Warning: SPOILERS ahead for The Mummy
The Mummy has arrived in theaters accompanied by a savage critical reception and a lowered box office projections – which isn’t exactly ideal for Universal Pictures. Along with needing to be an enjoyable tentpole summer blockbuster like the popular Brendan Fraser-led Mummy films of the previous decade were (of which an Easter egg exists in this new film), the 2017 reboot of The Mummy also carries a daunting burden: it must lay the groundwork of establishing Dark Universe, the shared movie universe for Universal’s array of classic movie monsters. Like the films from Marvel Studios (the gold standard of shared universes) and DC Films, a “Dark Universe” logo precedes The Mummy. Universal clearly hopes that the Dark Universe will expand, and quickly.
In The Mummy, an ancient evil is awakened by Nick Morton, an opportunistic soldier of fortune and treasure hunter played by Tom Cruise. Morton, his weary comic relief partner Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), and archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) discover a mysterious, ancient Egyptian prison beneath Mesopotamia, which is now modern day Iraq. Morton, Vail and Halsey unearth a sarcophagus and attempt to transport it to the United States, unaware it contains the mummified remains of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an Egyptian princess who struck a bargain with Set, the God of Death, and became a demon. Morton and Vail are cursed by Ahmanet, who is then unleashed upon present day Surrey and London.
However, Dark Universe has its own defenders against monstrous evil: an organization called Prodigium. Similar to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Argus in the DC Extended Universe, and Monarch in Warner Bros. Monster Verse of King Kong and Godzilla, Prodigium is a mysterious cabal with seemingly unlimited resources and shadowy motivations keeping tabs on this shared universe.
PRODIGIUM – A WARNING FOR MONSTERS
Based in a sprawling headquarters beneath the British Museum of Natural History in London, Prodigium’s mission is to “recognize, examine, contain, and destroy evil.” This is stated explicitly by the man who appears to be their leader, Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), a scientist of many disciplines who is also a lawyer. Jekyll claims Prodigium’s slogan translates from Latin to “a warning for monsters.” Jekyll not only runs Prodigium, but he’s “also a client.” Jekyll must inject himself regularly with a serum, or else he transforms into the murderous Mr. Edward Hyde. Indeed, Prodigium’s soldiers have protocols in place and Jekyll’s office in Prodigium comes equipped with fail-safes to seal him in whenever he transforms into Mr. Hyde.
The origins of Prodigium are yet unrevealed, but the organization has seemingly existed for decades – if not centuries. Prodigium maintains some sort of authority even over local London law enforcement. At the onset of The Mummy, a burial chamber containing the remains of 12th century Crusader knights is unearthed beneath London, and Prodigium wastes no time to secure and contain the area, with their authority unchallenged. The burial chamber contained an ancient Egyptian ruby which Ahmanet desired to fulfill her plan to unleash Set upon our world. Whether Prodigium’s reach expands beyond the UK into the rest of the world is also currently unknown. The Mummy also raises questions in the wake of Ahmanet’s rampage in London: when she is unleashed, she walks the city streets and raises a massive sand cloud that attacks the city and terrifies the populace. How or whether Prodigium attempted to somehow explain this event to the public is never addressed.
It’s no surprise when Jenny Halsey reveals herself to be part of Prodigium. She quickly contacts Dr. Jekyll when Nick Morton survives the plane crash caused by Ahmanet without a scratch on him, and begins exhibiting strange behavior from being cursed by the Mummy. When they fight Ahmanet and her undead minions in Surrey, Prodigium’s soldiers arrive to save them, subdue Ahmanet, and take her into custody. Prodigium even had a chamber set up to inject Ahmanet with liquid mercury, which the ancient Egyptians believed warded off evil. Jekyll boasts that Ahmanet is the most ancient evil that Prodigium has captured.
Along with all manner of modern and ancient weapons for battling evil, Prodigium’s headquarters contains multiple intriguing trophies encased in glass jars and chambers throughout the facility. Among them are a finny hand of a Gill-Man from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and a fanged skull of a vampire, though Dracula is never name dropped. By the conclusion of The Mummy, Ahmanet herself, apparently dead and in an emaciated, mummified state once more, is re-sealed in her sarcophagus to take her place among Prodigium’s prized possessions – ready to be resurrected in a future film if the opportunity arises.
A NEW MONSTER UNDER CRUISE CONTROL
While Universal has announced its plans to continue Dark Universe with a 2019 reboot of Bride of Frankenstein directed by Bill Condon (Beauty and the Beast) followed by The Invisible Man starring Johnny Depp, as well as new versions of The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Phantom of the Opera, none of those films are set up in The Mummy. Instead, paving the way for its own sequel, The Mummy concludes with the introduction of a brand new monster.
As part of Ahmanet’s resurrection, she cursed Nick Morton to be her “chosen” – the mortal vessel to be inhabited by Set so he can walk the Earth. When Set is unleashed, he would have “the power over life and death,” and Ahmanet believed she would rule the world by Set’s side. Morton fights his curse throughout The Mummy, until Ahmanet murders Jenny. At that point, Nick decides to accept Set and stabs himself with Ahmanet’s mystical ruby-powered dagger. Once imbued with the power of Set, Nick kills Ahmanet, resurrects Jenny, and then escapes. Nick, who seemingly has gained some sort of control over the power of Set, is last sighted in the desert with his sidekick Vail, who was a ghost for most of the movie, but was also brought back to life by Nick. Together, they ride off through the desert, seemingly away from the reach of Prodigium.
Whether Tom Cruise returns as Nick Morton/Set in a sequel to The Mummy or in any future Dark Universe film remains to be seen. Indeed, given the unenthusiastic response to The Mummy, a black cloud of questions about the very future of Universal’s grand plans for its many movie monsters – new and old – hangs over Dark Universe. The silver lining is that, even with bleak North American box office prospects, The Mummy seems poised to give Tom Cruise his biggest-ever global box office opening weekend. Dark Universe welcomes audiences “to a new world of gods and monsters,” but audiences of the rest of the world may prove to be the saviors of the monsters of Dark Universe.