*NOTE: Before I start this review, I would like to thank Novo Cinemas for inviting me to the premiere of this film.*
As much critical flak as the movies themselves get, the original Mummy films starring Brendan Fraser holds a certain nostalgic charm for me that makes them quite close to my heart. The films themselves were campy fun and as a kid, the Egyptian mythology (very loosely based though, as I’d later discovered) truly fascinated me. The titular Mummy itself (played by Arnold Vosloo in the first two films) felt quite scary, although relatively less so with each subsequent film, and the effects at the time helped make it all the more creepy. The original franchise was also a worthy addition to the adventure genre that sorely lacked any sort of decent films in it post-Indiana Jones and pre-Pirates of the Carribean. It was also the series that, along with the criminally underrated ‘Looney Tunes: Back in Action‘, made me a full-fledged Brendan Fraser fan.
Needless to say, I was extremely apprehensive going in to this new Tom Cruise-starring rendition of the franchise and went in hoping for, at the very least, a decent film.
Fortunately, the film was better than I expected it to be.
First up, and I have to get this out of the way, the film feels like it owes a lot to the ‘Uncharted‘ video-games franchise and I mean that in the best way possible (Seriously, even if you aren’t a fan of video-games in general, the Uncharted series is one that I guarantee you will love) with an opening action sequence reminding me so much of the games that I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that I was essentially watching the closest thing to a film adaptation of the video-games.
With that out of the way, the film itself serves two purposes – one being a reboot of the Mummy franchise and other, being the first film in Universal Studio’s proposed ‘Dark Universe‘, a Marvel-like endeavour where they plan to make all their monster movies a part of a single, shared universe.
Now, while a lot of studios have tried to replicate Marvel’s shared-universe success, I feel that Universal and director Alex Kurtzman seemed to have managed to pull off the reboot + shared universe juggle decently enough. Russell Crowe in particular appears playing a character, which I won’t spoilt in case you haven’t watched the trailers, who in fact, serves as a direct link to this world of ‘Gods and Monsters’ (as he puts it)
As for the film itself, Tom Cruise plays Nick, a sort-of militaristic adventurer in the vein of Indiana Jones, Tintin and Nathan Drake who accidentally discovers a tomb of, you guessed it, a mummy. And a particularly malicious one at that; called Princess Ahmanet (played by a suitably creepy Sophia Boutella) and keeping in line with my no-spoiler policy, all I’ll say is that shenanigans ensue.
The film is fast paced and is intriguing enough to remain constantly entertaining for the entirety of its runtime and the shared universe elements of it hinting at a bigger world really does add to the intrigue while the action set-pieces are suitably well executed. Also, I want to specifically stress just how dedicated Tom Cruise, even at 50 years old, remains to executing action scenes. (Yes, Tom Cruise does run in this and keeping in line with his Mission Impossible 4 days, he even runs from a sandstorm)
However, the film can also be quite inconsistent in the tone it wants to adapt and perhaps more egregiously, none of the the tones it tries never fully succeeds. Some scenes play out like horror but they’re, quite simply, not scary enough to validate that tonal choice. Other scenes can be quite comedic but, while the jokes may be funny at the moment, the film’s dark and gloomy setting doesn’t help make the humour feel tangible.
I also have to point out that the cinematography of the film felt quite flat and the film loses a certain charm as a result, especially when you compare it to the vibrancy of the 90’s films. Hell, the cinematography is dull even by 2017 standards. I mean, I get that this is a monster movie and vibrancy shouldn’t necessarily be the target but I have watched hardcore horror films with more interesting cinematography than this one.
Speaking of the 90’s Mummy films, I used to adore their period 40’s settings and while it’s not necessarily a flaw with the 2017 film itself, I really did feel the reboot could’ve benefited quite heavily by being set in any other era rather than present day. Say, a Victorian – era period. I digress however, as that is merely my desire and nothing more.
In any case, flaws aside, The Mummy does provide an entertaining time at the cinema and while it may not successfully accomplish everything it sets out to do, still works as a decent beginning to this new ‘Dark Universe‘ and one intriguing enough to make me want to see what more stories can be told.