Yes. Pushing my way through the tide of negative reviews tabulated by Rotten Tomatoes, I watched the new Mummy movie on Friday night. Honestly, I had little choice in the matter to begin with due to, you know, monsters. Draped in my mummy t-shirt (yes I have a shirt with a mummy on it, don’t judge), and my love for Universal monsters, I plopped in my red velvet seat with large popcorn and fabulously overpriced soft drink to enjoy the first in a new line of Universal monster movies labeled as Dark Universe. Enjoy it I did…with a few caveats. Spoilers will follow.
First of all. The new Mummy movie is not a remake of the original Boris Karloff movie, nor the adventure/horror/comedy Mummy movie from 1999, although it borrows a bit from both. Director Alex Kurtzman attempts to straddle the line between horror and adventure movie while not really standing out as either. I can understand the reason for the balancing act. Universal is obviously shooting for the widest possible audience for the Dark Universe movies, and can’t go full R rated horror, while also not wanting to water down the DNA of horror found in the original monster movies. People may forget that the original Frankenstein movie was genuinely frightening at the time it was released, likewise several of the other monsters. However, monster movies are a niche (granted a big niche) genre and Universal has visions of Marvel sized box office bills dancing in their collective heads. It may simply not be meant to be. Please don’t stop trying on my behalf. I will gladly sit through all the attempts to make Universal monsters bigger than Batman.
There are several times in the movie that you can see Kurtzman genuinely trying to bring some of that old monster magic, the horror and atmosphere, into the picture. The start of the rebirth of the mummy once she is released from her coffin prison as she sucks the life from others, and awkwardly rises from the ground during a moonlit night, the turning of Dr. Jekyll into full Hyde mode (though I would have appreciated a more beastly form for the alter ego), the meeting in the alley between Nick and the mummy involving a horde of rats, the small army of skeletal Knights Templar arisen from their tombs to aid the mummy. The action scenes are done well, except for the zombie fight at the old abbey. The struggle is a bit hard to follow due to the dark lighting. The zombie themselves are shadowed and this makes it difficult to distinguish what is actually happening. I did enjoy the brittleness of the zombie’s with all the punching through bodies and smashing heads going on, I could tell that much.
The story and dialog have been endlessly derided, but I didn’t find it horrendous. It did the job most of the time and even had a dash of amusing bits thrown in (most likely from Christopher McQuarrie and David Koepp among a plethora of writers). The whole thing certainly could have flowed better, and I am not sure if we needed all the flashback/dream sequences, or some of the Jekyll stuff, but I know why it was there. Overall the movie makes a good launching point for the other monster movies to follow. I have faith that stronger directors will be able to hone the pictures for to their distinct visions. Nothing against Kurtzman, but he does not, at this time, have the singular vision/style of a John Carpenter or Guillermo Del Toro.
Tom Cruise does about what you would expect, which is good. I liked him in the role of Nick enough. Russel Crowe does not get to do much, but you can tell he wants to sink his teeth into the Hyde part more (to which I say bring it on), though he plays the good Dr. Jekyll well. Sofia Boutella is wonderful as the mummy in the title. The scenes where she is captured and chained are most effective. I wish she would have had the opportunity to play the shambling mummy more instead of the CGI mummy taking her part, but that is the world we live in now. The rest of the cast was on point, if nothing else. At least no one seemed to be phoning it in.
In the end, Tom Cruise’s character gains the power of the mummy. Although the curse threatens to overwhelm him, he retains the part of humanity that keeps him mostly good. We don’t see much of him after his turn, but we are expected to consider him a monster. I hope that in future movies we get to see the change. We can’t have a man carrying the curse of the mummy inside of him continuing to look like the immaculate Tom Cruise. I have a few suggestions.
His body should show a monstrous change. Because this dark and evil force is inside of him, Nick’s body should slowly be decaying and cracking as it can barely contain such a powerful darkness. Perhaps a chunk of his fleshly cheek is missing, there is a gash in his neck and various other small fissures across his body. He must hide them with bandages and strategic placed items of clothing…slowing turning into a mummy in form as well as function. His powers must also be toned down. It appears at the end of the movie, that Nick can resurrect the dead back to fully living as whole beings with ease. There must be a cost or a limit, otherwise power creep will settle into the other movies and we won’t be able to feel for the character anymore, since he seems to be invincible and all-powerful. Bringing his friend and girl back from the dead should be one offs. Let’s say that he can animate skeletons and the dead, but it drains him physically and mentally the more he attempts to do. Sand, of course, can remain his bosom buddy. I would prefer that the next time we see his friend Vail, he should be mostly skeleton and learning to deal with it. While we are at it, lets give Nick that old mummy shamble by hobbling his one leg. It did get broken by the mummy during her final struggles anyway. If Nick doesn’t sport a red fez at some point in his next film then I will be most displeased.
Well, this turned into several more words than I intended. I guess it all boils down to if you like monsters or not. If you like monsters, specially the classic Universal monsters, you will like the new Mummy movie. If you tend to stay away from horror movies and don’t care about monsters, and you expect to see a super hero mummy, or more funny than thrilling mummy movie, or like to find faults in movies that everyone dog piles negative reviews on, than you most likely should stay away from this Mummy movie.
Check your closet before you go to sleep tonight. You never know just what may shamble its way in there while you were unaware.