With cinematic universes all the rage in Hollywood, it was only a matter of time before Universal would come calling with their classic monsters. After sputtering out of the gate back in 2014 with Dracula Untold, they set to work on figuring out a way to make it happen. Unfortunately, they’re still trying to figure it out even though they already have a slew of A-list stars attached to unannounced projects. With Dracula behind them, they set their sights on another heavily branded property, cast Tom Cruise to lead the way, and The Mummy came flopping out of the gate.
Burdened with scathing reviews — not from this guy mind you — this Mummy is everything we liked about the Brendan Fraser/Stephen Sommers film: big, dumb, fun. I’m honestly not sure if Cruise will be returning, but he’s having every bit as much fun here as he is in any of the Mission: Impossible films. It’s a shame it didn’t find a larger audience because it really is a lot of fun if you turn your brain off for a couple hours. And sometimes that’s more than enough to make up for being a little below average on the story scale. With Russell Crowe and Atomic Blonde/Kingsman’s Sofia Boutella tagging along for the ride, The Mummy may be able to find a second coming on home video with Universal releasing it on Blu-ray in a BD/DVD/Digital combo pack September 12.
In present day, Henry Jekyll (Crowe) has discovered an ancient tomb beneath the streets of London. In Iraq, soldier-of-fortune Nick Morton (Cruise) discovers an ancient Egyptian tomb housing Ahmanet (Boutella) — an Egyptian princess mummified after killing her father for birthing a son, forfeiting her heritage as ruler — after his sidekick Chris (Jake Johnson) calls in an airstrike. Meanwhile, Jekyll’s assistant Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) uses Nick to transport Ahmanet back to London where Jekyll has ulterior motives for her arrival. But just wouldn’t you know it, Ahmanet turns Chris into a cursed zombie only Nick can see, and now Nick and Jenny must find a way to stop Ahmanet from turning the world into her personal ancient sandbox.
Universal unwraps The Mummy on Blu-ray framed in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio housed on a 50GB disc. It’s becoming very interesting to see the difference between films shot on film versus digitally when upsampled from 1080p on a 75” 4K TV. 35mm has a more filmic texture to it, however, some of the sharpness takes a tiny hit. Detail isn’t quite as outstanding through most of the film as it probably is on the 4K disc, which is ironic considering that in HD, the film’s CGI looks better than it did in theaters. Blacks are slightly brighter than they should be, but considering the amount of scenes taking place at night or below the surface, it helps to make sure shadow detail is top notch. That being said, crush is never a problem. Aliasing and banding are absent, colors are natural if on the desaturated side a lot of the runtime. That is at least whenever they’re, again, either inside a building or down below. Whenever it’s daytime or a scorching desert scene, contrast runs on the hot side, but it’s supposed to. It’s hot!
The Dolby Atmos mix (downsampled to 7.1 Dolby TrueHD for those of us unequipped) is the typical blockbuster showcase of aural assault. That is, when characters aren’t chit chatting. But surrounds make sure to engage during the loud action scenes with the music and sound effects never drown out the dialogue. Directionality is spot on with bullets, flying glass, and blowing sand enveloping the room on cue. In a surprise move for Universal, the only two additional soundtracks are Spanish and French 5.1 DTS tracks. Subtitles are also limited to English SDH, French, and Spanish.
Universal tries to give audiences more bang for their buck in the special features department. Touting “Over an hour of behind-the-scenes action” on a sticker across the slipcover, it starts to feel like a bit of a chore to sit through. A few are more fun than others. An “Audio Commentary” kicks things off featuring Director/Producer Alex Kurtzman joined by Boutella, Wallis, and Johnson. This is your typical audio commentary if ever there was, but Johnson is always fun to just kick back and listen to talk about anything. The two best featurettes are “Life in Zero G: Creating the Plane Crash” (7:32) and “Cruise in Action” (6:09). “Zero G” takes us aboard the “Vomit Comet” and shows us how they pulled off yet another crazy Cruise stunt idea with “Action” elaborating on that and showing the cast doing a lot of their own stunts alongside Cruise.
Considering how long the rest of the special features are, it surprised me to find only four “Deleted and Extended Scenes.” Included are “Beautiful, Cunning, and Ruthless” (1:44), “Your Friend is Alive” (0:55), “Sand In My Mouth” (1:03), and “She’s Escaped” (1:14); needless to say, none of them add anything had they been included. “Cruise and Kurtzman: A Conversation” (21:15) is the director and star sitting around patting each other on the back while they wax nostalgic about their big plans to modernize the franchise while being a launchpad to an extended universe. “Rooted in Reality” (6:52) extends this conversation as the cast and crew, yet again, discuss how the film was modernized.
“Meet Ahmanet” (7:39) is a nice feature dedicated to Boutella, with special mention of her body double, contortionist Claudia Hughes. “Becoming Jekyll and Hyde” (7:10) could have been subtitled “Everyone Loves Russell Crowe” as everyone talks about how awesome it was to work with him and to watch him go up against Cruise. “Choreographed Chaos” (6:35) quickly glosses over the effects/stunt work of Ahmanet’s climatic glass/sandstorm and “Nick Morton: In Search of a Soul” (5:43) covers the never-ending internal battle of good versus evil as Nick finds a way to come to terms with the end of the film. “Ahmanet Reborn” (3:52) closes things out and is an animated graphic novel covering Ahmanet’s story.
Plain and simple, The Mummy never tries to break down walls or reinvent the wheel. It’s a standard Cruise vehicle filled with lots of action scenes and fun characters you don’t mind following around for a couple hours. It’s way more fun than it has any right to be — Johnson in particular is hilarious coupled alongside Cruise, hopefully a sequel can focus more on their relationship if we happen to get one — and is way better than its reputation. It arrived with critics hating it — myself not included — and wound up being a pretty big box office flop. However, for those willing to kick back and have some fun, The Mummy features pretty great video, fantastic audio, and enough special features to choke a camel. It may not be the best film of the year, or even the most fun, but The Mummy is far from a waste of time and there’s plenty to enjoy in the safety of your own home where no one can say they saw you at a showing and have to hide your shame from being seen at one of the year’s biggest flops.