet Reborn Animated Graphic Novel (3:52)
- Feature Commentary with Director/Producer Alex Kurtzman and Cast Members Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, and Jake Johnson
Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed this flick, and found it immensely more entertaining than the Fraser mummy flicks, meaning, yes, I’ll be adding it to my collection, since I can see myself being in the mood to watch it again.