Chiabella James/Universal
Darren Franich
April 20, 2017 AT 04:30 PM EDT

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Meet the hero and the villain of The Mummy. Fun twist: They’re both already dead! Well, dead-ish: By the time Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) meets Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), he’s woken up in a body bag after a plane crash, and she’s been in a coffin for a few millennia. “They’re finally face-to-face,” teases director Alex Kurtzman (People Like Us). “He’s realizing that he’s deeply, and desperately, cursed.”

Long ago, Ahmanet’s father reneged on his promise to make her pharaoh after he sired a son. That betrayal led her toward the shuffling terror first embodied by Boris Karloff in the original 1932 Mummy, but the gender flipping of this reboot offers a radical new perspective. Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) researched Egyptian myth and history to give Ahmanet a particular air of royalty. “These people never shouted,” she says. “They were the most powerful people, but they were just calm.”

Things don’t stay calm around Ahmanet for long. And while Morton confronts her in modern-day London, Russell Crowe appears as Dr. Henry Jekyll, teasing a classic-monster cinematic universe. But don’t expect The Monster Avengers right away. “The movie’s called The Mummy, not The Mummy Meets 12 Other Monsters,” Kurtzman says. “If we create a world that feels interesting and scary, then we will have succeeded in setting up the larger universe.” And this Mummy is more than a pile of decomposing fury. She’s “a woman who wasn’t content to be put in her place and wanted something more,” Kurtzman says. Who can’t relate to that?

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