This article contains The Mummy spoilers.
It is finally here. After years of rumination, Universal Pictures has at last taken an official stab at what they are now calling the Dark Universe: A serious attempt to make a shared universe out of their iconic movie monsters for the first time in about 70 years! (Yes we’re also choosing to ignore 2004’s Van Helsing like all decent human beings.)
Not since Abbot and Costello jumped out of a boat with the Invisible Man have we seen a genuine attempt to spin multiple films out of some of the most beloved creatures of movie features.
And whether you or not enjoyed Tom Cruise as The Mummy’s face—quite literally by the end—the pact has truly been made and we’re moving on to a new world of gods and monsters! And yes, we’ll get to that quote too. In the meantime, we’re breaking down all the references, homages, and “borrowing” this Mummy did in this living and breathing document. As we become aware of more winks and nods, or commenters helpfully point out things we missed, we’ll gladly update this article accordingly. So away we go!
The first notable reference is probably the most obvious and on the nose: We are given a new origin for the titular Mummy of the film in a sequence that harkens back all the way to 1932. Like that original film, the sorceress here was mummified alive with her viscera largely intact. This was punishment for a ritual intended to bring about each’s awaited lover from the underworld. In the 1932 film’s case (and the previous 1999 remake), it was due to undead Imhotep wishing to resurrect his deceased love from an illicit romance.
In this film, however, Russell Crowe’s helpful narrating brogue confirms it is rather an attempt to bring the Egyptian god of war and chaos to life by placing Set into a human body that Sofia Boutella’s Ahmanet has selected to be a vessel.
Unsurprisingly, this comes up again later. Also worth noting is the fact that Boutella’s Mummy is called Ahmanet. This could be a shortened version of Ankh-es-en-Amon, as well as a play on the Egyptian goddess named Amunet.
The Mummy’s gravesite was apparently so dangerous that ancient Egyptians moved it far out of the reach of either the Upper or Lower Kingdoms. They also placed in the cradle of civilization… which is in modern day Iraq in 2017. The movie has some fun with bullets hitting ancient Sumerian statues. This is treated as a gag, but it’s a pretty knowing acknowledgement of the very real world horror of terrorist organizations like ISIS targeting ancient archeological sites, such as Palmyra in Syria.
Speaking of this early sequence where Tom Cruise’s Nick and Jake Johnson’s Chris accidentally unearth Ahmanet’s ancient burial site, the scene likewise calls to mind another iconic landmark from movie history: The Exorcist. Director Alex Kurtzman told Den of Geek in an interview that that 1973 movie’s creepy and deliberately placed opening was a major influence. During this sequence, Max von Sydow’s Father Merrin oversees an archeological dig in Northern Iraq that accidentally unearths a demonic statue, which he takes as a foreboding omen that he will face satanic evil again. While it is the size of a trinket, he sees a vision of a giant pagan statue of demonic quality, not unlike the stony Egyptian face that Tom Cruise stumbles upon here.
Also worth noting, the far less revered prequel Exorcist: The Beginning features an archeological dig in Africa whereupon they find a church built underground with statues indicating it was meant to keep something evil trapped below our world. A prison as much as a temple.
The now famous plane scene from The Mummy remake where the sorceress uses her evil powers to crash the aircraft and kill everyone onboard (Cruise doesn’t technically survive) feels like it was borrowed from nearly every Dracula story ever told, including Universal’s 1931 original take. In the traditional telling of the vampire Count, he steers a Russian schooner called the Demeter off-course, taking him to Whitby harbor. None of the crew complains though as he drains them all dry of blood. At least the ones who don’t jump overboard that is…
Jake Johnson’s ghoulish ghost haunting his BFF from beyond the grave while in a state of rot is so obviously out of An American Werewolf in London that even Jake Johnson admitted that he instantly thought of it when he saw the character’s breakdown. Like Griffin Dunne in that classic, Johnson stalks his bestie who took him on a trip that got him killed, and he reminds his living pal that he is cursed. He also beckons the living to the dead, with Dunne urging his compatriot to kill himself to end his suffering; Johnson merely expects Cruise to give in and let Ahmanet have her way with him, then he’ll be free. There’s even a bathroom mirror scene.
We got some insight about this from the makers of the film…
A slightly subtler nod to this classic might be that Annabelle Wallis’ character is named Jenny, and the love interest in An American Werewolf is played by Jenny Agutter. Also, both Dunne and Johnson comment on their respective Jennys with yearning.
I’m likewise not convinced that showing a double decker London bus in a car crash during the third act was a coincidence either.
Another ‘80s classic, at least of the cult variety, cropping up in The Mummy is Lifeforce. In that movie, Mathilda May has the unenviable task of playing “Space Girl,” a French succubus babe from the stars who walks around the whole movie in the nude, locking lips with any man who crosses her path. As she does this, they turn into hideous dehydrated corpses who then later rise up as zombies to attack London. She meanwhile goes on her merry way, constantly and psychically bedding the movie’s male protagonist who doth protest too much.
This is pretty much how Ahmanet and Nick Morton’s relationship plays out as she (much more slowly) regains her youth via mummy mushiness.
Nick envisioning Ahmanet to be a giant pile of rats who attacks him on a London street is a definite riff on Dracula. In the book, and quite memorably in Universal’s 1931 iteration, Renfield drones on about how his master came to him with an army of rats as some kind of supernatural hush money (Renfield is a hungry boy). Francis Ford Coppola also visualized this to a similar way as The Mummy in 1992’s misleadingly titled Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Except you know, he used actual rats instead of CGI.
The Prodigium is obviously kind of like the Avengers’ Hellicarrier or Bruce Wayne’s Batcave: a place where all the cool easter eggs can be piled up. I didn’t see too many on my solitary viewing, but I obviously caught the close-up of a vampire skull, complete with some really nasty fangs that embrace nosferatu being quite a bit more bestial in this universe.
Another easter egg that I missed, but commenter Megalon’s Accountant and Twitter user Bill Desmarais were so kind to point out to me, occurs in the Prodigium. After seeing a vampire skull, Tom Cruise walks past the hand and forearm of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Or at least a member of the Creature’s species. Let’s just say that something fishy is going on there.
Another one we missed on our viewing of the movie, but Inverse has been so good to call out, is that while at the Prodigum, Annabelle Wallis’ Jenny at one point knocks out one of Henry Jekyll’s goons with a book… the Book of the Dead from 1999’s The Mummy to be exact. We missed it, but Inverse says pretty confidently that it has the same seven-pointed star that was the lock on the Book of the Dead in that Brendan Fraser classic.
And of course the Prodigium is home to Russell Crowe’s massive (and massively enjoyable) scenery-chewing. Crowe plays Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, who really need no introduction. But in a nice touch, his office is decorated with various skulls that trace human evolution.
Less a reference to a specific film, it is more a nod to the Victorian obsessions that likely influenced Robert Louis Stevenson’s writing of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Still rocked by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by 1886, Europe became obsessed with “degeneration.” Besides feeding into bigoted and hateful stereotypes, there was a real primal concern of turning into a more beastly, uncivilized self. It’s seen in plenty of fiction from that era, including Dracula, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau, and, yes, Stevenson’s story.
In that book, the erudite Jekyll is replaced by Mr. Hyde, who is often described as “ape-like” and “troglodytic.” It is an element that early film versions and many stage plays influenced by Victorian anxieties also embraced.
Henry Jekyll also says one awesome thing: “Welcome to a new world of gods and monsters.” As if you didn’t know that came from Bride of Frankenstein, one of the greatest movies of all-time?
And that final shot of Tom Cruise being chased by a giant sandstorm can be nothing other than an homage (or appropriation) of the most iconic effect from 1999’s The Mummy. In that Millennial-beloved Brendan Fraser movie, the Mummy is played by Arnold Vosloo, who can control the elements in a way Boris Karloff’s Mummy only dreamed about. And now with the powers of Set, so too can Tom Cruise’s Mummy superhero.
Were there any references we missed? Winks and nods to the classics that flew right by us? Let us know in the comment section below or give me a shout out on Twitter!