Universal Studios concerned at being left out of the monster/superhero franchise race, announced ambitious plans for a “Dark Universe”, populated with monsters from cinematic and literary history.
“The Mummy” represented the springboard for further films, ultimately stitching together an eclectic team including Dr Jekyll, Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein etc, etc.
Enlisting Tom Cruise usually guarantees a certain built in audience, if you then add Russell Crowe, two beautiful female actresses Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella and mix in a big budget with state of the art effects, what could possibly go wrong?
The opening scenes sketch out an ancient Egyptian curse which is always a good place to start, moving into a modern day military buddy, buddy sequence with “Nick” (Cruise) and his sergeant “Jake” (Jake Johnson), discovering a lost tomb following an event.
What follows is an enjoyable first hour including a stand out sequence aboard a doomed cargo plane. Incidentally, some of the interior shots were created for real by inducing a Zero gravity effect via the Vomit Comet.
However, the film reaches a screeching halt once the immortal words are uttered by Crowe “I am Dr Jekyll”. From this point onward the film becomes confused and loses direction, albeit no fault of Crowe’s acting. The story takes one strange turn after another before finally admitting defeat and wrapping up with an ambiguous ending.
The effects as you would expect are state of the art but serve no purpose other than to be impressive CGI show reels of un-dead being eviscerated around modern London streets.
Cruise plays against type, attempting an Indiana Jones, Han Solo type character who doesn’t care, yet muddles his way through anyway, inverting his usual onscreen persona. Both Wallis and Boutella are game enough to make a good impression but the story and direction leave the cast with nothing to work with.
A long way from the comedic and relatively sunny, Indiana Jones lite approach of the early Brendan Fraser “Mummy” franchise. A pity as this feels like a missed opportunity to re-energize characters audiences clearly enjoyed before.
Like many films during the 2017 blockbuster season, audiences must wonder where all the new ideas have gone. The slate has been full of franchises, remakes, prequels, re-imaginings etc. With the number of books on the market each year exponentially increasing, surely there are new ideas worth backing.
As always it’s about money, if you are spending $125m plus as much again for advertising, you need to be certain of a return and any of the above permutations can “guarantee” that back end. This film was poorly received by audiences and critics alike yet still took $410m worldwide, proving weak films with a built in audience still make money.
A disappointing film overall moving from a 4 star rating at the halfway point to 2.5 towards the conclusion, giving an overall average rating.
Unfortunately if press reports are to be believed, the Mummy has continued it’s curse by effectively killing the Dark Universe franchise even before it could escape the tomb.