The Mummy: Film Review
Cast: Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Based on The Mummy, it has to be said that Universal's plan for a Dark Universe monsters series is off to a shaky start, and unlike its titular baddie, may struggle to rise from the grave.
Tom Cruise stars as Nick Morton, who along with Jake Johnson's comedy sidekick Chris Vail, raid archaeological sites for their valuables. But it's ok because they have a motto, they're not "looters, they're liberators of precious antiquities."
However, when their Iraq mission unearths a major tomb, at the same time as a set of sarcophagi are unveiled in London, it soon becomes clear that they've found something sinister.
Especially when the mummified remains of wiped-from-Egyptian-existence-princess Ahmenet (Boutella in henna lettered face and body, complete with slinky moves) comes back to life....
A mix of tones, part origin for the Dark Universe and rehash of every Mummy story you've seen before, the 2017 version of The Mummy really doesn't quite know what it wants to be.
With elements of jump-scares horror from the Boris Karloff age, and a dose of silliness from the Brenda Fraser set of films, it plays fast and loose with what it wants to be. Which doesn't help it or engender a strong sense of its own identity.
Tom Cruise plays a variant of his usual confused WTF character as he finds himself trapped in a curse (much like the audience forced to sit through this sand-blasted resurrection of a film). It's this element of the film that's perhaps the best and ripe for exploration but it's thrown away by Kurtzman's workmanlike execution of a script that jumps from sequence to sequence without any real sense of purpose, logic or anything other than absurdity.
Cruise's Morton is more Boom Raider, than Tomb Raider as the guns start blazing post the usual origins-of-the-mummy pre-credits scene, and his Romancing the Stone style attempts at banter with Annabelle Wallis' Jenny generally fall flat throughout, and don't give the film the emotional anchor it's clearly hoping for.
It helps little that every sequence in the film is served up with a large dose of exposition - and no more so than when po-faced suited and booted Russell Crowe shows up as the apparent head of shadowy organisation Prodigium (no sign of his Nick Fury eyepatch though). And don't even get me started on the Ray Winstone Cock-er-nee touches he brings to a certain character...
It's here that the Dark Universe strongly falters, as it ejects subtlety of set-up for future franchises in favour of blatant show and tell. It's an approach that speaks volumes to how desperate those in charge are to ensure the franchise works, no matter what the narrative cost.
While a great majority of The Mummy lurches awkwardly like its remains are about to shatter, there are some moments that strongly work. Some of the action sequences, including that of the plane and an underwater chase are blessed with some good visuals (even though the latter looks like an cast-off from an episode of The Walking Dead at sea) and the mummy effects are quite well realised too.
More a frustration than a resounding success, the most horrifying thing about The Mummy is how weakly it executes the initiation of a franchise. Perhaps the scariest thing of all is that future films are incoming from this series - and with the bar not exactly set very high this early on, this Dark Universe series could be long best buried in the past before it's even begun.