Article By: Alice-Ginevra Micheli
“The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions” – Saint Bernard of Clarivaux
The above quote perfectly sums up what has come about with the release of the first installment in Universal’s Dark Universe Franchise – an awesome concept with great characters that has sadly (but unsurprisingly) resulted in something quite mediocre.
Directed by Alex Kurtzman, the revamped Gods and Monsters world begins with an ancient princess, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) who, after being awoken for the first time in 5,000 years, is eager to take her vengeance upon the world.
At the forefront is scrappy army man Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), who are caught in an ancient war against evil headed by the mysterious Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe).
That description sounds absolutely insane, and the movie does deliver on that in particular. As the first in a planned series it has a lot of work ahead of itself: Set up the characters, introduce the universe, implement rules, and deliver a great story. Does it do all of this? In short, no, no it doesn’t.
Lets start with the acting.
Everyone does a good enough job considering the material they have to work with. Cruise acts as a goofy military man who is meant to be a braggart with a heart of gold, but comes across more annoying than hero-like when push comes to shove.
Wallis could essentially be renamed ‘Exposition Jr.’, a character whose sole purpose is to tell Cruise (aka the audience) what’s going on, how, and the history behind it. She’s also there to serve as the symbol of redemption and growth for his character later on, so overall not very important.
Crowe, or as I like to call him ‘Exposition Sr.’, does well enough as the famous double personality, illustrating the difference in class and accent as transformation occurs here or there. He also has the task of being the connecting thread between this and the (potential) future installments, which results in a fine but ultimately substandard implementation of the character.
However, within all this there is one actor I’d like to point out, and that is Boutella. Acting as part maniacal monster, part crazy ex-girlfriend, she manages to add nuance and vulnerability into what should be a one-note character. As you explore her story, from her maligned past to her deadly future, there are times when she is more likeable than any of her ‘human’ counterparts. Definitely the most interesting performance, it’s a shining light in a relatively dull fog.
Part of its downfall is the fact that the film can’t decide what it wants to be. There are times when it takes on a silly façade, giving the illusion of a crazy family-fun adventure taking a more light-hearted approach to the genre. However, in the next scene it’ll completely flip, turning into a creepy horror film that could be seen as the cause of nightmares later on.
The story, as well as the dialogue, is also something that could have done with a proofread or two prior to production. Obvious in its innate predictability, there’s a sense of creativity and originality that is missing from its formula, giving audiences a tired tale seen time and time again. There is a sacrificing of the plot in order to make way for Universal’s attempt at making their own franchise, calling on famous characters available to them. It also doesn’t help that in their hubris, their overt publicity, they just need to amplify the message that this is the first in a Monster Franchise, and this has taken away any small amount of surprise that might have been exciting had it been kept quiet. What this has resulted in is a film that is lazy in its execution, disappointing in its atmosphere, and confusing in its own continuity, leaving audiences more frustrated by its own plot holes than eager for the next film in the franchise.
Having said this, I would like to point out that there are in fact some redeeming qualities. Even with all of the afore mentioned problems, there is still fun to be had within its misguided adventure. There are moments of genuine humor within the story, often juxtaposed with flashes of actual thrill that accompany the protagonists’ journey. In fact, there is definitely enough there to keep a general moviegoer entertained for the better part of two hours.
Overall, The Mummy is brainless entertainment. While very different from the ‘monster movies’ of old, the film delivers on being a fun action/adventure story, adding a twist of modernity and stupidity that is there when an escape is needed.