Somewhere between losing out on Iron Man, Batman, Cyclops, and supposedly even Wolverine and Superman, Tom Cruise has nevertheless, rather impressively, managed to still find himself the Atlas of not one but two different franchises. And now begins the third!
Dubbed Universal’s Dark Universe, The Mummy serves as a starting point for what will eventually become a shared universe a la the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the DC Extended Universe (DCEU)… and the King Kong/Godzilla universe.
Okay, really—this is getting absurd.
Both Marvel and DC have storied characters who have shared not only a universe but also themes and ideologies, often juxtaposing one another as much as they’ve worked together.
Universal’s Dark Universe, however, is clearly headed straight towards being a mishmash of unnecessary plots colliding in the most senseless way possible.
In a manner with as little spoilers as possible, let me paint you a word picture: The Mummy begins fine with Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton and his thankfully entertaining sidekick Chris Vail (played by Jake Johnson) setting up a relatively interesting premise: military personnel who use their well-positioned tasks to steal valuable antiques and sell it on the black market.
Their latest heist takes a violent turn but leads them to discovering an Egyptian tomb under an Iranian city. The movie takes a quick dip when as much exposition is thrown in in the following scenes and Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), Hollywoods least believable but most annoying archeologist since Tara Reid, walks in to force the movie into a different direction.
This sequence leads to an actually interesting bit of story before the thrills are killed with the sudden introduction of a gun-toting military unit that would be best described as S.H.I.E.L.D.-esque… right with their own Nick Fury type.
Enter Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll.
Now, in any other movie with proper display of intent in its narrative structure, Crowe’s Dr Jekyll would be an incredibly interesting take on the character who is not only a believable leader of the shadow organisation that will surely be the tendons of the Dark Universe, but also provides a very intriguing look at what might eventually be the looming evil that will pull the protagonists of this effort together.
Unfortunately, a good portion of the second act is wasted on this revelation, leaving you wondering why didn’t they just start off with a Dr Jekyll movie in the first place. The current sequence of events ultimately kills both the pace of the movie and what little mystery there was.
A sequence of plot devices that would have been better left for a sequel leads the movie back to its original point, but by now the movie’s pretty much worthless as a standalone and the conclusion is obvious to just about anyone who knows that Tom Cruise is expected to be the star-powered face of this franchise.
The true irony here is that The Mummy replaces 2014’s Dracula Untold as the leading entry of this shared universe. While Dracula Untold certainly had its own problems, it was still a far more focused film that delivered a protagonist that made sense and is organically evolved from being a familiar figure of literature to a possible lead in a different context.
The Mummy, unfortunately, spectacularly fails at that and seems to just have been an excuse to work in Tom Cruise (who is just stuck as Ethan Hunt at this point) into the overall architecture, making the Mummy brand itself an empty shell serving no purpose beyond this entry.
As a fan of the Brandon Fraser films (the first two, anyways) news of The Mummy being remade wasn’t pleasant. But remakes are the standard of Hollywood today, and it was acceptable. However, to have lost a franchise that managed to blend horror, comedy, and action/adventure into a seamless experience just to watch Tom Cruise run from sandstorms, and for Universal to get their rocks off with their low budget attempt at S.H.I.E.L.D., it just feels completely wasteful.
Essentially, it’s kinda like if the MCU had started off with Iron Man 2 with all their “big picture” moments robbing the movie of its own identity.
With The Bride of Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Invisible Man, Van Helsing (oh, no!), Wolf Man, Frankenstein, Dracula (another one?), Phantom of the Opera (good lord), and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame all slated as upcoming entries to this franchise, Universal would do well to—
Yeah, this “universe” is gonna suck. Sorry, but I lost faith as I typed Phantom of the Opera. Seriously, WTF?!
Watch The Mummy if you like Tom Cruise, it’s out 8th June. I’d rather stream the Brandon Fraser ones (just the first two) at home instead.
Or, just get this set from Universal and watch the superior versions of all the characters.