The best thing to say about this first Tom Cruise-headlining salvo into Universal Studio’s new monsters-inspired cinematic universe is – it’s a lot better than the scathing reviews have made it out to be.
In fact it’s pretty much as close to a three-star film you can get – never being bad enough to be a two-star but never reaching the heights of a four-star – which isn’t by any means a bad start for this Dark Universe.
This inaugural horror-tinged thriller also nicely links in Russell Crowe’s enigmatic Dr Henry Jekyll (and alter ego Eddie Hyde) – who seems like he’ll serve as something like Marvel’s Nick Fury to this stable – as leader of secret monster extinguishing organisation Prodigium, who ‘recognise, contain, examine and destroy’ the ‘evil shadows outside our world looking for a way in’.
As always Cruise puts in a competently amiable turn – defying the sometimes generic screenplay with his own inimitable charm and dry humour. He stars as morally questionable military man/secret treasure hunter Nick Morton, who inadvertently awakens the malevolence of Sofia Boutella’s (Kingsman: The Secret Service) female mummy, Egyptian Princess Ahmanet, who was buried alive after murdering her family some thousand years earlier.
When her crypt is unearthed beneath an Iraqi desert, Morton is then possessed by the spirit of her former lover, and Ahmanet will stop at nothing to delve her ancient dagger into him to reunite the couple and bring devastation to the world.
Morton is aided along the way by his annoying comedy sidekick Chris Veil (Jake Johnson) and more predominantly his (kinda) love interest, archaeologist Jennifer Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) – who spins off Cruise pretty well – before Jekyll’s Prodigium organisation shows an invested interest in Morton’s haunted soul.
While it does lack originality and the campy excitement of Brendan Fraser’s 1999 alternative – despite being a more polished product – there’s still something engaging about this adventure, despite a lack of constant monstrous scares as it plays more like a 12A than its 15 certificate.
But it still proves to be a potentially vital starting block to the Dark Universe, and Cruise really is quite an enjoyable lead to guide it through its muddled narrative – which makes this a bit of an unjustly maligned blockbuster that deserves more plaudits.
Now it’s fingers-crossed this fledgling – and intriguingly different – monsters universe does enough box-office business so it doesn’t fade to black before it has even properly awoken.
Gavin Miller [youtube id=”IjHgzkQM2Sg” width=”600″ height=”350″]
Cast: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Sophie Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Marwan Kenzari & Courtney B Vance
Running Time: 1 Hr 50 Mins
Director: Alex Kurtzman
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