5 years after the underwhelming Godzilla, can the sequel make amends and set up the upcoming Godzilla v King King monster showdown? This time around, Godzilla is joined by more of his monster friends……….
Directed by Michael Dougherty
Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Charles Dance, Zhang Ziyi
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The Dark Universe, which is looking to rely on Universal Studios back catalogue of classical Horror icons such as Frankenstein, Dracula & The Phantom of The Opera to name a few. In order for this to succeed, it is crucial that the first instalment entices the audience for future releases! In this case, it’s the freshly rebooted The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella & Russell Crowe, which has been given the job of getting the franchise to hit the ground running.
So this time around, we have Nick Morton (Cruise), a US military officer who with his close friend Sergeant Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), use their military duties as a cover to ransack ancient temples in order to sell onto the black market. After one operation goes wrong in Iraq, they end up uncovering an Egyptian burial site, with the assistance of archaeologist Jennifer (Annabelle Wallace). Things quickly go downhill as they end up releasing vengeful soul of Princess Ahmanet (Boutella) into the modern world,
If it was the role of The Mummy to get the audiences enticed, than unfortunately, it’s failed spectacularly. What we end up with a story, which is all over the place, where The Mummy ends up playing somewhat of a support role! Universal Studios seemed way too keen to start setting up its future movies during the entire middle 3rd of the film, with character reveals and plot details for the future. The film had a total of 6 different screenwriters that can explain the lack of cohesion in the plot. The Mummy opens pretty well, with the initial burial site discovery and the dramatic airplane crash scene, which featured prominently in the trailers, is by far the best scene in the entire movie.
Ahmanet is set up as a menacing foe, with the power to revive the dead and literally suck the life from anyone it touches. The plot for Ahmanet also seems very archaic, after the inspiring Wonder Women, here, Ahmanet’s main goal, to find her chosen one. We end up with the Mummy playing second fiddle as the film decides to explain the appearance of other characters, and loads of dialogue. It’s here where the film sadly loses its momentum. If it had continued the action packed opening half hour, we could have ended up with an entertaining ride, but the film screeches to a halt, and never really picks up again.
The cast are a mixed bag. Tom Cruise is of course box office, but his character here is arrogant and unlikable, which isn’t a bad thing, but his character arc never goes anywhere, and pretty much stays the same throughout. His action scenes of as always, great, so it’s a shame the film really didn’t have more action packed set pieces. Although Cruise is a huge name, even then, it feels like the movie is so focused on him, it feels like Tom Cruise ft. The Mummy!
Jennifer is pretty much just there to get into trouble, and be the love interest for Nick. The problem is, the two never show any kind of interest in one another, nor do you ever really care what happens between them. You barely see them have any meaningful dialogue, bar a few scenes. A very forgettable & bland persona. Boutella is by far the best of the bunch, following her captivating roles in Star Trek & Kingsman, she is proving to be a well accomplished star. Russel Crowe’s character is purely there for the sake of future movies, and really could have been cut out entirely, or be reduced to a post credit scene if needs must.
The film does try to include a lot of comedy, mainly with the interactions between Nick & Chris. These scenes don’t ever feel comfortable here, as this movie is much darker than the 1999 version. It really felt like a move to follow the banter that Marvel movies seem to revel in.
The scenes that show the full mercy of The Mummy across London, makes you expect an action packed finale across the London backdrop, but instead, it all concludes in a dark, underground cavern. Taking away the awe factor of what could have been a far more dramatic conclusion.
To sum it all up, The Mummy is simply boring. The sad thing is, the Egyptian lore and backstory has great material to work with, and if the film was solely about The Mummy v our hero for the entire runtime, that probably would have worked better. What we get is 3 stories attempting to be told at once, with The Mummy barely featuring in a turgid middle act, removing the most interesting part, in an effort to try and get us interested for what may come.
With big names like Johnny Depp & Javier Bardem already signed up for future Dark Universe movies, it is unlikely the franchise will be affected by the lukewarm reviews to The Mummy, but it has a lot of work to do in the run up to the next planned release in 2019, Bride of Frankenstein.
With the release of Godzilla in 2014, the Monsterverse was created; with the concept of fellow monster alumni such as King Kong getting involved in future crossovers. With that idea in mind, we have Kong: Skull Island hitting the screens, setting up the imminent showdown between the two!
Peter Jackson’s King Kong was the last major appearance of Kong on the silver screen, it was a 3 hour epic, which retold the story were all familiar with Kong. Skull Island goes in a different direction, a far more action orientated movie. Jordan Vogt-Roberts directs an adrenaline pumped version, filled with guns, military and brutal deaths! It’s a smart way to go, rather than rehashing the same story about taking Kong back to NYC for his journey up the Empire State!
So Skull Island takes place soon after the Vietnam War, and the film plays various homages to that period of time. The helicopters, the jungle shots, the sunsets! All the clichés! Bill Randa (Goodman) leads an expedition team to the mysterious Skull Island, which he believes is hiding a dark secret. Joining him on the mission is Conrad (Hiddlestone), former British military and survival expert, Lt Packard (Jackson), a frustrated US army leader, and Weaver (Larson), a war photographer & pacifist.
It doesn’t take long for the film to get into top gear. Once were done with the obligatory introductions, the mission is pretty much is doomed before it barely begins! Unlike King Kong, there isn’t much build up or suspense; it’s straight off the bat! Kong makes his mark right away, swatting away helicopters like nothing, and pretty much laying waste to half the team! This leads to our group of survivors attempting to reach the rescue point, and make it off this monstrosity of an island.
The monsters make up all the great parts of the film! Obviously our main gorilla, Kong steals the show whenever he pops up, but the island is crawling with all sorts of wonders. The bamboo spider sets up one of the more memorable scenes in the movie. You also have ancient pterodactyls, reigning terror upon our desperate survivors. Though these monsters are not exactly evil, more a case of humans wondering into their territory, it’s the threatening Skull Crawlers, which provide the real threat, a race of ravenous beasts that were subdued by Kong, are now free to wreak havoc.
It’s the scenes with the human characters where the film starts to stumble. They frankly, are just not that interesting. Hiddleston may have the charisma, but his role is something any actor could pull off. He doesn’t really do much, and apparently, he has expert samurai sword skills! Sure he walks around all confident and talks the talk, but the film never really shows us why he was worth bringing into the mission. Brie Larson is just there. As a war photographer, you think she would be used to the horrors, and still be able to take the pictures she was there to take. Any photographer on somewhere like Skull Island would be taking photos non-stop, to the point of annoyance!
The characters worth screen time would be the delirious Lt Packard, who is so driven by the deaths of his men; he vows to take down Kong, regardless of the consequences. Even though he should be aware, Kong was just defending his island, the Lt. is driven to the edge, and he does bring some degree of motivation to the script. He is more than aware he may not survive confronting Kong, by he just doesn’t care! The other bright spark is Marlow (John C Reiily), a lone survivor who crash landed back in WW2, and has gone slightly crazy to say the least! Though his character, as fun as it is, feels very much out of place here, and would have fit better if the film followed another tone. He is pretty much just the exposition guy, just there to fill in all the plot details.
Most of the cast lack any real emotion, which really hurts the movie. One scene sees a survivor get torn to shreds, limbs being ripped off. After the initial shock, the characters just continue to move on, just brushing off what they just saw. It would take more than just ‘’oh his gone now’’ for anyone to accept what they just saw, especially for any of the non-military characters! During the confrontation in the graveyard, toxic fumes fill up the area, yet the characters barely seem affected by it, apart from some coughing! There also is an abundance of characters that really aren’t needed, such as Lin (Jing Tian), who seems to have been solely added for the Chinese market, and contributes pretty much nothing, which is a shame.
But let’s be honest, we’re here to see the monsters, the final showdown between Kong and the lead Skull Crawler is a joy. The battles between our survivors and the beasts are thrilling. The graveyard scene is pure popcorn fodder. It is stupidly over-dramatic, but that’s the vibe this film wants to set. If the film focused a lot less of the dull characters, and more on the dangers of what lurks on the island, the film would be up there with the likes of Pacific Rim, an over the top monster movie. One thing Pacific Rim had going, was some character motivation and development. If Skull Island wanted to focus more of the humans, they should have been written to be far more interesting, as opposed to the bland persona that were created. The film though, does enough to set up Kong as a valiant hero, and his inevitable duel with Godzilla should be a thrill to see!