Welcome to a World of Gods and Monsters (The Mummy 2017 Review)

mv5bnjfjndiwntktmdy1my00zme3lwe0n2itmwm2zjazymrkndfmxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndg2mjuxnjm-_v1_sy1000_cr006311000_al_I’m not quite sure what people were expecting this movie to be, to be honest. It was never advertised as a horror movie or a thriller, so I’m not sure why people were expecting scares/thrills. I mean, the original monster movies would barely classify as horror anymore. They’re more Gothic film than anything else. The trailers for this pitched it as an action/adventure movie involving Tom Cruise getting cursed and bringing a mummy back to life and Jekyll running some secret organization dedicated to finding and eradicating evil, and that’s exactly what we got. The Mummy (directed by Alex Kurtzman from a script by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, and Dylan Kussman), follows soldier/thief Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) as he accidentally unearths the tomb of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), releases her, and ends up cursed. Together with Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), Nick has to work with Prodigium, an organization led by the mysterious Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), to find a way to break the curse and stop Princess Ahmanet from using Nick as a sacrifice to resurrect the Egyptian god Set. (There may be some mild spoilers ahead, so read with caution.) 

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Princess Ahmanet’s sarcophagus.

I thought the movie was fine; enjoyable, really. It’s not amazing or anything, but it’s about what I expected it to be. That’s to say that I had a good time and was whisked away into an intriguing world. The biggest problem the movie had was its opening. It opens with an extended flashback sequence – narrated by Dr. Jekyll – that explains how Princess Ahmanet ended up being mummified alive, and this flashback is largely unnecessary. Throughout the movie, Nick has visions of Ahmanet and what happened to her, and all the exposition around her character could’ve been revealed through Nick’s visions. Instead, we end up with a lot of repetitive scenes. Much of his visions show the same thing we already saw in the opening flashback, so it’s redundant. If they just got rid of the opening flashback (aside from the bit about the Knights Templar) – or at least reduced it to a short “Legend has it that an Egyptian princess forgotten to the sands of time made a pact with the god Set to obtain power and was mummified alive as punishment, her dagger hidden away” kind of thing -, the movie would’ve been able to start with an exciting action scene involving Nick and his partner, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), infiltrating an Iraqi militant stronghold.

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Sofia Boutella as Princess Ahmanet.

Aside from the beginning, I thought the movie was paced pretty well. Once it got started, it kept going and built up to an exciting climax that felt like the culmination of everything the movie had been working towards. It’s not an amazing story. It’s fairly predictable at times, but I don’t necessarily consider that a bad thing. The characters outside of Nick and Jenny aren’t super well developed – and even Nick and Jenny are pretty two-dimensional -, but, again, it’s an action movie and nobody is really here because they care about the characters. People are here because they wanna see monsters. Ahmanet, the titular mummy, isn’t in the movie as much as one might hope, but she had to share her time with the whole setting-up-Prodigium plotline. As a result of that, Ahmanet’s plotline goes about how you’d expect it to go, and it’s pretty easy to predict how that plotline ends, but, to be honest, that plotline was almost more of the B-plotline for the movie. The A-plotline was more about getting Nick introduced to the world of Prodigium and setting up all of that. Which, for a movie called The Mummy, isn’t really a good thing, but I forgave it because that was the aspect of the movie I was most excited to see.

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Nick (Tom Cruise) meets Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), the head of the mysterious Prodigium organization.

On that subject, there was a lot of really interesting world building with Dr. Jekyll and the Prodigiumorganization which has me pretty interested in future movies in the Dark Universe line – assuming they don’t cancel the entire shared universe due to poor box office performance. There’s lots of teasing and setup for future movies, but I still feel like The Mummy told a complete and satisfying story. The most interesting parts, like I mentioned earlier, were the bits that dealt with Prodigium solely because those were the parts that really felt unique. Sure, Prodigium is basically the Dark Universe‘s version of SHIELD, but the idea of having an organization like that as a way to connect all the various monster universes from the old Universal monster movies is a really interesting idea, and having Dr. Jekyll (from Jekyll and Hyde) be the head of the organization makes it even more interesting. I’d have been perfectly happy if that’s what the movie had been focused on as opposed to the stuff with Ahmanet. The best way to describe what this film is like is to compare it to the pilot of a TV series. It’s a really good pilot in that it introduces the central premise of the series (the Prodigium organization that’s dedicated to – essentially – tracking down the monsters from the classic Universal monster movies), gives us some characters, and sets the stage for the rest of the series. Like a pilot, much of The Mummy is spent setting up the central premise instead of dealing with the actual Mummy plotline, so, for that reason, I think the whole Dark Universe line of films might work better as a TV show. In that format, they’d be given more time to set up the Prodigium stuff while also being able to spend time with the actual monsters that Prodigium would be catching down. For example, in TV form, three or four episodes could’ve just been spent covering the same material that The Mummy covered, and it would’ve been able to have the time to do a better job with the development of the characters and the execution of Princess Ahmanet’s plotline. As a movie, it did a better job with the Prodigium setup than it did with the Ahmanet plotline, but such is life sometimes.

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Annabelle Wallis as Jenny Halsey

The acting in the film was fine. Nothing spectacular, but nothing particularly bad either. Tom Cruise continues to do well as the leading man of action movies; his portrayal of Nick was endearing enough to make it enjoyable to have his character be the lead of the movie. Dr. Jekyll was by far the most interesting character in the movie for a multitude of reasons, once of which being that the basis for the character is just really interesting on its own. Russell Crowe also seems to be enjoying the hell out of himself in the role, which makes him a lot of fun. Towards the third act of the movie, Dr. Jekyll starts experiencing some of his more Hyde-like tendencies, and Russell Crowe just has the time of his life with those scenes. Sofia Boutella’s Ahmanet is fine. Her performance is good; the character itself isn’t really. The same problem befalls Annabelle Wallis’s Jenny as well. That’s 100% because of the writing of their characters. Both actresses do the best with the material they’re given, but neither of them are given much to do. which is actually the case for pretty much everyone besides Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe. It’s unfortunate that the characters weren’t really developed all that well; instead, they’re mostly two-dimensional archetypes that exist to fill the role the movie needs. For an action movie, that’s not the end of the world, but for a sustainable franchise built around these characters, that’s bad. If Dark Universe doesn’t intend to focus on any of the actors that aren’t Russell Crowe or Tom Cruise, then it’s somewhat more acceptable, but if Universal is intending for Annabelle Wallis’s Jenny to be a central character, they need to spend some time developing her.

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Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll

Alex Kurtzman’s directing was pretty good. Many of the shots were rather good and seemed reminiscent of the monster movies of old, which was a nice touch. The problem element of the film was the script. It’s a mess. It doesn’t know if it wants to focus on Prodigium or if it wants to focus on Ahmanet, and it tries to do both. Like I’ve said repeatedly, it does a better job with the Prodigium stuff (and honestly should’ve been a movie just focusing on that stuff and saved The Mummy for a bit further down the line when Prodigium was set up well enough that they could devote the time The Mummy needed to better tell Ahmanet’s story. The film balances its humor and more serious action scenes fairly okay. I know some people have had problems with the tone, but I felt it worked alright. I wasn’t distracted by it or anything.

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Tom Cruise as Nick and Annabelle Wallis as Jenny.

Overall, I found The Mummy to be enjoyable. I saw The Mummy specifically because I was interested in Dr. Jekyll and the Prodigium aspect of the cinematic universe, so I was definitely not disappointed on that front. As for the rest of the movie, it was an enjoyable enough action movie. The characters meshed well, the plot made enough sense that I wasn’t distracted by anything, and I had a fun two hours watching it. I’m not gonna highly recommend the movie to anybody; it’s not really a movie you’d pay full price at a movie theater to see. But, it’s still a fun movie. I’d wait for it to come out on DVD and maybe watch it with some friends. I’m really interested in seeing future films in the Dark Universe line – the next of which is supposedly The Bride of Frankenstein, helmed by Bill Condon – so, in that sense, The Mummy did its job in getting me to want to see more of the films in the shared universe.

All-in-all, I give The Mummy three out of five stars. It’s not great, but I still enjoyed it and wanna see more from this universe.

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