Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for The Mummy
The Mummy is hitting big screens all over the world and has made its mark Tom Cruise’s biggest opening weekend in his decades-long career as a Hollywood icon. However, The Mummy is also being slammed by both audiences and critics who aren’t so keen on this first entry in Universal’s Dark Universe of classic movie monsters.
Despite the cold reception, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Dark Universe. The Mummy may be under fire from seemingly every direction, but it’s not 100% rotten. Despite its weaknesses there’s actually some good fun to be had, and international audiences are flocking to see it, so its financial future is more secure than it would seem based on US numbers alone, meaning more the franchise is far from "dead on arrival" as some would suggest. With more movies, more monsters and more talent on the way, the Dark Universe has a potentially bright future in store, meaning there are some positive takeaways from The Mummy.
It Establishes the Dark Universe
Though it might not be a good movie in its own right, The Mummy still did the legwork to get the Dark Universe off the ground. Those that enjoyed the fast paced supernatural adventure of The Mummy may automatically buy into the next films the universe has to offer, but those that didn’t appreciate the first installment still have a lot to look forward to.
With Frankenstein’s monster (Javier Bardem), The Wolfman, The Invisible Man (Johnny Depp), Van Helsing, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame all joining this universe in addition to The Mummy’s Mummy (Tom Cruise) and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (Russell Crowe), there’s still a lot to look forward to. For those wary because of The Mummy's poor reception, director Alex Kurtzman was sure to emphasize that variety is the name of the game. With so many different monsters yet to go, don’t expect them all to be a repeat of The Mummy as style and scale may be adjusted to match the subjects.
It may not be a grand slam start for the franchise, but in reality, nobody has seen that. The MCU had success right out of the gate with Iron Man, but The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2 (the true MCU launching pad) and, to some extent, Thor, all failed to deliver at the same level, and the franchise didn't even see the widespread appreciation it has today until after its first team-up in The Avengers. The Fast and Furious franchise didn’t see respect from critics or the box office until 5 entries in, and the DCEU, despite a great financial reception, finally hit the sweet spot with critics on Wonder Woman, its fourth installment. Meanwhile, franchises like The Amazing Spider-Man crumpled under the burden of trying to expand the universe in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
The Mummy does the necessary grunt work to get the Dark Universe off the ground, and now a whole host of other monsters can take it from here until the inevitable team up. Maybe seeing the classic monsters on the screen is what audiences need to truly buy into the franchise vision.
This may not be evident based on the reviews, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in The Mummy. In a franchise called “Dark Universe,” it’s easy to imagine a much more self-serious approach that’s overindulgent with the more creepy side of the universe, but the tone Kurtzman strikes with The Mummy is something like Indiana Jones meets Fast and Furious. Sure it’ll fall apart if you ask too many questions, but the pacing and action set pieces make for a fun ride.
It may not have quite the level of humor as the 1999 Mummy, but with Tom Cruise on board, you’re guaranteed to see a dedicated performance and some impressive stunts, and he delivered just that, with a plane crash filmed in real zero-g conditions possibly even surpassing his airplane stunt from Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. On top of that, the rest of the movie features some excellent action, including some battles with undead, including swimming undead Templars chasing Tom Cruise under water. What's not to like about that?
Hollywood may currently be inundated with shared universes, and many critics seemed to feel this, with many reviews pointing out that Dark Universe is "yet another" Shared Universe entering the arena as if they’re already dreading the notion of seeing another sequel or spin-off. But not all shared universes are created equal, and Dark Universe is notably different from other cinematic universe fare currently being produced.
With sci-fi and comic books seemingly dominating the shared universe space, aside from Fast and Furious, Dark Universe is one of the more original offerings in this realm, meaning audiences starting to feel superhero fatigue can mix it up with a supernatural monster mash, and the inevitable team up between all these monsters will doubtless be one of the most unique things to happen on the big screen since the advent of superhero cinema.
With Tom Cruise’s Mummy and Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde already introduced, the next monster to appear will be Frankenstein’s Monster, played by Javier Bardem in Bride of Frankenstein in 2019, followed by Johnny Depp’s Invisible Man, The Wolfman (with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson being eyed to wolf up for the role), and The Creature From The Black Lagoon.
There are still a number of monsters to be paired with performers, but so far it’s an impressive lineup, and if the choice of Bill Condon to helm Bride of Frankenstein is any indication, the talent won’t be exclusively in front of the camera. The assembled talent isn’t only enticing for their own solo properties, but the idea of seeing each of these actors eventually share the screen in full monster mode should be enough to entice any moviegoer.
At the end of the day, there’s a lot of fun to be found in The Mummy, but even if it wasn’t your cup of tea, the rest of the franchise’s movies in production show a lot of promise, hopefully suggesting the darkest days of the dark universe are in the past.
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