‘The Mummy’: Why Tom Cruise Couldn’t Top Brendan Fraser

‘The Mummy’: Why Tom Cruise Couldn’t Top Brendan Fraser
The 1999 film harkened back to 'Indiana Jones,' while the new installment is more interested in setting up a shared universe.
Universal Pictures/Photofest; Chiabella James/Universal Studios

“Where’s your sense of adventure?” is a question that Tom Cruise poses multiple times in The Mummy. The 2017 film may be a revival of the iconic horror-movie character from Universal Pictures, but that question suggests something more in line with the Indiana Jones films, as does the fact that Cruise’s character is a treasure-hunter at his core. Tom Cruise may not be the first choice to play an Indiana Jones-esque explorer, but it’s hard not to make the connection, especially considering that this isn’t the first stab at a Mummy remake from Universal; a 1999 version, starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, owed a great debt to the Indiana Jones series. Unfortunately, the 1999 film did a much better job of paying homage to Harrison Ford’s adventurer.

Director Stephen Sommers’ take on The Mummy arguably made more sense in placing its hero, Rick O’Connell, as an Indiana Jones type; the film takes place in 1926, roughly a decade before the first three Indiana Jones films. The new version of The Mummy, directed by Alex Kurtzman, takes place primarily in the present day, excluding a couple of exposition-heavy flashbacks. But it’s hard for the kind of spirit evinced by the Indiana Jones films to be replicated in the present. (It’s no coincidence that last week’s exciting Wonder Woman movie, a welcome throwback to the upbeat comic-book adventures of old, takes place a hundred years in the past outside of brief bookends.) So perhaps another complete Indiana Jones-like version of The Mummy would have been impossible.

However, the new movie does try to echo the Steven Spielberg-directed films in fits and starts. Cruise plays Nick Morton, a military man/treasure hunter, an inverted version of Harrison Ford’s hero. He has a push-pull relationship with archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) that’s sometimes reminiscent of the failed romance in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (at one point, as in the 1989 film, Nick and Jenny wind up in an overturned tomb, with only a few inches of breathable air below a vast ocean of water). Nick’s friendship with his fellow soldier of fortune Chris (Jake Johnson) feels similar not only to Indy and his trusty sidekick Sallah (John Rhys-Davies), but to the ‘99 Mummy, with Rick O’Connell’s contentious relationship with the…