In 1932, Karl Freund scared the whole world with a mummy. From this film is born a legendary monster who will grow cinematographically, just like …
In 1932, Karl Freund scared the whole world with a mummy. From this film is born a legendary monster who will grow cinematically, just as Dracula and Frankenstein did on their side. 67 years later, Stephen Sommers brings this Egyptian corpse back to the forefront thanks to the surprising The Mummy with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. Two more episodes will follow, accumulating hundreds of millions of dollars in box office receipts. Universal, feeling the right vein, decided two years ago to start the Dark Universe project.
This one has a simple goal: to put the monsters of anthology back on the front of the stage. The Mummy, Dr Jekyll, The Invisible Man and Frankenstein are therefore back and should, over the years (and films) meet. This is already the case with the first piece of this vast project: The Mummy. Directed by Alex Kurtzman, rather used to being a screenwriter until then, the feature film intends to launch the Dark Universe in the best way possible thanks to its panel of stars: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe and Sofia Boutella. A success ?
Brendan vs Tom
The Mummy tells us the story of Ahmanet, a princess of ancient Egypt buried alive in a tomb deep in a desert more than 1,500 kilometers from her native land. The latter saw her father rob her of the fate that was promised to her and decided to invoke Seth, an ancient God, to help her. She is blessed with superhuman power that she lashes out at her family members in order to rule Egypt while making sure to find a host to welcome Seth to Earth. Fortunately, it will be stopped just before it is finished and will end up hidden and imprisoned. 5,000 years later, Nick Morton and Jenny Halsey stumble upon a mysterious tomb that they should never have discovered …
It is therefore from this initial premise that the film was born. Quickly, we feel that the director and Universal have navigated between two waters: to set off again on completely new bases or to honor what has been achieved before. In this sense, The Mummy has some references to the trilogy led by Brendan Fraser. It must be said that the character of Nick Morton, played by Tom Cruise, looks a lot like Rick O’Connell. A mercenary side, a touch of selfishness and attempted jokes that often fall apart. At his side, the beautiful Jenny Halsey, played by Annabelle Wallis, who hesitates between love and disgust for the hero (like Evelyn Carnahan in the 1999 episode). And in the middle of it all, Chris Vail, played by Jake Johnson, the troublemaker on duty, fearful and never stingy in good feelings (yes, you will understand, he’s Jonathan Carnahan from this new movie). It is therefore quickly this fact that jumps out at us: in terms of character creation, no real risk was taken. We are faced with a carbon copy of what we were entitled to 18 years ago, minus the surprise.
Fortunately, the Ahmanet Mummy is much more elaborate. Surprisingly, she fulfills her role better than expected and gives the film a more interesting dimension, especially when it comes to Egyptian mythology. She did not manage to save the film on her own, however. Because we must admit, boredom is a little too often the tip of its nose. While we could hope for a certain freshness and a thunderous start for this first part of the Dark Universe, the director presents us rather a kind of sketch with an uneven rhythm. The real problem with directing Alex Kurtzman is that she tends to take herself way too seriously. If the few jets of humor thrown here and there will distract the most “good public” among you, it is certain that we are faced with a somewhat egocentric work.
Actors not at the top
The story unveiled is far too classic to really surprise and the few clues left in the way to allow us to imagine future feature films are far too thin (or unnecessary) to seal the audience. We even sometimes wonder how the other “monsters” will be able to fit into this film, as the starting substance seems thin to us.
Beyond its glaring problems of rhythm and scenario, The Mummy has one merit: the special effects it presents are of high quality. A goldsmith’s work has been carried out to sublimate the different landscapes and the film’s photography is to be highlighted. Each scene benefits from a specific light and a rendering sometimes colored, sometimes dark, which permeates the actors in coherent shots. The action scenes benefit from a grandiose rendering and the various monsters are skillfully modeled. The graphic work done on Ahmanet is also a nice surprise.
As for the actors, we will not criticize badly the game of Tom Cruise, who is always very involved and who takes his role to heart. We feel that the soon-to-be-55-year-old American had a lot of fun, although we can sometimes look into this somewhat surprising choice of casting. Russell Crowe, who plays the famous Dr Jekyll, is not very present after all even if it is clear that he will play a very important role, even central, for the future of the Dark Universe. The French Sofia Boutella is she, and it is once again to note, very convincing in her role of mummy woman, a first for the franchise. He is also the most interesting character in the film and we keep our fingers crossed that he will come back, in any form (Hollywood is capable of anything) in the future. On the bad points side, note the character of Jenny Halsey, played by an Annabelle Wallis (currently seen in King Artur: the legend of Excalibur) completely off the mark. The actress often does too much, her emotions are rarely right and she sometimes gives the impression of reciting rather than acting. An unpleasant feeling therefore constantly takes the top when she gives the reply to her ally Tom Cruise. Pity.
Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy is a rough film, far from the level it claimed to be. Blockbuster announced, it remains above all a forgettable feature film which brings little to the franchise and which launches badly the expected Dark Universe and its plethora of cult monsters. A small disappointment which, we hope, will be entitled to much better suites.