You may be familiar with The Mummy franchise due to Stephen Sommers’ popular remake of the film from 1999. In fact, the franchise has existed in one form or another since the 1930s, growing to include a number of films and spinoffs over the years. The latest installment, directed by Alex Kurtzman and starring Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, and Sofia Boutella, is a remake of the first installment in Sommers’ trilogy, with several notable changes and new takes on older material. It is also the first installment in Universal’s Dark Monsters series, which will feature remakes of some of the studio’s most famous classic monster movies.
The film follows Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), a treasure hunter who travels to ancient sites in order to steal artifacts and sell them for profit. At the start of the film, he finds himself in modern Iraq, along with his partner Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) and archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis). The trio accidentally discovers the tomb of Ahmanet, an evil princess of ancient Egypt, after it is uncovered by falling rocks in an airstrike. When Morton uncovers her sarcophagus from its place at the bottom of a pool of mercury, he is cursed by Ahmanet, who is resurrected and follows him in an attempt to use his body as vessel for Set, the ancient Egyptian god of evil.
The rest of the movie follows Morton and Halsey as they return to London and attempt to escape Ahmanet and her legion of undead servants. The movie is action-packed, with elements of horror added to the plot in the form of a few creepy and frightening moments. The action sequences are engaging, and it is easy to find yourself holding your breath at moments when the heroes come close to capture or death. The film is also interspersed with brief moments of comedic relief which vary in their effectiveness, alternating between providing a welcome relief in some moments and feeling inappropriate or ill-timed in others.
The story weaves together what start out as two seemingly unrelated plots: the curse of Princess Ahmanet that began in ancient Egypt and the discovery of a tomb full of dead Crusaders underneath London. The plot takes its time in unraveling the connections, working its way from two separate stories toward the thing that binds them together, an ancient sceptre belonging to Ahmanet which was stolen by the Crusaders and taken back to England. The viewer pieces the two plots together as the characters do so onscreen, eventually discovering the ancient artifact which links the two and becomes essential to the plot by the end.
However, other elements of the film are less easily pieced together and understood. By the second half of the film, the plot loses some of its direction, and the message being conveyed becomes muddled and uncertain. Morton finds himself at the headquarters of Prodigium, a research center led by Dr. Henry Jekyll, which studies evil in an attempt to eventually find a cure for it. From this point forward, we encounter several messages about the nature of good vs. evil and the desire of mankind to have power over death. These two themes both play out in the film’s end, though they do so rather unharmoniously, clashing with each other to the point where it is uncertain how exactly they are related, or whether one is supposed to be more prominent or relevant than the other.
This conflict of messages is one of a number of uncertainties that feature in the second half of the film. The other major one worth noting is the strange and unsatisfying ending. The film features only a tenuous resolution, as if the writers are setting themselves up for a sequel, though one has yet to be officially announced. In that light, the resolution leaves one feeling somewhat unfulfilled, unsure of what exactly they were supposed to gain for having watched the film.
Ultimately, The Mummy does have a few decent action/horror sequences, and the audience may very well get a few thrills from watching them. However, the good moments are tempered by the fact that its plot and message are a confused mashup of different themes and film tropes battling for dominance. It is at times an interesting and enjoyable watch, but by the end, it mostly falls flat.