Thursday , 21 September 2017

The Mummy unwraps a new Dark Universe – review

“Sometimes it takes a monster to fight a monster.”

Boris Karloff. Lon Chaney, Jr. Christopher Lee. Tom Cruise? Yes, the biggest action star on the planet is taking on one of the most recognizable monster franchises in movie history as Universal resurrects The Mummy once again for modern filmgoing audiences. This marks the beginning of an exciting new planned cinematic world known as the Dark Universe. We’ll delve into that more later on. But first, a look at the latest incarnation of an ancient evil brought to life to terrorize present-day civilization.

The Mummy concerns itself with the Egyptian warrior princess, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who millennia ago was destined to become pharaoh before a series of events sidetracked that arrangement and she was mummified alive for an eternity. Not so fast. In present-day Mesopotamia, aka, Iraq, decorated Army soldier, Nick (Cruise), and his buddy, Chris (Jake Johnson), who have a side looting business, or as they call it, “liberators of precious antiquities,” unearth the long buried tomb of Ahmanet. They are joined by archaeologist, Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), who recognizes the significance of this find, and looks.s to bring it back to London for study. That idea goes awry, and the mummified princess is soon regenerated into powerful human form, armed with her minions of zombiefied skeleton warriors and taking a particular shine to Nick, who she has sinister plans for. Along the way, we are introduced to a Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), who heads a mysterious, well-armed and financed organization known as Prodigium, whose job it is to “recognize, examine, control and destroy evil.” Naturally, Ahmanet is of special interest to them as they attempt to prevent her from gaining full power and achieving the rule over the world that she has longed after for centuries.

“You can’t run, you can’t escape.”

The Mummy is a larger-than-life-and-death, sprawling, action-packed, horror-filled adventure. No actor working today pushes himself to the limit more than Tom Cruise. From his death-defying stunts in the Mission Impossible series to recent action-filled hits like Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow and his Jack Reacher films, no one can ever accuse Cruise of phoning it in. Whether riding a stone building crumbling into rubble or being thrown about in an airplane diving toward the ground (a sequence Cruise had a big hand in developing himself involving actual zero gravity), seeing him perform these acts on screen adds an nth degree of believability amidst such extraordinary stunts and, in this case, supernatural proceedings. Though his character is not especially heroic throughout much of the movie, Cruise’s Nick is still the one we can most relate to as he is thrust into a world he couldn’t possibly imagine. Holding more than her own with and against Cruise is Annabelle Wallis as Jenny, proving quite impressive as she tackles the many stunt scenes. Commanding the screen with her presence and those soulful eyes is Sofia Boutella as the mummy princess sprung to life. After her turns as the blade-legged henchwoman in The Kingsman and the alien warrior in Star Trek Beyond, Boutella has become the latest and perhaps most compelling female action star. It also doesn’t hurt to have an Oscar-winning actor such as Russell Crowe on hand to serve as the main expositor of information and the catalyst for this new, expanded universe of gods and monsters.

“Death is but the doorway to new life.”

The original 1932 The Mummy, starring the legendary Boris Karloff as the titular creature, is a beloved and cherished classic. Following Dracula and Frankenstein in Universal’s monster series, The Mummy (the first of these films not based on a literary masterpiece) helped Carl Laemmle Jr. to establish his father’s Universal Pictures as a major Hollywood player. In the 1940’s, Universal made a series of sequels to The Mummy, most starring Lon Chaney, Jr. as the monster. In the 50’s, Britain’s Hammer Films tackled the Egyptian creature, the first of which starred the legendary Christopher Lee as the bandaged one. Universal Studios themselves resurrected The Mummy once again in 1999 with Brendan Fraser in the lead role of an Indiana Jones-type adventurer and Arnold Vosloo as the ancient pharaoh. It added humor and cranked up the action, making the film a huge hit and spawning two sequels, a series of spin-offs and a wild rollercoaster ride at Universal Studios. With such a long and illustrious history, bringing this new Mummy to life was no easy task, which went to first-time director, Alex Kurtzman, whose successful career has included co-writing and/or producing a number of films in the Mission Impossible, Transformers, Star Trek reboot and Amazing Spider-Man franchises. Working on the script with several other writers, Jon Spaights (Prometheus) and David Koepp (Jurassic Park) among them, Kurtzman’s The Mummy is not only all over the map, geographically, but in tone and spirit as well. At some points, horrifically scary, and other times a full-blown action picture, with comedic moments and lines throughout, perhaps the movie tries to do too much. Indeed, it has the weight of an entire upcoming universe on its shoulders, but it never ceases to be a thrilling, fun ride, much like the park attraction based on its predecessor. While a worthy summer entertainment on its own, The Mummy‘s chief purpose is to set up a new interwoven film franchise.

“Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters.”

Universal Pictures had previously announced that The Mummy would be the first in a series of films that set up a brand new shared cinematic world that would revive their classic monsters from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Recently, it was announced that this highly anticipated endeavor would be branded the Dark Universe. This new enterprise kicks off right at the beginning of The Mummy as the iconic Universal logo rotates to form the new Dark Universe one. It’s a stirring start to what is hoped will be a long-lasting and satisfying resurrection of films that live up to the promise they hold. Looking to have a successful box office franchise of their own (in addition to their Fast and Furious), but one more similar to that of Marvel/Disney with The Avengers, and what DC/Warners is doing with its Justice League superheroes, Universal is banking a lot on The Mummy setting things up. The creation of the multi-national corporation Prodigium is a great move as it’s a way of interconnecting all the monsters with a common thread. In a scene reminiscent of The Collector’s archive in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, we are treated to Prodigium’s base in London whose artifacts and specimens contain nods to The Creature From the Black Lagoon‘s Gill Man and vampires as well. Along with Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego, Mr. Hyde, we’re already well on our way into the Dark Universe. In addition, Universal has already set Bride of Frankenstein for 2019, to be directed by none other than Bill Condon, who won a Best Screenplay Academy Award for his Gods and Monsters, which was based on the life of James Whale, who himself directed the classics, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein. Having also directed the recent colossal hit, Beauty and the Beast, it’s hard to think of a better choice to carry on this dark world. While we anxiously await who will be cast as the Bride, we already know Academy Award winner, Javier Bardem, will portray Frankenstein’s monster in the future, and we’ll be seeing Johnny Depp as the Invisible Man, so star power is definitely not lacking. If Universal, along with Kurtzman, producer Chris Morgan, screenwiter David Koepp, composer Danny Elfman and everyone else involved can pull this together, exciting times lie ahead for fans of Universal’s monsters.

Of course, there will always be those diehard fans who are never satisfied seeing their beloved classics rebooted or remade. No doubt, this new The Mummy has numerous detractors, dissatisfied with either the movie being too comedic, not scary enough or having a different looking title character. Choosing to feature a female mummy to begin with is an inspiring choice by Universal. There needs to be more powerful female characters in films, and the Universal Monsters leave little room for that, so having such a striking presence as Sofia Boutella with her eerie, twin-pupil eyes, wielding unimaginable powers is an auspicious start for the franchise. She’s not Boris Karloff with his incredible Jack Pierce makeup in the original, but as iconic as that Mummy was, one must remember that the creature itself appeared only briefly near the beginning of the film, and was never shown full-bodied in motion. It took incredible restraint not to feature their creature more prominently – it was as the resurrected Imhotep/Ardeth Bay that Karloff spent most of the picture – other than in the memorable posters. While the slow-moving, yet menacing mummy we all remember showed up in later films, the approach taken in the original would never work in a modern-day retelling looking to appeal to a wider audience and as part of an entire action-filled universe. No specific dates beyond February, 2019’s Bride of Frankenstein have yet to be announced, but we hope Universal gets moving sooner rather than later, in getting up to at least a two films a year pace so we can get to all the fantastic creatures, from Dracula to the Wolf Man, in their library. “The past cannot remain buried.” We hope not, for long.

— review by Brian de Castro

2 comments

  1. 'Walking' Ed Turner

    Cool review! Can’t wait to see it! Who’da thunk it – a remake (or re-re-remake), of “The Mummy” as an action film. I know it was done before with Brendan Fraser, but that was a ‘fun’, almost cartoony version. Certainly NOT horror. This new version sounds much more serious and adult. I usually trust Tom Cruise movies – he always puts his ‘all’ into his roles. He’s intense, involved and committed. His action is always good, too. So, I’d buy a large bucket of popcorn for this one.

  2. Great description of the movie without giving too much away! Saw The Mummy last night and it was amazing, thrilling, entertaining, and definitely scary! Loved every minute and cant wait for a sequel!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*