When I saw 1999’s The Mummy, I thought it was the second coming of Indiana Jones. I’d be happy to see Brendan Fraser in a series of desert adventures. Tom Cruise’s The Mummy is naturally tailored to Cruise’s blockbuster brand. As such, it is a fun summer movie dabbling in the world of ancient myth and adventure.
It does open with a bit of an Indiana Jones sensibility. Nick Morton (Cruise) and his sidekick Vail (Jake Johnson) are fortune hunters. They’ve signed up with the U.S. military to get access to ancient treasures, Vail complaining the whole way. I feel like the ‘80s were full of fortune hunter movies, perhaps Indiana Jones knockoffs like Romancing the Stone and Firewalker. Did fortune hunting go out of fashion for a couple decades? Anyway, I’m glad to have it back and their scene jumping across Iraqi rooftops dodging machine gun fire felt old school to me.
That exploit uncovers an Egyptian tomb, which is especially odd for that area of the Middle East. Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) follows Nick because he stole the map to the site from her. The tomb has a bit of an Indiana Jones vibe with its elaborate pulley system that Nick manipulates nonchalantly.
From there The Mummy takes on more of an Amblin feeling, but updated with CGI creatures. The tomb belonged to Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an Egyptian princess who murdered her family to inherit the throne. She was mummified before completing a ritual to bring the god Set back to life.
Once she returns, Nick and Jenny are fighting all of her mummy minions. It’s fun how the creatures keep coming despite being dismembered. The film also undercuts Cruise’s hero moments irreverently. I suppose Edge of Tomorrow did that too by killing him over and over, but it’s still endearing.
The Mummy only kills Cruise once, but Nick’s reaction to being alive are as exasperated as one would expect them to be. He handles it by drinking and shrugging. This is not the guy who has a solution to every problem. In fact, he’s not even educated on the treasures he’s hunting. He needs Jenny for that. Quite smartly, whenever he fights Ahmanet, he’s not punching or hitting her. He uses less abusive means of defense and attack, although some of the wrestling might still be triggering.
For the most part, The Mummy handles exposition deftly for a movie of this type. There is an opening prologue on Ahmanet’s history, but it’s narrated by Russell Crowe so that makes it an all star campfire tale. There is a middle section where Nick meets Crowe’s character, who explains the larger world of the monsters they’ve been hunting. This too gets to the point more directly than many summer movies, or at least it pays off everything it sets up. The maguffin is a stone Ahmanet needs to complete the ritual, but it’s clear and establishes what she’s trying to do and what Nick and Jenny need to do to stop her.
There is a respectable ewww factor too, as the characters get swarmed by CGI bugs or rats. You’ve gotta have the creepy crawlies in a mummy movies.
The Mummy leaves me excited for what the Dark Universe could be. Nice opening logo after the Universal globe too, by the way. As a modern mummy movie it works on its own, but Franchise Fred approves where this is going.