I’ll start by saying that I’ve never seen the original Boris Karloff film from 1932, so I can’t compare the two. However, I feel pretty safe in saying that the Tom Cruise version has more in common with the 1999 film of the same name starring Brendan Fraser, at least in terms of style. Prior to the release of the Cruise film, a behind-the-scenes feature was shown before the trailers at the movie theater. In the feature, the director said, “We owe the audience a monster movie,” and Cruise specifically mentions the original 1932 film and how it made him feel to see it for the first time. Although I haven’t seen the original, I’ve seen stills and I know that Karloff is in it, so I guess I was expecting something a little more serious and dramatic. But Cruise’s The Mummy is just a straight-up, Hollywood action movie. Now I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I just expected and hoped for more. This is the first film in the Dark Universe, a reboot of the classic Universal monster movies. As with any standard-issue Hollywood action film, there were throw-away characters that added nothing to the film or the plot and one-liners that more often than not got no response from the theater audience. Also, and most glaringly, Cruise played a roguish soldier who was more into stealing things than obeying orders from his commanding officer and who has a quickie one-night stand with a character who turns out to be the archaeologist who investigates the mummy tomb. I would buy that with another actor, but Cruise is fifty-four years old, and the role just does not fit well on him at all. And the fact that he’s a roguish thief who has one-night stands has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. So it all felt very unnecessary and like the brains behind the film just fell back on the typical Hollywood action schematic instead of delivering the audience a monster movie as promised. I also have a problem with how the movie ended. I don’t know how to say anymore here without giving it away, so for now I’ll just say that Hollywood’s issues with taking on ancient Egypt persist. See below for spoilers!
Now as for “the monster,” the mummy, whose name in the movie is Ahmanet, was the best part of the movie for me. I’m a fan of the actress (Sofia Boutella), and I think she did great job embodying a creepy and terrifying but also alluring character. Another scene-stealer is Russell Crowe who plays Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Crowe initially starts out as Dr. Jekyll, but one of my favorite scenes is when he transforms into his alter ego and goes crazy on Cruise’s character.
Overall, would I recommend “The Mummy?” I think I would – not with a resounding “Oh my God, yes!” but with a “Yeah it had some cool moments.” And it was fun to see on IMAX in 3D. I probably would also give it higher than the 16% it has on Rotten Tomatoes. But just know that it’s far from perfect and definitely has its issues that I’m hoping will get ironed out before the other Dark Universe movies get released. The Universal monster movies are the original shared universe and are so iconic you know them even if you’ve never seen them. Hopefully, Hollywood will do more than remake them as just as good but ultimately unremarkable action movies.
AND NOW – SPOILERS!
So, I’m only going to spoil the ending – go big or go home, right? So, the premise of this movie is that Ahmanet, before being mummified, sold her soul to the Egyptian god Set who in turn gave her a dagger that would allow her to transfer his soul into a human body. Upon awakening, she immediately sets her sights on Cruise’s character to be the vessel. At the end of the movie, Cruise ends up with the dagger and stabs himself, essentially becoming the vessel for the Egyptian god. The mummy gets captured and gets locked up in a vault. So, yeah, Cruise’s character is basically an Egyptian god. Because this worked so well for Gods of Egypt. This is just another example of Hollywood living up to its already low expectations and continuing that age-old practice of whitewashing. I’m sure people are getting tired of hearing that word, but I assure you we’re getting tired of talking about it.
And another thing – by being the vessel for the god Set, Cruise is able to resurrect the dead. Craig made a good point that this essentially makes the stakes very low in the Dark Universe because there is now a character who can just bring the dead back to life. So, when a character dies, I imagine the impact on the other characters (as well as the audience) will be very low because they can just call in Cruise’s character to bring them back. I mean, can you imagine if Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead could just restore life – all the deaths on that show would be meaningless and the show would be way less powerful. Glenn would be alive so YAY!!!! But the attachment the audience forms to the characters would be significantly weakened.
With all this being said, I’m still looking forward to seeing what else the Dark Universe has to offer. Hopefully, Hollywood will learn from the mistakes of The Mummy and do justice to the original Universal monsters and the original shared universe.
Kia is a cohost of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’