Every studio has a franchise, and Universal wants in on the Marvel-ous action using their roster of classic “Universal Monsters.” They made attempts with “The Wolfman” in 2010 with Benicio Del Toro playing the accursed Lawrence Talbot; then more pointedly in 2014 with “Dracula Untold” starring Luke Evans. Neither film fared well (although notoriously undemanding Cinemascope.com viewers gave “Dracula Untold” an A-), but Universal was undeterred – it was going to have itself a “Dark Universe” cinematic franchise, regardless.
So Universal coughed up some additional bucks over “Dracula Untold” to enlist the likes of Tom Cruise (Nick Morton) and Russell Crowe (Dr. Henry Jekyll… see what they did there?) to ensure “The Mummy” 2017 wasn’t just expensive (as was “The Wolfman” with a budget of $150 million – in 2010, no less), but was actually a hit. However, they weren’t quite sure what to do with Cruise, as their schizophrenic trailers for “The Mummy” showed: was this going to be campy fun like Branden Frasier’s versions, or scary, or …what?
Cruise plays against his usual type as Morton is only in it for the money, digging up treasures and selling them to the highest bidder. He even sleeps with Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) just to steal a map from her leading to his latest bounty. Wallis’ Jenny is highly educated and could certainly show Morton a thing or two, but she’s too busy being a damsel in distress.
Since Cruise must always end up a being good-looking nice guy in the end, a love interest is forced between the two, allowing Cruise to become the embodiment of evil with a winning smile and casual mop of hair.
That does leave the titular mummy herself Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) to play second fiddle (maybe even third?) in her own movie. It doesn’t help that she’s unnecessarily sexualized, and marginalized; turns out the mummy is only a messenger, using Cruise as her “chosen vessel” for creating an evil even worse than herself.
Although there are riveting action sequences there’s also distracting subplots involving Crowe’s Jekyll and clumsy comedy relief à la “An American Werewolf in London” provided by Jake Johnson’s Chris Vail.
But with some scares being played for creeps and others up for laughs but few succeeding on either front, “The Mummy” is a lackluster beginning to a Dark Universe that is supposed to include as many as 12 titles so far.
THE MUMMY (2017) TRAILER: