Enter The Mummy, Universal’s attempt to kickstart their own “Dark Universe” (DU), made up of all the classic Universal monsters. Yes, you read that right. Universal wants to place characters like Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and The Mummy in the same shared universe. So how does this first film do at laying down the foundation for the rest of the cinematic universe? Not particularly well.
Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, a member of the U.S. army who finds and sells ancient artifacts on the black market. Morton stumbles upon what appears to be an Egyptian tomb in the middle of Iraq, using a map he stole from scientist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis). Halsey is working for Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), a scientist and genius determined to find and destroy sources of evil in the world. However, evil becomes a more challenging foe than any of them could have expected when the tomb releases Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a mummified princess with the power to imbue someone with the powers of an ancient and evil god.
The Mummy feels eerily similar to watching someone play a mediocre Tomb Raider or Uncharted video game. The characters aren’t particularly interesting, expository dialogue comes at you in huge and clunky waves and action set-pieces happen so rapidly and back-to-back that it's hard to keep track of what is actually happening in them. And non-stop action wouldn’t necessarily have been a problem if these scenes had been shot with any clarity. But the camerawork and choreography in the action set pieces are shoddily put together, resulting in a product more confusing than it is thrilling.
The dullness of the characters certainly doesn’t help either. Even Tom Cruise, whose charm usually bursts through otherwise sluggish scripts, flounders under the film’s overall dreary nature. The only solace comes when the film occasionally embracing the horror roots of the original 1932 Mummy film, creating some genuinely interesting and horrific horror imagery. There is a sequence involving Tom Cruise being attacked by rats that actually made me squirm. Add to that a couple of actually really nice shots (a flashback sequence involving Ahmanet training in the Egyptian desert comes to mind), and the film shifts from being extremely boring to fairly boring with occasional relief.
I’m not going to lie, The Mummy was less bad than I expected. It was more of an innocuous bad than an offensive bad, the kind of movie that leaves little impact on both the positive and negative spectrum. It exists. Maybe other movies in the DU will have more of an impact and create a fun cinematic universe, but this isn’t a great start.