Everyone wants to be Marvel, with that big fat MCU money rolling in it’s not just DC who want to have their own shared Universe with the newest contender Universal’s Dark Universe kicking off with ‘The Mummy’.
If you aren’t familiar with the Dark Universe (which we have heard a lot about in the last few weeks leading up to the Mummy’s release), it is Universal Studios beachhead to establish a shared Universal Monster movie universe using creatures from it’s legendary back catalogue including Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and Dracula just to name a few.
The Mummy follows Tom Cruise’s character Sgt. Nick Morton, a US Army reconnaissance with more than a passing element of Uncharted’s Nathan Drake about him with a slight reputation for acquiring rare antiquities (and selling them on the black market). While stationed in Iraq Morton’s character happens across the buried tomb of the cursed Egyptian Princess Ahmanet and in turn is also cursed.
While the back catalogue of Universal Monster movies are their own genre leaning towards more classic pre-slasher film horror, this new addition sits more in the action/adventure category. But with a healthy dose of jump scares to show it’s heritage with some pretty decent effects that remind us a little of the cursed pirates from the first Pirates of the Carribean movie.
With Cruise/Morton as the main character, the movie introduces the agency of Prodigium with jurisdiction and the mission to contain, study and destroy evil. Think SHIELD in the MCU, Monarch in the Legendary/King Kong/Godzilla universe but more accurately Hellboy’s BPRD. Headed by Russell Crowe playing Prodigium’s director Doctor Jekyll (aka Dark Universe Nick Fury) the story is driven by stopping The Mummy’s world ending plot.
Being the first movie in this universe (sorry 2014’s Dracula Untold, Writer/Director Alex Kurtzman said this is the first so you don’t count) you would expect this to be world building film teasing elements of things to come like Iron Man of the MCU, and you would be wrong. The Mummy as the first movie of this new Dark Universe doesn’t set the stage for the Dark Universe, it is firmly in the Dark Universe. Not shying away from opportunities to show off or give reference to how deep it is.
Throughout the movie, it was clear Universal is not shying away from opportunities to show off or give reference to how vast the lore of its movie franchises is even with this being treated as a complete reboot. With the likes of Doctor Jekyll/Mr Hyde as a main plot-driving character on top of references such as the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula and even a blink & you will miss it reference to Brendan Fraser’s Mummy franchise.
Universal is clearly going all in with the Dark Universe, even having a Dark Universe logo replacing the classic and well known spinning Universal globe. With The Mummy’s Kurtzman listed as Producer on future films including the next instalment 2019’s Bride of Frankenstein placing him in a Kevin Feige like role we are interested to see if the action/adventure (and still more levity than the DCEU) tone of the Mummy continues into future films.
If you are expecting a reprise of the pre-1950s monster movies you will be disappointed but if you are hoping for a more action/adventure tone as we saw in the later trailers you will definitely enjoy this.