It’s not the best sign when you miss Brendan Fraser(not hating on him, actually like some of his movies).
Where to begin…I watched most of the Universal Monster films from the golden age of cinema. Being born in the 90’s and growing up in that era I checked them out through Blockbuster and recall being fascinated by them(Yes Blockbuster, that should give you a good idea about my age). So with that being said, I was intrigued and had high hopes for Universal’s Dark Universe.
Sadly, the Dark Universe is not off to a good start. This film promotes itself like a Mummy film, but it hardly has any Mummy in it, well not enough at least. It does have glimpses of potential, but it’s more like a commercial for the audience to let us know that Universal has a plan for their Dark Universe. It’s trying too hard to build a universe and trying way too fast. There are too many cooks in the kitchen, some of which are talented writers.
Alex Kurtzman is a bit of a hit or miss a writer, but I do enjoy some of the films he has written. This is his second directorial feature and it definitely shows. While the action is decent at times, it’s mostly framed up close and you don’t really get to see much of it. Not to mention the dialog is also incredibly dull and choppy.
Sofia Boutella, the Mummy herself starts off promising, but then it falls apart as the movie progresses. While very acrobatic, and visually looks cool, she never came off as scary or creepy like Arnold Vosloo’s performance in the 1999 film. If we’re comparing there are moments of Vosloo’s Mummy in the 1999 film where he’s used in a creepy and scary manner. She’s also not as compelling as Boris Karloff. She has a set of powers, and at times they are displayed to good effect, like raising zombies from the dead, but I never felt a sense of danger or any stakes involved. That really has to do with the fact that she spends most of her time either trying to seduce Tom Cruise or being a prisoner to Russell Crowe’s Henry Jekyll. The fact that this event takes place within a span of two or three days tops didn’t help either. Again, if we’re comparing to the 1999 and 1932 version, they felt like a long event as opposed to being quickly wrapped up here with this film.
Russell Crowe is a great actor to get whenever you need exposition. He delivers them with ease and his Jekyll/Hyde moment is a highlight to me. He is like the Nick Fury of this universe as he runs an organization called Prodigium. Through him we also get a lot of reference of what is supposed to come in the future. The rest of the cast Annabelle Wallis and Jake Johnson are just there. Wallis plays the typical love interest also providing exposition when the film needs it. As for Johnson, it’s interesting because they tried to do something unique with him, but it ends up falling flat. That has to do with the fact that no explanation is given to why his character ends up a certain way at all.
Lastly, I haven’t seen a movie in a while that really doesn’t know what to do with Tom Cruise. This film misuses him in the worst way. His character Nick is just all over the place and one noted. Cruise’s films lately showcases his ability to do action and the film does have two or three cool moments, including the scene underwater where he has to swim away from zombies, but it never really uses him to the full advantage for one big spectacle moment.
The idea of a female Mummy had me intrigued. A shared universe with Universal’s classic monsters had me intrigued, and with the actors that they have casted, I was all in. When I heard about this announcement, however long ago it was, I was really hoping that this wasn’t just purely a cash-grab, and based on the interviews I’ve seen of Alex Kurtzman it seemed as if he was genuine about this project and the future. While he may have meant it, the film however is a pure example of how not to make a corporate film.
Every studio has jumped the bandwagon on cinematic universes due to Marvel’ success. I believe the difference is that while Marvel is corporate, they have people who care about their property and telling a good narrative. Sure they had their misfires, but they had patience and took their time with it. Universal approached it as if the audience wanted a cinematic universe for their classic monsters, but in truth(aside from me and maybe a few others), I don’t think many people did.
Aside from a few amusing moments and some flashes of what could be a cool universe, it’s disjointed and incredibly dull. Should the Dark Universe move forward I would hope that it picks itself up properly and deliver.