First of all, I’d like to wish Mr. Tom Cruise a very happy birthday on behalf of myself and everyone on Team UMU. This site would not be what it is without you.
I really enjoyed talking about The Mummy and the domestic/international box office last month and it seems like many of our readers enjoyed hearing what UMU had to say, as well. After writing about The Mummy non stop for the better part of over a year (I first wrote about the film in November 2015), it feels strange to no longer need to write about the first entry in the “Dark Universe.” However, there’s still so much to say. There’s still so much to say especially after repeated viewings. I may be in the minority, but I loved The Mummy and I find myself enjoying it more and more with not only each viewing, but also with each scathing review I read. There’s something about reading someone’s negative opinion that just makes me more proud of the film Alex Kurtzman and company gave us. One of the more inspired aspects of the film I greatly enjoyed was the inclusion of Tom Cruise, another aspect that many have written and spoken of negatively. I was planning on writing this much sooner and also closer to the release of the film, but each time just didn’t feel right. With today being Tom Cruise’s 55th birthday, what better time to take a look at the inclusion of the last great movie star in The Mummy.
Tom Cruise was always going to be a part of Universal’s Monsters Universe of films, in which we can now refer to as “Dark Universe.” Cruise is a big movie fan (he watches one movie a day) and has wanted to make a horror film for quite some time now. While he was originally considered for Universal’s Van Helsing relaunch, Cruise was originally associated with Universal’s Guillermo Del Toro planned “At The Mountains of Madness” adaptation and even Universal’s 1999 action/horror End of Days. When Universal began to move forward with The Mummy, that was when discussions began to include Cruise in the shared universe starter and the main role, originally named Tyler Colt, began to evolve into Nick Morton. Among the numerous writers brought in to work on the original draft, longtime Cruise friends and collaborators – Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman, came aboard the project. Out of all the writers, it was Dylan Kussman who remained with the project in full throughout principal photography.
Having someone like Tom Cruise associated with a cinematic universe series is highly exciting as Cruise’s stardom would generally keep him away from a film like 2008’s Iron Man and 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. While Cruise was originally an actor once listed alongside potential actors to play Tony Stark, and more recently Green Lantern, it’s highly unlikely that he’d ever be a part of one of those projects. Chief among reasons why is that Cruise won’t allow his likeness to be used for merchandise such as action figures or video games. Imagine Robert Downey Jr. playing Tony Stark, but Marvel releasing no collectibles based off of the main character! It would never happen. However, a cinematic universe of films such as the Universal Monsters provide Cruise and the studio with more freedom as the focus would ultimately not be so much on him, but the monster! So, with all things considered, to land Tom Cruise in a film series – a shared universe film series – that’s a major accomplishment for all involved! And, knowing the kind of commitment Cruise brings to each film, with his aim always being to entertain the audience – really just how amazing is it to think of Tom Cruise being a part of a cinematic universe?
The Mummy is one of Universal’s most consistently reinvented of classic monsters. Since the 1932 original, Universal has rebooted The Mummy nearly 5 times with the likes of Boris Karloff, Tom Tyler, Lon Chaney Jr., Arnold Vosloo, and Jet Li portraying the famous movie monster. Interestingly, the actual monster himself isn’t nearly as iconic as the likes of Frankenstein’s Monster or Gill-Man. Those monsters are far more recognizable than The Mummy so it’s interesting that The Mummy went on to being the first chapter in the “Dark Universe” as opposed to Bride of Frankenstein (2/14/2019). If you ask monster fans who their favorite monster is, very few answer The Mummy. So it’s entirely possible that Universal wanted to develop The Mummy first and then venture deeper into the Monsters Universe. In many ways, especially if you saw the film, The Mummy serves as more of a prologue to the “Dark Universe” in just the same way 2013’s Man of Steel did for the DCEU.
So here’s where we potentially get into ***SPOILER*** territory for those that didn’t see The Mummy. The film ends with Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) stabbing himself with the Dagger of Set and ultimately welcoming the God of Death into himself. As he struggles with the monster now inside him, he’s ultimately able to fight it and destroy Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), along with bringing a drowned Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) back to life. (“WAKE UUUUUPPPPP!”) We’re teased a more monsterous and powerful version of Nick and as the film ends, Jenny and Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe) contemplate Nick’s fate – will the darkness inside him win over or will he search the world over for a cure?
One of the last lines in The Mummy is “sometimes it takes a monster to defeat a monster.” Nick, now a monster, isn’t really The Mummy as many speculated or surmised after seeing the movie. Nick, in fact, is Set – The God of Death. It’s an exciting way to conclude the film as we not only want to see what comes of Nick becoming Set, but we also want to see the next chapter in the story. While The Mummy under performed at the domestic box office and was critically panned, it’s now looking unlikely that we will see the next part of Nick’s story, especially in a sequel to Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy.
If I were to venture a guess, I would say that there won’t be a The Mummy 2. I’d also say that it’s not likely that we’ll see Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) again in the near future. I wouldn’t be surprised if we learn more about Nick through other characters, especially Dr. Jekyll in coming films, but I believe that’s about it. Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan, the creative architects of the “Dark Universe” have made no secret that their wish is to first develop the Universal Monsters as standalone films and then later connect them in much the same way as the original classics. I’d even go on to say that it would not be surprising if Nick Morton were to resurface somewhere later on down the road in a “Dark Universe” film that connects the monsters. If The Mummy had performed extraordinarily well, there’d be no doubt that we’d see The Mummy 2 shoehorned into the schedule, but in a lot of ways, it’s almost better for the series that The Mummy didn’t perform as well as Universal would have liked. Here’s why: It not only adds to the beautiful and haunting ballad of Nick Morton and Tom Cruise’s involvement in The Mummy, but it will also probably ensure a more pure “Dark Universe” that will fully center itself on the vision of reintroducing the classic monsters in as best as way as the next creative teams could accomplish.
Think of it like this – Nick Morton ultimately sacrifices himself for Jenny to have a future. Tom Cruise, taking part in a cinematic universe – “Dark Universe” almost essentially had to sacrifice his future in a shared universe of films in order for the “Dark Universe” to further prosper and go on to becoming what I’m positive will be a wonderful series of films!
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, director Alex Kurtzman spoke further on the ending of The Mummy:
The movie ends with the face of one of filmdom’s most handsome leading men covered. How did you come to that decision, and how much do you know about what his character’s face looks like under there?
It was definitely a conscious choice, and it was a choice that evolved out of a lot of design work. You always want to throw a lot into the design work. We did designs where you turned Tom into an absolute monster and you can’t recognize his face. We did a version where we went halfway and you saw and there were just little details. At the end of the day, I subscribe to the “hide the shark” theory. If you give the audience just enough that their imagination can run wild, it tends to be far more effective than just letting them see everything in the harsh light of day. That led to the idea that what we didn’t see will be far scarier than what we did see. We actually used a fair amount of the design from Tom looking like a full monster in the one moment when he screams over Jenny. Because it’s so fast, you can’t quite process exactly what it is. You can tell something is very wrong, but you can’t quite tell what it is. The choice to play their scene with Tom essentially in silhouette was very much designed from the idea that what you don’t see is going to be scarier, and there’s a subjectivity to the storytelling in that moment, because she’s trying to see him as we’re trying to see him. I’m kind of tying her experience to the audience’s experience and hopefully it makes you lean in a little more to wondering what it looks like.
How will you deal with Nick Morton having powers of life and death? From a storytelling perspective, it’s tough to have a hero who can bring people back from the dead, so do you see him as becoming more of an antihero?
You are always looking for a way to articulate the big idea of the movie in character terms. This is the story of a monster of a human being, who has to be a monster in order to find his humanity. That was a cool organizing principle. Now he is, of course, filled with light and darkness. Those two elements are going to pull at him. Who knows what his monsterness will evolve into over the course of the next film? We have a lot of ideas about that. … They live in a gray area, not just the monsters, but the characters who inhabit their world inhabit a gray area, and I look forward to seeing how Nick’s struggle evolves, because he now understands the best version of himself, and yet, he’s going to have a literal devil inside of him. How are those two things going to work together?
I hope to see you again, Nick Morton/Tom Cruise!
As always, stay tuned to Universal Monsters Universe for the latest on The Mummy and the Universal Monsters Universe of films.
Tom Cruise headlines a spectacular, all-new cinematic version of the legend that has fascinated cultures all over the world since the dawn of civilization: The Mummy.
Thought safely entombed in a tomb deep beneath the unforgiving desert, an ancient princess (Sofia Boutella of Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond) whose destiny was unjustly taken from her is awakened in our current day, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia and terrors that defy human comprehension.
From the sweeping sands of the Middle East through hidden labyrinths under modern-day London, The Mummy brings a surprising intensity and balance of wonder and thrills in an imaginative new take that ushers in a new world of gods and monsters.
The Mummy is directed by Alex Kurtzman, from a script by Jon Spaihts, Dylan Kussman, and Christopher McQuarrie. The film stars Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Marwan Kenzari, Courtney B. Vance, Russell Crowe and Sofia Boutella. The film is now playing in theaters everywhere.
(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemantleIII)