Friday Feature: 'The Mummy'

While “The Mummy” won’t be setting any records, winning any awards, or be called the best film of the year by a long shot, it was surprisingly better than expected as it presents a thrilling, action-packed, special effect-filled fantasy reboot that is intended to be the first in a series of monster-horror movies that are all connected through Universal Studio’s newly created “Dark Universe.”

Long ago, an ancient Egyptian princess, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), murders her entire family in order to claim the throne that she believes is rightfully hers. Because of her transgressions, she is wrapped in cloth, like a mummy, and buried alive deep beneath the desert. In present day, black market artifact dealer Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) accidentally uncover Ahmanet’s crypt, unknowingly releasing the evil princess, and must figure out how to stop her from inflicting her revenge upon the world.

“The Mummy” is far from perfect and in fact quite a mess at times, but it’s not without its appeal. Parts of the film can be hit and miss, cheesy, over-the-top, and about as far out there as one might expect from a campy-type, fantasy sci-fi movie. I wouldn’t call it a comedy, but the film does have some humor to it, as well as a degree of suspense and thrilling/borderline creepy or scary moments. Going into it, I figured the special effects would be over the top, but the CGI also looks surprisingly good.

The film has plenty of star power, from Cruise to Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, and Courtney B. Vance. Johnson plays an Army Sergeant and provides his typical comedic relief, while Vance’s role as a Colonel is quite underused. Cruise gives an adequate performance, as does Wallis, and Boutella fills the role of the dangerous Egyptian princess. Crowe plays the unexpected role of Dr. Henry Jekyll (of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde) and gives audiences a taste of what to expect from future crossovers of monster characters.

During the 1920s through the 1950s, Universal Studios made multiple films based on classic monster-horror novels involving “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,”  “The Wolf Man,” “Van Helsing,” ‘The Phantom of the Opera” and more. In 1979, the first in a series of remakes was created, starting with “Dracula,” followed by 1999’s ‘The Mummy’ starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. Most of these remakes were below average films, so the studio held off on proceeding with the full list of monsters.

In 2014, the studio once again attempted a remake in “Dracula Untold,” starring Luke Evans, and the film was not well received. Once intended to headline a new series of modern remakes, the studio instead chose to make this year’s ‘The Mummy’ the first reboot in the “Dark Universe,” a shared world that connects all of these new films in a joint development of crossover stories, characters, etc. The DU appears to be similar to that of the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” in which Marvel Comics’ series of superhero films exist.

Some critics are already calling “The Mummy” the worst film of Cruise’s career, one that lacks originality, and the start to a monster franchise that will quickly fall apart. While I don’t completely agree with this, I do acknowledge that the film does have its share of issues. It’s not that I just absolutely loved this movie, but I’ve long been a fan of the concept of standalone films with movies/characters sharing the same universe that ultimately cross over with one another, and I’m also a fan of the classic monster tales. In the end, I’d rather see the studio try and fail then not try at all.

This weekend’s box office numbers will give us an idea as to how moviegoers are receiving the reboot, but only time will tell if the “Dark Universe” is successful. As much as I’d like to see the aforementioned monsters retake the big screen, in addition to ones such as “The Invisible Man,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” etc., you have to consider how other recent attempts at remakes have faired (and failed for the most part), monster movie or otherwise. Perhaps this go-round will be different?

2.5 out of 5 stars.

“The Mummy” is rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, some suggestive content and partial nudity. Running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance writer, photographer/videographer, and filmmaker in Dallas, TX. You can find more of his work on Selig Film News. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and when he is not reviewing movies, Hayden works in film production. Don't like what he has to say? Let him know at hpittman87@gmail.com, find him on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt. Enjoy the movies!

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