In the battle for superhero supremacy, Universal Studios decided on a different tact to compete with the Marvel / DC juggernaut. The Dark Universe is an interconnected series of storylines that include the classic monsters that were created on the backlot of the world renowned movie studio. The Mummy is the launching pad for this web of terror that will eventually include the Wolf Man, the Invisible Man, Abraham van Helsing, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and even the Bride of Frankenstein. It is fair to comment that these are not superheroes, but monsters, which means the gestation time for this universe to connect with audiences may take some time. The connective skeletal tissue of this operation will be the head of the Prodigium, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe). It is an organisation that has a goal to seek out and eliminate evil in the world. This world of gods and monsters has been resurrected to provide the studio with a new future.
What better may to jumpstart a new mega-franchise than with the self-appointed king of the sequel, Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible). He jumps into the lead role of the soldier of fortune, Nick Morton. In his pursuit for the next big score in the grave robbing black market, he manages to unearth the tomb of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). A grave that served as more of a prison than a sanctuary for the Egyptian princess because of the crimes she committed against her family and people. Despite the warnings of curses and the physical realm attempting to keep her buried in the sand, Nick and company choose to take her remains back to London for study. It is no surprise that this decision leads to Ahmanet’s imminent release and the pursuit of her new spiritual connection, to who else but Nick Morton. While he was trying to escape the resurrected princess' control, he is introduced to Dr. Henry Jekyll, who has other plans for Norton and his mummified stalker.
What made these monster films so popular with filmgoers in the golden era of cinema were that they were scary, fun and broke new ground in make up and special effects, but were not always known for innovative plotlines. Their purpose was to provide matinee terror, sell some popcorn and give a generation their own cinematic nightmares. This modern incarnation of The Mummy is a new type of origin story that manages to stay within the tradition of matinee horror, but with an added spin. The prospect of the Dark Universe adds a different level of intrigue to this film. Director Alex Kurtzman (People Like Us) has not set a new standard for monster films, but is given the daunting task of launching a new era of gods and monsters. Has he done enough to make this a noteworthy launch? More or less.
Kurtzman’s creation can be described as a Frankenstein of a film. An ugly stitching together of different fantasy components that lead to a relatively unattractive monster, but still manages to rise to the occasion. The performances of Cruise and Crowe are not their best, but they both provide the charisma and star power that is needed to launch this world and provide some worthwhile entertainment. The Atlas-like expectation ultimately is placed squarely on Russell Crowe’s shoulders, who does provide the best moments of the film and he makes for an intriguing connection for the rest of the monster macrocosm. Sofia Boutella does not prove to be as terrifying as might be expected, but she delivers enough guttural intensity to get the film across the line. Even with the commonplace performances and the less than inspired special effects, the thrust behind this launch is left to the underlying story which will lead to the monstrous future. This element makes this whole experience promising and provides enough hopeful curiosity to compel fans to see the next chapter. The overall production of The Mummy was a bit of a mess, but the future prospects should make audiences say of the Dark Universe, ‘Is alive, it’s alive!’
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