Film review: The Mummy – Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella can’t save awful start to Universal’s Dark Universe of monster films
Like Dracula in the desert, this miscast update of Karl Freund’s story forgets to be scary, thrilling or fun; the future of the Dark Universe already looks horrifying – albeit for all the wrong reasons
With The Mummy, Universal Pictures launches its Dark Universe, a series of horror-tinged blockbusters that will reintroduce the studio’s classic movie monsters in a modern-day setting. But not even the star power of Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe can save this lifeless abomination of an opener.
Transplanting Karl Freund’s 1932 original to contemporary Iraq and London, The Mummy sees the incarcerated spirit of vengeful Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) awakened by Cruise’s hapless Army recon officer, Nick Morton. In his efforts to contain the powerful entity, Morton partners with archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) and Prodigium, a mysterious organisation run by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Crowe).
Primarily a romance beneath its supernatural shroud, The Mummy revisits many of Dracula’s themes in an exotic desert setting. The only glimmer of originality in this update, directed by Transformers and Star Trek scriptwriter Alex Kurtzman, is the decision to flip the genders, making the mummy a woman. Yet for all her physicality, Boutella’s performance is lost, buried beneath a swathe of CGI sand and bandages.
Cruise has often produced his best work when playing flawed characters finding redemption, as in Jerry Maguire and Magnolia. As Morton, he is woefully miscast, unable to bring any of his trademark charm to this ill-conceived jerk, or conjure a single spark of romantic chemistry with either Boutella or Wallis. Jake Johnson’s zombified sidekick is lifted wholesale from An American Werewolf in London, but seems to have forgotten he’s there for comic relief.
Meanwhile, Russell Crowe, whose casting as Dr Jekyll seemed inspired on paper thanks to his explosive temperament and penchant for physical transformation, delivers a pantomime of uninspired hamminess. It is disconcerting, considering that Jekyll is positioned as the anchor for the entire Dark Universe.
So desperate to lay the foundations for a franchise nobody wanted – even processing us through a laboratory containing webbed claws and fanged skulls – the movie forgets to be scary, thrilling or fun. Cruise runs and shouts his way through set pieces, while others mumble mythological explanations, and Ahmanet simply stands around showing off her hieroglyph tattoos.
The Mummy even ends with a Dark Knight-esque speech about sometimes “needing a monster to catch a monster”, willing a sequel into existence like Dr Frankenstein screaming into the stormy heavens. A joyless experience from start to finish, the future of the Dark Universe already looks horrifying – albeit for all the wrong reasons.
The Mummy opens on June 8
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