By Heidi Sutton
Recently Universal Pictures announced that it will produce a new series of classic monster films, titled “Dark Universe,” of which “The Mummy” is the first to be unwrapped. The studio also plans to remake “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “The Invisible Man,” “Dracula,” “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Dr. Jekyll” as well as a “Wolfman” reboot. “The ‘Dark Universe’ is a continuation of a love affair the studio has had with its classic monsters. It is a Valentine to the genre that is in our DNA,” says Universal domestic distribution president Nick Carpou.
Let me begin by saying I love scary movies. “The Grudge” and “Shutter” are personal favorites. And I’ve always been fascinated with ancient Egypt and the pyramids ever since my father gave me a book about King Tutankhamun as a child. So when given the opportunity to see the big summer reboot of “The Mummy” I was excited. The 1999 version starring Brendan Fraser, who evoked the Indiana Jones character, and Rachel Weisz became a surprise box office hit and was, at times, bone chilling to say the least.
Unfortunately, watching the new monster flick play out on the big screen at the Port Jefferson Cinemas last Sunday afternoon, I felt my excitement turn into disappointment as I realized I had set my expectations too high. Tom Cruise stars as Nick Morton, a less than likable character who lurks around war-torn Iraq with his partner in crime, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) stealing ancient artifacts and selling them on the black market. During an air strike, a missile uncovers the burial chamber of Egyptian Princess Ahmanet, played to the hilt by Algerian actress Sophia Boutella.
Why is an Egyptian burial chamber in the Persian Gulf? A flashback to 5,000 years ago tells the story of how the princess is next in line to succeed her father, Pharaoh Menehptre. When her father’s second wife gives birth to a son, the enraged princess sells her soul to the Egyptian god of death, Set, who gives her a special dagger to murder her family.
As she attempts to sacrifice her lover so that Set may appear in a physical form, Ahmanet’s plan is thwarted by the priests and mummified alive for her sins (sound familiar?). Her sarcophagus is carried to Mesopetamia and buried in a tomb filled with mercury, “a fate worse than death” and a curse is placed upon it. When Nick finds a way to remove the coffin, he unknowingly awakens the princess from her “prison” and is forever cursed as the chosen one who must be sacrificed.
In the succeeding scenes the mummy chases Nick around London unleashing an evil energy wherever she goes, all the while searching for the special dagger that was stolen by knights fighting in the Crusades in Egypt in 1100 A.D. and taken back to England to bury with their dead. Sounds interesting enough, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it only gets more complicated from then on.
Directed by Alex Kurtzman, and written by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman, with story by Kurtzman, Jon Spaihts and Jenny Lumete, the film also stars Annabelle Wallis who plays Jenny Halsey, an archeologist and friend of Morton, and Russell Crowe who plays the role of Dr. Jekyll (Yes, Mr. Hyde does make an appearance) intent on capturing the mummy to disect her, an obvious introduction of what is yet to come in the “Dark Universe” series.
While the special effects and stunts are top notch, especially the scene where the transport plane carrying the sarcophagus crashes, and the flashbacks of Egpyt in the New Kingdom are visually stunning, it is not enough to hold the story together as the actors are left to work with a poorly written script that seems to jump all over the place with no focus. When it tries to be funny it is corny; when it tries to frighten, it is funny. It’s also not very scary — creepy, yes — but not scary. And in hindsight, maybe 54-year-old Tom Cruise was not the best choice in the lead — he’s certainly no Brendan Fraser!
“There are worse fates than death,” says the mummy to Tom Cruise’s character. Yes, like having to sit through “The Mummy!” I’ll take Rick and Evie and Jonathan and even Benny anytime!
Now playing in local theaters, “The Mummy” is rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images and for some suggestive content and partial nudity.