Before the Dementors of “Harry Potter” or Jason from “Friday The 13th,” people knew a completely different generation of monsters that included Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Mr. Hyde, the Zombie, The Wolfman, and the Mummy.
They’ve all fallen out of favor, so to speak, in that they aren’t considered by today’s audiences as really very scary. They’ve moved from genuinely spine-tingling to quaint, almost humorous so as not to be taken seriously. Just look at “Hotel Transylvania” to see how they’re portrayed today, or the “Twilight” series where vampires no longer turn to dust in the sun but glitter as if their bodies are made of diamonds.
And that is where Universal Studios is coming from with the release of their latest movie, “The Mummy,” starring Tom Cruise (“Mission: Impossible” movies), as Nick Morton, an opportunistic, enterprising fellow in the wrong place at the wrong time; Russell Crowe, (“A Beautiful Mind,” “Man Of Steel”) in a twist of a role that shall not be revealed here; and Sofia Boutella (“Kingsman,” “Star Trek Beyond”) as the titular Mummy.
There is a large push to bring back these classic monsters to life. A whole slew of interconnected movies, collectively dubbed the Dark Universe is being dreamt up as you, dear reader, are reading these words. And the Mummy is the initial offering.
The first thing that strikes you as you watch “The Mummy” is that everything is really dark. Not just the scenery but the visual tone of the film is always grim and de-saturated. But making things hard to see doesn’t necessarily make things scary. And things aren’t, really, at least in a horror-film sort of way. It appears that the filmmakers took more of an action/adventure slant to things rather that straight up horror.
This is just as well, as pure horror has a smaller audience than even a scary action-adventure (it is PG-13, so it isn’t that scary). The action set pieces keep things moving despite not being able to make you care about the characters so much. Three-dimensional, nuanced characters aren’t something you’d expect from action movies but would be beneficial for world building.
There’s no news if the next movie will include Tom’s character but it is a safe bet he’ll pop up again at some point, and if he ends up being the Nick Fury of the Dark Universe, the character that ties everything together, then making him a bit more memorable would definitely help.
This version of the Mummy has nothing to do with Brendan Fraser’s back in 1999. That one was more comedic and light-hearted. This has some funny moments of its own. Not too much, but just enough to keep things from becoming too heavy or intense.
All in all, “The Mummy,” while not particularly groundbreaking, is a good watch. People’s reactions to this will determine any course corrections the Universal may need going forward, and if they listen to their audience and proceed with a genuine love of the classic monster characters, then the Dark Universe may have a bright future. At the very least, think of all the rides they can add to their theme parks.