There's a lot of weight on The Mummy's shoulders now that nobody makes single films anymore. This film is the opening to what Universal are calling the Dark Universe; essentially a big budget rehash of their old horror properties. As such, the final result is as safe as you might expect. There are certainly no risks taken here. Right down to the casting of Mr. Dependable Tom Cruise, this is as straight down the line as you can get. So what we as an audience get is solid, yes, but also pretty unimaginative. This does feel like a film made by committee, but, to be fair, it's a committee who know what they're doing.
The story is as you'd expect; an ancient Egyptian mummy is brought back to life and tries to take over the world (let's just gloss over the fact that she is never actually mummified and is really just a corpse with some bandages on). The man who has to stop her, Tom Cruise, is portrayed as something of an anti-hero. Ostensibly a member of the military (though this is interestingly underplayed), but also a looter and thief, I think the idea is that he is somewhat morally lax but comes out good in the end. Kind of a Han Solo type. And in this post-Chris Pratt world, he is of course written as a bit of a cheeky scamp who's always got a quick turn of wit to throw at anyone who questions his choices. Unfortunately, Tom Cruise does not have the natural humour and likeability that the role requires. His acting is solid and he does a fine job, but it is very much in the mould of charming Hollywood idol that is now about ten years out of date. Not to mention that he's probably a bit too old to take on a new long term action franchise.
Having said that, the action itself is tempered with genuine attempts at horror. The mummy's undead hordes are realised in suitably creepy fashion, borrowing from the likes of The Ring for it's inhuman character movement. It would be a bit of a stretch to classify it as a horror film though, and this is further undercut by the attempts at light hearted comedy elements, which wouldn't have been out of place in the Brendan Fraser incarnation. The comedy touches don't really work and just give a bit of a messy tone to the whole thing. Jake Johnson, an established comedy actor, isn't given much freedom to bring the funny even though his character appears to be set up as the comic relief element.
The rest of the cast do their job without particularly standing out but we must mention Russell Crowe, who appears here in his franchise spanning role of Dr. Jekyll. It seems that he is going to be the over-arching element holding everyone together in the Dark Universe so this film takes pains to set him up in quite a lot of detail. Honestly, I'm feeling pretty optimistic. Crowe is clearly having fun with it and he's playing it with a ruthless streak even when he's in good guy mode. And we do get a sneak peek at when he loses grasp on his humanity and changes form Dr. Jekyll into... Ray Winstone, apparently.
The whole thing is just missing a bit of personality. It's all style over substance and it's not even that stylish. It falls directly into every action cliché you can think of; everything is too dark to see properly and the fight scenes are all close ups and fast cuts. The director Alex Kurtzman is a writer known for his dependability in turning in acceptable Hollywood fodder such as Star Trek and Transformers. He is a very safe pair of hands and he has not dropped the ball. But it might have been fun if he'd at least bounced it a couple of times.
All in all, a real by the numbers piece, but at least all the numbers are there; 6/10