Thanks to Disney and Marvel, cinematic universes are all the rage now! Ever since The Avengers made a billion dollars and proved huge, expansive universes could be successful, every other movie studio scrounged up whatever properties they could in order to have their own interconnected franchises. It’s gone from logical, with Warner Bros. and their DC Extended Universe, to absolutely bizarre, when Sony was claiming to make a cinematic universe out of Ghostbusters, Jump Street, and Men in Black. Yikes. Now, we have Universal entering the fray with a revamp of their classic monster lineup known as the Dark Universe. To be honest, though, they were the original ones to do it, with films such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and others, over 70 years ago, so it had the possibility of working. Is it too little too late at this point, though?

In The Mummy, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is a mercenary in Iraq, hunting for antiquities to sell on the black market. When he and his team happen upon a hidden, secure tomb, they unearth the sarcophagus within and extract it via airplane. Supernatural events ensue, causing the plane to crash, but miraculously leaving Nick as a survivor. He finds out from Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) that he found the tomb of cursed Ancient Egyptian Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who is attempting to be reborn. It’s now a race against time before Ahmanet can destroy the world, or something vague and generic like that.

I’ve talked about cinematic universes before, particularly in my reviews for comic book films. I understand why they exist and I admit I do find them neat in theory, but I do think they take the focus away from the storytelling and characterization. The Mummy is the epitome of a film where the filmmakers focused on building their universe first, and telling an interesting story in a very distant second. The thing is, they don’t even get the world building right, because a lot of it doesn’t really make sense. Dr. Jekyll runs some sort of organization called Prodigium, which especially focuses on monsters, supernatural beings, and the like. Their goal is to capture these supernatural beings because why, exactly? It’s not very well explained and it feels like such a contrived way to try to bring the elements of this universe together. Just have The Mummy meet Dr. Frankenstein in the next movie, or something.

The film is nothing but a hodgepodge of ideas. Some of these ideas go nowhere, most of them being dropped, then reintroduced later when it’s convenient to the plot. One element straight up rips off horror-comedy classic An American Werewolf in London, featuring Tom Cruise receiving exposition from his dead, ghostly friend. The directing and editing is absolutely awful, causing constant confusion, sometimes even giving characters the ability of teleportation. There’s no consistency as it constantly goes back and forth from horror to action, never fully embracing what it fully wants to be. Every attempt at either tone completely fails, because the film is completely tension and fun free. The horror is your standard darkly lit scenes capped off with jump scares, while the action is your typical city getting decimated without consequence. It’s never scary when it should be, and it’s never thrilling when it needs to be.

Even Tom Cruise doesn’t look like he’s having a good time here. His only trait as a character is that he’s a sarcastic big mouth, and when he’s not reciting stupid dialogue, he just looks confused about what’s happening. His charisma is still there, but it just barely carries the film. The rest of the cast doesn’t fare much better, especially Annabelle Wallis, who exists as a pathetic way to give Tom Cruise an attractive female co-star to save. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such an ineffective and pointless supporting character. Maybe it’s because the characters are hardly even characters. Every action scene is followed by scenes of characters spouting awfully written exposition to explain the plot, with no attempt at developing them. It seemed like every line of dialogue was somebody explaining something to someone else. With the endless bits of exposition between the generic action and horror sequences, it felt incredibly tedious by the end.

The most entertaining thing to me about The Mummy was right after the opening Universal Pictures logo, it fades into the logo for their new Dark Universe, creepy music and all. I laughed out loud, finding it hysterical how they tried to make this into a big event that we were witnessing here, when it’s clearly just a pathetic at them attempting to play catch up with Disney and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After this complete bore of a film, I absolutely don’t see any place where this universe can go. There’s no direction, no vision, no passion, and no soul; just film producers chasing the next big thing, hoping to get a piece of the pie. You’re not fooling anybody, Universal.


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