'The Mummy': Tom Cruise's monster mash is a graveyard smash

Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe dig up a classic movie monster in enormously entertaining style (no spoilers).

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
3 min read

There are a lot of ways to dig up the past. You can painstakingly uncover the nuances of history, one grain of sand at a time ... or you can shoot a missile into the ground and blow it up.

Guess which approach the new, all-action version of "The Mummy" takes.

In theaters on 9 June, "The Mummy" excavates the past both on screen and off. The story involves an ancient evil exhumed in modern times. And the film revisits movie history, reviving the classic monster myth made famous by Universal Studios in the 1930s. But it's a thoroughly contemporary makeover, from the drone strike that uncovers the titular monster to the breathless CGI-enhanced action sequences. 

Most importantly, it's a lot of fun. Here's our review, with no spoilers beyond what's revealed in the trailers.

'The Mummy': Unwrap Tom Cruise's new monster movie

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Work on London's Crossrail underground rail tunnel grinds to a halt when the giant drill barges into a burial chamber full of knights whose crusading days are long over (or are they?). Meanwhile, in Iraq, the past is being treated with even less reverence, as ISIS-like bad guys shoot up relics of the cradle of civilisation. Enter Tom Cruise as a money-minded tomb raider who finds his planned payday is less of a blessing and more of a curse. An actual, ancient, evil curse.

Pursued by Sofia Boutella's lithe and lovestruck Egyptian princess, Cruise encounters a secret society whose members know more about this new world of gods and monsters than they're letting on. A society led by one Dr Jekyll… 

This new take on the classic movie monster is the foundation of a planned new movie franchise. Produced by Universal and known as the "Dark Universe", the series is set to resurrect such undead menaces as the wolfman, the hunchback of Notre Dame and the bride of Frankenstein. The films will be linked together by Russell Crowe's Dr Jekyll, playing a sort of monster-hunting Nick Fury to the monstrous Avengers.

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Russell Crowe's Dr Jekyll hides in plain sight.


Fortunately, "The Mummy" takes a light touch to setting up this new cinematic universe. Unlike, say, "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice", it doesn't get bogged down in establishing continuity points for future movies. In fact, I was really looking forward to a Marvel-style post-credit sequence giving a glimpse into the Dark Universe (sadly there isn't one, so you can go home).

Crucially, if "The Mummy" is anything to go by, the Dark Universe will be a lot of fun.  

Although it's not directly linked to the 1990s/early 2000s "Mummy" movies starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz and the Rock, this new version does share the same playful, rollicking spirit. It's an action film rather than a horror movie, filled with inventive and breathless set pieces and suitable for (most) of the family. 

As always, Cruise is right in the thick of the stunt action, throwing himself round all manner of exploding buildings and crashing vehicles, including a fun zero-gravity plane crash.

CGI appears reasonably sparingly, keeping the action relatively grounded. The filmmakers show admirable restraint, for example, in not using digital effects to realise one pivotal monstrous character.

Jake Johnson's tacked-on comedy sidekick and Annabelle Wallis' stiff archaeologist are less engaging, but this really is the Cruise and Crowe show. After playing a roguish reluctant hero in "Edge of Tomorrow", Cruise plays another cad thrown into a tough situation. No matter how silly the plot gets, Cruise gives it his all in a committed and funny turn.  

Fast-paced, funny and enormously entertaining, this creature feature resurrects a classic movie monster in style.

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