Universes are all the rage right now. Marvel have their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), DC are moulding their own Extended Universe, even Disney are getting in on the action with Star Wars and the all new spin-offs. Characters spilling over into each other’s films, ensemble team-ups, and stand-alone backstories. Studios see nothing but dollar signs as they churn out the next instalment to slot into their grand Universe puzzle. And now Universal Pictures have decided they want a piece of the pie, by delving into their back catalogue of classic horror characters, and creating: The Dark Universe.
You should already be familiar with the classic Universal Monsters: The Phantom of the Opera, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolfman, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Invisible Man. These were productions unleashed by Universal spanning from the 1920s through to the 1950s. Undoubtedly the most recognisable was Bela Lugosi’ Dracula, but Universal have chosen to kick-start their new Universe by revisiting perhaps its most iconic character: The Mummy. The 1932 Boris Karloff movie is an absolute classic, and was remade into a trilogy in 1999 – 2002 with even more cheese and extremely dodgy CGI. A good choice to reboot then. And getting the world’s biggest movie star in the lead role should surely be a guarantee for success right? Maybe not…
Tom Cruise plays our hero Nick Morton, a self-proclaimed “liberator of precious antiquities”. He uncovers a secret Egyptian tomb buried under the sands of Iraq and unleashes an evil princess (Sofia Boutella) who sees Nick as the Chosen One. She must therefore find a magical dagger hidden in England and stab him with it to release the Devil. Now as barmy as that sounds, The Mummy doesn’t always quite know how to play it. The plot is absurd, and for the most part the tone of the film matches the premise. It’s humorous, playful, and clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously. But it does try to veer off into more traditional horror territory at times which just doesn’t work, and ends up coming across as an Evil Dead 2 wannabe. The action is great, but does feel slightly out of place in this movie. Part Indiana Jones and part Mission: Impossible, the sequences are loud and exhilarating (particularly a plane crash sequence which was filmed in zero-G). Clearly The Mummy aspires to be akin to the magnificent ‘Uncharted’ PlayStation game series, and I just couldn’t shake the feeling that Cruise used Nathan Drake as his inspiration. But the action simply doesn’t make up for the clunky expositional script. Russel Crowe (playing Dr Jekyll, another future Dark Universe contender) delivers plot point after plot point, either narrating or spouting huge amount of exposition-heavy dialogue.
Perhaps oddly what hurts The Mummy is the fact that it is essentially a Tom Cruise movie and not a monster movie. Cruise takes centre stage, and whilst seeing our hero cracking jokes, running, jumping, and pulling intense faces is all well and good, I think the Cruise factor could’ve been pulled back a tad to allow Sofia Boutella’s excellent Mummy character to be given more depth and screen time. The Mummy is still an entertaining watch though, and does just about enough to generate intrigue for the future Dark Universe titles, albeit leaving plenty of room for improvement.
Dark, fun, over-the-top, and action-packed. Not a bad start to this new Dark Universe, but let’s hope the future instalments have less exposition and a bit more ‘wow’ factor.