I went into Alex Kurtzman’s THE MUMMY fairly sure that I wasn’t going to like it. The trailers have Tom Cruise in crazy stunts and one hot Mummy played by Sofia Boutella, but overall… the trailers haven’t made me get giddy. But, knowing that Jon Spaihts, Christopher McQuarrie and David Koepp were amongst the writers had me hoping that this was more in line with Tom Cruise’s filmography. But then Tom hasn’t really dove too far into the realm of Horror, besides INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE and Spielberg’s WAR OF THE WORLDS is at the very least Sci-Fi Horror.
The notion of a DARK UNIVERSE, where you blend all the classic Universal Horror characters into a cohesive shared modern universe… Typically that’s the revisionist stuff that makes me roll my eyes, I love FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN and the later release Universal monster teamups, but I’m not real sure how that would play today. Are they creating a League of Extraordinary Monsters? What would this film have for me? It sort of sounded like Universal taking their monster roots and trying to make some odd connected world of monsters. But I certainly was rooting for it.
I did attend wearing my red Fez and FatherGeek was in his Universal Monsters Hawaiian Shirt, so we were down, but our conversation ahead of the film was hoping that this film just be a better tonal run at THE MUMMY than the Stephen Sommers MUMMY film. I was very disappointed by that film. When I went to that film’s set, producer Jim Jacks allowed me to go through dailies in his office for a few hours and on the ride back to Claridges, he told me the tone would skew towards the scary instead of the funny, but Sommers chose the goofier, broader takes – and I rejected the film. Craving something more weighty. It is true that I loved MUMMY RETURNS, but that had more to do with loving Pygmy Mummies - and at that point, I had resigned myself to accepting it’d be goofy & Alex helped things quite a bit with that movie. But still, I longed for exactly what Kurtzman, Cruise, Boutella, & Crowe had in store for me with their latest MUMMY.
THE MUMMY (2017) is a film that made me positively happy as hell. It begins with Crusade Knights of the 12th Century burying a fellow knight with what looks like a huge ruby. Then sealed up in an ornate carved stone coffin. Next we feel time has passed as the chamber is darkened and dusty. That’s when one of them tunnel digging machines of the modern day comes breaking through a wall. Crowe arrives on the scene, taking over control of the site. He stands before a wall with all sorts of symbols upon it.
Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton and Jake Johnson’s Chris Vail
As we’re introduced to these characters – they are soldiers of fortune pursuing TREASURE. Tom’s Nick is a devil may care adventurer, scoundrel type… you’ll like him. I have to say – I’ve got Tom’s entire filmography open in this other window. I know all those films inside and out. I’m a huge Cruise fan (on screen)… But he’s quite a bit different in this film. Sure – he has the cockiness he’s always had. Although when presented with certain death, he will run like his ass was on fire. It is fun! Cruise’s Nick’s absolute belief in himself – and his confidence goes so far as to cover his best friend and co-adventurer, Jake Johnson’s Chris Vail. Johnson’s Vail is not nearly as assured as Cruise’s Nick, but that’s fine, Nick has confidence for the both of them. We see almost instantly the kind of a fly by the seat of your pants treasure hunter can get you – and it’s the kinda nightmare you’d see Han Solo get into. In fact, this first action scene may be out in the desert, but the way To Nick & Chris are handling it – there’s Han & Chewie panic aplenty. Panic banter is fun.
Now one of the coolest aspects of the MUMMY, for me, was the smart stealing that this flick does. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON & LIFEFORCE are both absolutely a part of the DNA of this film. In particular – Once the shit hits the fan… aka they find the final resting place of Sofia Boutella’s AHMANET and Tom is cursed – and then a crazy stunt sequence with the plane goes down. Actually – before that – there’s a great Vail scene that is very fun. Well then we have a Cursed Tom Cruise who is psychically connected with Boutella’s AHMANET. It reminds me of Steve Railsback’s connection in LIFEFORCE, but in a good way. It’s kept up throughout the rest of the film too. Giving them an intimate connection.
Then there’s the undead visage of his former living partner, Chris Vail. Is their interaction nearly as great as the work in Landis’ brilliant film? Of course not, but it is also different. You don’t get a mounting chorus of the damned badgering Tom. It’s just his buddy and his buddy is hopeful that Tom will just do everything for Ahmanet. I’ll get further into this at the spoiler portion of the review.
Before we dive into Ahmanet, let’s engage with Annabelle Wallis’ Jenny Halsey. She shows up with the always awesome Courtney B. Vance’s Col. Greenway – after the military bails Tom & Jake’s asses out of insurgent hell. Vance’s Greenway is very much the outraged Colonel you expect. But Annabelle’s Jenny is a one-night stand lover of Cruise’s Nick Morton, not just that, but she was on a mission to this site to find what there is to be found (and yeah, that’s at the behest of Russell Crowe’s Henry). Wallis’s Jenny is a fairly straight forward love interest character for Cruise, but they’ve trust issues, mainly coming from Cruise being either a bad lover and/or thief. Her feelings towards him change a bit after he saves her in the terrifying plane crash. But once Tom returns from the dead, they team up to recover Ahmanet’s sarcophagus.
Now at this point, these two end up discovering that Ahmanet is an undead soul sucking mummy from hell – and Ahmanet’s kiss is very much like Matilda May’s in LIFEFORCE in it’s aftereffects – and that’s awesome! Boutella’s costume design is sexy creepy, but let’s be real, nothing can ever touch Mathilda May’s costume design. Part of the plane crashed near a church in England, by the time these two arrive, Sofia has sucked the essence of a few early responders – and raised them from the dead to be her minions. Tom almost gets a dagger to the chest, when Ahmanet realizes the big Ruby is gone. So she doesn’t stab him. And when you see Tom’s Nick running the fuck away from this situation and not giving two shits about Annabelle’s Jenny – and her being outraged at him, but he’s like that smart character in a horror film who you almost never see – that doesn’t care about anyone but himself. He just had a multi-thousand year old corpse try to stab him to death and all his brain is doing is… RUNAWAY! And it is glorious. He heads straight for the emergency response vehicle and is driving when she’s trying to catch up – and the scene was so much fun.
At this point – the Emergency Vehicle scene is fun. You have some undead responders trying to attack them in the cab of the vehicle – and to a degree it feels a tad like a smaller version of the Truck scene in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. I also love that Cruise discovers he’s under the influence of that undead mummy girl in this sequence – and the supernatural nature of things really starts to get under his skin – and they’re in a terrible heap of holy fucking shit – when out of nowhere comes…
PRODIGIUM agents with harpoon guns to shoot all through Ahmanet. Thus capturing her and then Nick and Jenny are at PRODIGIUM – an organization that recognizes, examines, contains and destroys evil.
Russel Crowe’s Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde… Mainly we deal with Henry, with a bit of a Hyde break out twice in the film. He does not get all LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN sized Hyde. Instead his features darken, he becomes infused with a strength and sadism that you didn’t see before.
Now – there’s something you kinda need to know and get excited about regarding Tom Cruise’s Nick. He is Ahmanet’s chosen – and at this point in the movie he is the vessel awaiting the implantation of the spirit of SET to be reborn as a living God. Now, Dr Jekyll seems to think that SET is Egyptian Satan, but SET isn’t cut and dried that way – at least not to me. SET is a bit of chaos reigns. But for the purposes of this film, SET has the power to bring the dead back from the otherside – so it feels like they’ve given SET some of his son, Anubis’ powers – but that’s fine. This is mythology as it needs to serve the purpose of the action horror film we’re in. One key thing. Tom Cruise is going to be hurled at all four sides of the screen – and if you’re watching this in 3D – you might even see him hit your face. But Tom’s always been like a Timex watch, he takes a licking and keeps on ticking… and I mean that, he’ll actually take a licking in this film.
Now you’ll see a Vampire skull, a skeletal hand of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, a skull with a horizontal cut made into the skull cap… there’s hints. There’s a bit of exposition all through this “Welcome to PRODIGIUM” sequence – and it feels more like set-up for other films than directly necessary for this one, but that’s fine by me – as I’m hooked.
They’re trying to keep Ahmanet down by putting chilled mercury into her veins for some odd prep at dissection, but Sofia’s Ahmanet is up to delicious evil. That dissection will never happen, she will break out, she will turn all glass in modern London back into Sand and do untold death and destruction that we’re not really going to focus on here. What she’s really waiting on is the location of that big Ruby. When PRODIGIUM’s team finds it – she awakes all the Crusader Cadavers in their armor – and use them to take out PRODIGIUM’s team.
CRUSADE KNIGHT ZOMBIES. Ok. Now, I get it. Some people out there reviewing films came to this movie unengaged. I get that. I do. Is this MUMMY movie just too much going on for a mummy movie? Sure, just like the Brendan Frasier MUMMY flicks. I would love to write a MUMMY movie script in a week, do it 100% practical with makeup by Rick Baker, coaxed out of retirement and shot in under 30 nights. A film where it is enough that there is an undead, undying, irrepressible will coming, always, to get you. Sure, I’ve always wanted to see James Cameron’s take on Anne Rice’s RAMSES THE DAMNED. But that isn’t this movie.
This movie is like the Frasier MUMMY series… it’s a rollercoaster… a pinball machine with Tom as the ball. And at some point he’ll go TILT and you’ll get some free play. Only, unlike that MUMMY series, you believe the fear on Tom’s face. He sells every scene he’s in. He’s facing exactly what the screen shows and reacts exactly correct. He’s thrown off – because while he’s military trained, the military doesn’t train you to deal with monsters of the undying variety, the military doesn’t prepare you for detachments from reality where another’s will is taking your consciousness to another time & realm of existence.
However, really… this film is an origin story of a man named Nick Morton – who will be reborn as SET. He will raise the dead and he will continue on untold adventures, with a blinding sandstorm in the wake of his steed. How much of Nick is in there? Is it Nick in charge of all the powers & knowledge of SET? We’ll find out, unless this film bombs completely. Which I really hope it doesn’t.
Tom’s panic in this film really reminds me of his character in Spielberg’s WAR OF THE WORLDS, because it is time to run – and few do a better job of getting the hell out of dodge like Cruise. But also there is something rapturously satisfying about throwing Tom Cruise at every solid object on the screen.
You might not agree, but for me – it was fun – and Brian Tyler’s score had me. The sound mix on Sofia Boutella’s voice as Ahmanet played havoc with my ASMR. Had my spine squirming throughout.
The best aspect of the film beyond all the whiz-bangery of the VFX professionals that kicked ass on this… Beyond Cruise, Wallis, Crowe, Boutella and Johnson… I loved the TONE. I can’t overstate that enough, the TONE had me engaged at every moment. I was surprised about this because while I enjoyed Alex Kurtzman’s first turn as director with PEOPLE LIKE US – I was unsure of how he’d handle this material, the studio and Cruise… THE MUMMY is not a comedic drama – it is HORROR ADVENTURE – and as a HORROR ADVENTURE it is a far better than VAN HELSING or the MUMMY films of the modern age.
OH – and Crusade Knight Zombies rule. All they needed were inhuman glowing yellow mystical eyes. Something extra phantastic.
The most curious feeling I had leaving the film was how do you even begin to tie this film into Bill Condon’s BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Will the creatures be recruited to fight Cruise’s SET? Or is he involved in their creation? Or will it be a standalone film. I do like that you can easily feel that Brendan and Rachel’s characters have existed in a prior story. You will see a particularly poignant prop of theirs in the film. They don’t use it. But I wonder Alex O’Connell will eventually show up in one of these.
Mainly what I love is that this is a fun monster playground. I find myself reading up on Egyptian Mythology about SET – and then rethinking about what we were shown – and I’ve dove into the VR tour of the PRODIGIUM headquarters to see if I can see anything more.
It is a very fun summer horror adventure romp, give it a shot. I enjoyed the 3D, but not nearly as much as in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 and WONDER WOMAN – that lasso in IMAX – my god! But seeing Cruise bounce around in 3D is an absolute delight. Treating him like Sam Raimi treats Bruce Campbell is just fun. It’s PG13, and sure had they gone full bloody R – I’d be even happier.
There are people claiming that this is the worst film of Tom Cruise’s career – and that is just ludicrous as hell. I enjoy THE MUMMY more than ROCK OF AGES, KNIGHT AND DAY, THE LAST SAMURAI, VANILLA SKY, FAR AND AWAY, DAYS OF THUNDER and COCKTAIL. But given my own personal predilection for HORROR/FANTASY ADVENTURE – I’ll watch this Cruise film quite a bit. Undead Crusader Knights are just inherently fucking cooler anything in a MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movie. But then, I’m easily excitable about CRUSADE Knights in general. I still long for that old Arnold Scwarzeneggar/Paul Verhoeven project CRUSADES… and when Indiana Jones finds the Grail Knight in LAST CRUSADE, I always get chills, though that little ditty of John Williams’ Grail theme is largely responsible.
But each to their own. The screening I was at did have applause afterwards. And it wasn’t just me. So people are liking this film. One last thing though. The films I listed of Cruise’s that I prefer THE MUMMY to are not films I dislike, there’s never been a Cruise film that I out and out hated. Ultimately this is totally my kind of fun film, it sets up a playground for monsters that I find irresistible. Hope you do too!
Keep it cool,