Review: 'The Mummy' Starring Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, & Russell Crowe

As an unabashed super fan of the Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz 'Mummy' movies, any attempt by Universal to do a reboot appeals to me as much as being buried alive in a sarcophagus. That said, Universal dove in with both feet, landing Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, and Sofia Boutella to lead The Mummy, as part of one of those shared universes, the classic monster-based Dark Universe, that all the kids love. It even comes with a handy little opening stinger just like Marvel and DC have before their movies. Ain't that sweet? And Universal has the pedigree. They launched the first true monster movies back in the 1920s during the silent era, and have held on to these properties for decades as the horror genre passed them by.

But Universal has already felt the sting of audience indifference once before with Dracula Untold, which was to be the Dark Universe's debut until nobody saw it. Will the same thing happen with The Mummy? Hopefully not, because a world of potential was just opened up with a surprisingly fun, thrilling, and adventurous film that takes most of its cues from Indiana Jones than the horrors of a bygone era. Cruise, bringing more Fraser-style humor to the table than expected, plays Nick Morton, a former soldier turned treasure hunter who, along with his sidekick/comic relief Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) unearths an ancient Egyptian crypt beneath an ISIS stronghold in Afghanistan, which is pretty weird. Of course, he finds it by directly disobeying orders which gets him in trouble with his military superiors, not to mention archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) who has more personal reasons to dislike Nick.

In exploring the newly-discovered sarcophagus, they find the tomb of Princess Ahmanet (Boutella), who was stricken from historical record after she murdered her family and struck a deal with the Egyptian god of death, Set, giving her incredible power and immortality. But she was eventually stopped, mummified, and locked away for 5000 years, until Nick messed around and dropped a drone strike on the location. Oops. For unleashing her, Nick becomes her "chosen" one, which allows him to survive the film's most incredible action sequence when their cargo plane crashes just outside of London. It's the kind of jaw-dropping, gravity-defying stunt we expect to see from Cruise in Mission: Impossible, and he is, as usual, a rock star at performances with high physical demands.

The Mummy is always in a tug of war with itself to tell a straight-forward self contained adventure story while also setting up the Dark Universe building blocks. And this does cause some of the character work to suffer, mostly in the supporting players but not in Nick. This isn't the bleak, grim thriller that most modern reboots tend to shoot for (Lookin' at you, Warner Bros.); it's got a sense of humor about it. Nick is a scoundrel, an antihero with a heart that might be gold, and he's always quick with a comeback about just how heroic he isn't. He shares some clever exchanges with Jenny, but the romance angle between them never takes off and feels like a burden by the time it needs to mean something, which is in the finale. But Nick is the kind of character we don't get to see Cruise play much anymore. He's not stereotypically tough like in Jack Reacher, or altruistic like Mission: Impossible's Ethan Hunt. He's sort of like Ethan Hunt meets Jerry Maguire, minus the annoying Cameron Crowe speeches, thank goodness.

But the Dark Universe is always there, needing to be fleshed out, and director Alex Kurtzman, along with a trio of screenwriters that includes Christopher McQuarrie and David Koepp, have the makings of something special. Their sharp approach is best seen in Russell Crowe's character,  Dr. Henry Jekyll, one of the great literary creations of all-time and a horror staple. Without giving too much away, this monstrous figure has been given an intriguing new role as the head of an organization designed to keep people like him hidden away. His struggles to control his "condition" manifest constantly, setting up not only a furious, well-choreographed fight scene with Nick, but also sets up some interesting possibilities for the franchise's future.

As for the titular Mummy herself, she strikes a visually impressive image, not surprising since Boutella is a very unique actress. Her gifts, which again lean towards the physical much like Cruise, don't get enough of a chance to shine. I dig that they gave Ahmanet a backstory, one vaguely similar to the 1999 movies albeit from a female perspective, but then they fail to really do anything with the mythology created around her. Then again, I remember that it wasn't until The Mummy Returns that 1999's The Mummy truly felt complete. That leaves me with hope this newer version of The Mummy is just the start of something great, and not the end of a franchise that will forever be stuck in the sand.

Rating: 4 out of 5