Universal Studios has been milking their big-three classic monster franchise – Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy – since the 1930s and I’ve got a shelf full of various special edition DVD and Blu-Ray collections to prove it. But aside from the hugely-successful Brendan Fraser The Mummy trilogy which launched in 1999, rebooting the big three over the years has proven to be trickier than finding a parking spot at the theme park during Halloween Horror Nights. In other words, next to impossible.
So, when word broke a couple of years back that Universal was bringing in Hollywood hitmakers Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek, Hawaii Five-O, Alias) and Chris Morgan (The Fast and the Furious films, Wanted) to develop a Marvel Studios-style expanded universe for Universal’s A-list monsters – which also includes The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein and The Creature from the Black Lagoon – under the Dark Universe banner, and that 2017’s The Mummy would be the first official film in the series, I was more than a little excited. And though The Mummy tanked in theaters and there are already rumblings that Dark Universe is creatively imploding from within, the good news for classic monster movie fans is that this Mummy isn’t nearly as bad as it looks.
Don’t get me wrong, the film is still super cheesy with co-stars Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe (Gladiator, The Nice Guys) offering up their most ham-fisted performances in years – believe it or not, Crowe makes his work in Les Misérables look positively subtle by comparison – but if you’re looking for slick, mindless fun the next time you fly, this might just be the Mummy for you.
Directed by Kurtzman from a script by six (count em, six!) of Hollywood’s hottest scribes – including Jurassic Park’s David Koepp, Rachel Getting Married writer-director Jenny Lumet, and The Usual Suspects’ Oscar-winner Christopher McQuarrie – Mummy follows the exploits of Cruise’s tomb-robbing treasure hunter Nick Morton. Stumbling upon the tomb of cursed Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Atomic Blonde’s Sofia Boutella) on a dig in Mesopotamia, Morton, his partner Vail (Jurassic World’s Jake Johnson) and a comely, mysterious archeologist named Jenny (played by Annabelle’s Annabelle Wallis) embark on a wild and highly improbable adventure in digital age mummy hunting.
Filled with clunky, monster movie clichés and laughably lame lines like “It takes a monster to catch a monster,” Mummy is, despite the odds, imminently watchable. And the fact that the murderous mummy in question is a woman makes things all the more interesting. Take that, Boris Karloff!
Honestly, even Cruise’s hollow, strangely dead-eyed performance grows on you after a while. And don’t even get me started on Crowe’s scenery-chomping turn as a modern-day Dr. Jekyll. Subtle he ain’t, but man, is he fun to watch. There is an epically goofy throw-down midway in between Crowe and Cruise – or two muscle-bound stuntmen filling in for them – that literally has to be seen to be believed. Seriously stupid stuff, but, again, wildly entertaining to watch.
Aviation geeks may also appreciate the film’s spectacular plane crash sequence where an unkindness of ravens takes down the Lockheed C-130 Hercules transporting Ahmanet’s sarcophagus to England. Shot with Cruise, Wallis, and their fellow cast members on a set replicating the interior of the C-130 which was then encased inside one of Zero Gravity Corporation’s so-called “Vomit Comets”, the extended crash sequence is thrillingly realistic and probably the number one reason to see the film. Of course, whether or not the scene makes it past the airline sensors is a whole other story.
And even if the much-buzzed about Dark Universe sequels and spinoffs, like Ahmanet herself, never live to see the light of the day, fans of big, loud, and totally ridiculous Hollywood monster movies should have a blast.
Now playing on select United, British Airways, EVA Air, and Emirates flights worldwide, The Mummy is also available via streaming on Google Play, iTunes, and Amazon Video.