This is the first film in Universal Studios’ ambitious Dark Universe, where classic Universal monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman and company) share the screen in one franchise. There are some big names involved; Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem are all attached to various films to come. A lot rides on The Mummy, being the first instalment, so does it live up to it’s promise? Not really.
I am a huge Tom Cruise fan. It’s one of the things people know about me. I love Steven Spielberg and I love Tom Cruise. It’s not difficult to work out that Minority Report is one of my favourites too. I have seen most of Tom Cruise’s films, and have enjoyed most of them. I find it surprising, then, when I say that this film could have really benefited from a different lead actor. Cruise carries a lot of expectation with him. He has a style, and a formula which really works when he is given the right material. Mission: Impossible is a series which never seems to deteriorate, the fifth instalment Rogue Nation being one of my favourite films of 2015. However, here the M:I-style action sequences do not gel with the mythology and leave us with a film that seems mismatched. While it is slightly novel to see supernatural events lead to M:I action, it’s completely at odds with the rest of the film.
Another major problem is the fact that director Alex Kurtzman doesn’t appear to know how to shoot Tom Cruise. Cruise is a uniquely committed actor. Most actors of his generation (Johnny Depp) have become lazy, doing as little acting as possible for as much money as possible, but Cruise has always put all his effort into his roles, training for years to perfect stunts. The best directors know how to showcase this insane commitment. Take for example Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Tom Cruise hangs off the side of a plane. We see it in one long unbroken shot and it is jawdropping. In this film, rapid cutting and a lack of close-ups mean that anyone could be performing these stunts. It’s pointless. Why have Cruise perform them if we can’t see him do them?
The script is very jumbled. There are six writers credited on this film, and it shows. There are at least three types of film within this one. There is the Tom Cruise action film. There is the hardcore horror film starring Sofia Boutella and there is the kitch, camp Universal horror film starring Russell Crowe. The film flies along but never really makes an impact. The characters played by Annabelle Wallis and Jake Johnson are grating and horrible, and the fantastic Courtney B. Vance is wasted in an utterly pointless role.
However, there are two bright spots in this otherwise mediocre film. Sofia Boutella is brilliant as the unhinged, athletic and seductive Mummy. She brings grace, style and real creepiness to the proceedings. Crowe is also great, giving gravitas and presence to his role as Dr Jekyll. He’s a lot of fun.
Overall, this film is a mess, and doesn’t bode well for the rest of the Dark Universe. However, there is hope that perhaps, similarly to the DCEU, a film as good as Wonder Woman will come from this unpromising start. I would love a Mummy film starring Boutella and someone like Ethan Hawke or Patrick Wilson which is a classic monster movie with fun characters and scares. Wilson or Hawke would be less distracting than Cruise and could disappear into their roles. We shall just have to wait and see.
The Mummy is now in cinemas across the UK. Image source: Twitter.com