Now I liked the old Brenden Fraser movies but I wasn’t so in love with them that I wanted this movie to fail. This was actually one of the few reboots that I was okay with, as the trailers looked intriguing. Plus this movie has the pressure of “launching” the Dark Universe, the cinematic universe of all of the popular Universal monsters. I say “launching” in quotes because both I, Frankenstein and Dracula Untold were supposed to be launching points for that universe as well. Does this one manage to impress?
We meet Tom Cruise as a looter who visits ancient burial sites and sells the artifacts to the black market, alongside his buddy played by Jake Johnson (who is surprisingly cowardly for being in this line of work). Due to a clue stolen from a researcher played by Annabelle Wallis, they stumble into the burial site of an ancient evil (played by Sofia Boutella). This evil is corrupting everything, include Cruise’s character who is inexplicably drawn to her. We are also joined by Russell Crowe, who leads a team of researchers and soldiers trained specifically to deal with monsters like this (and who will be the uniting factor between these “Dark Universe” films).
I was intrigued by these trailers because it looked legitimately creepy. I wasn’t disappointed, this movie veered much closer to the horror than the Fraser franchise did. If you’re afraid of rats, birds, or spiders, you’ll have a hard time here. The imagery is vivid and unique, with some major setpieces that are pretty awesome (though mostly given away in the trailers). If you see this movie, it should be because you want some cool sequences and maybe a few jump scares.
A lot of this rides on the title character, played by Sofia Boutella (who was one of the coolest things about The Kingsmen). She has enough of a backstory to understand her motivation but she really kills it (pun intended) in the current day, coming off as menacing and incredibly powerful. A lot of movies don’t do the villain justice but here… they luckily focused on the right things and the mummy herself was a highlight of the film.
This movie also sets up the “Dark Universe” is a really interesting way with tons of easter eggs for fans of these classic monster movies. I’m excited and hoping that this movie actually is the launching point, though Russell Crowe was probably the weakest part of the world-building aspect.
I also enjoyed Cruise here, who wasn’t the badass we usually see in these action movies. He’s a bumbling idiot a lot of the time. He doesn’t know how to really use a gun, he can’t fight. He is just trying to survive and it was a refreshing take.
This movie has been taking a lot of heat from critics but I don’t think it’s that bad. It’s not great, at all, but there are only a few glaring mistakes.
While Cruise and Boutella get plenty of moments to shine, the other supporting cast don’t get as much love. Like I said above, Russell Crowe is essential in setting up the larger world but what they do with his character is… odd. Forced. I won’t spoil who he plays, if you haven’t heard, but they made a few choices here that would’ve been better used later in the franchise, as they felt shoe-horned in and unnecessary.
And then we have the obligatory love interest in Annabelle Wallis and the comedic relief Jake Johnson. Both of these characters slowed the movie to a halt and did everything in their power to ruin any momentum. They weren’t given much to do, other than serve their very superficial purpose, and Wallis especially had plenty of moments that felt unearned, like a love story all of a sudden made sense in the midst of a world-ending catastrophe.
The movie’s final act also lost some momentum, as the bright and vivid setpieces gave way to a superhero-like climax in a dark cavern, where everything was dark and muted and the movie’s tone drastically shifted. Even the film’s closing moments felt like they were from a different movie.
This isn’t great but it’s not terrible. I enjoyed myself for most of it actually, with some really cool moments and plenty of creepy sequences that had me on the edge of my seat. Sofia Boutella shines as the villain, while Cruise delivers a performance unlike anything we’ve seen from him recently. The world-building is intriguing and I’m excited for what comes next from Universal’s new cinematic universe.