UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2017)

 

Director: Alex Kurtzman

 

Starring: Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Russell Crowe

“Welcome to a new world of Gods and monsters”

 

Kicking off the Dark Universe, Universal’s shared cinematic monster-verse, The Mummy had a lot resting on its bandaged shoulders. Having announced no fewer than TEN movies within the Universe, this movie had to set the standard and get pulses racing, it needed to be able to raise the dead with its quality in order to maintain the initial integrity of the Dark Universe.

 

The movie is monstrously poor.

Whether it was because Tom Cruise’s ego got in the way as he reportedly had huge control over the movie’s direction or because the titular character wasn’t the focus of the movie, The Mummy laboured along as a meddling action-adventure flick – a now typical Cruise offering.

 

Opening with flashbacks to English Crusaders being buried with crucial artefacts and jewels, a narration from Dr. Henry Jekyll (Crowe) tells us the story of Ahmanet (Boutella), an Egyptian princess whose claim to the throne has been removed by the birth of her half-brother. As any rational royal would do, she murders her father, his wife and the baby before attempting to sacrifice her lover using the Dagger of Set – a blade that will transfer the spirit of the God of Death into her – but her plan is foiled as she is captured and mummified alive. That’ll teach her.

 

In present day Iraq, soldier/explorer Nick Morton (Cruise) and his weird partner Chris (Johnson) have been sent to locate and retrieve an ancient site containing priceless artifacts. Morton uses a map he stole from archaeologist Jenny (Wallis) after spending a night with her, but of course she finds him just as they find the side. Inside is the tomb of Ahmanet, submerged in liquid mercury, and various other trinkets and ominous statues. With insurgents closing in, Cruise raises the tomb (because he’s the hero) but is somehow taken over by the spirit within the tomb, who chooses him to be her subject in life and love (and to take over the world). Meanwhile, Dr. Jekyll informs Jenny to bring the tomb and Nick to him in London as soon as possible, but not before strange cursed happenings and a huge plane crash can cause havoc, freeing the Mummy to begin her wicked quest and allowing Cruise to do some stunts.

 

Poor Alex Kurtzman. Handed a cinematic universe to oversee (he is having a hand in all ten movies), his first offering is a slog of an action movie lacking in excitement, lacking in engagement and lacking in strong direction. It’s a mess. I had been hoping to see a creepy flick surrounding the Mummy, a slow burner full of suspense and things lurking in the shadows – this movie has none of that, which makes me question the idea of this as a ‘monster’ movie. Instead we are served up a story of a preserved, millennia-old beast desperate for the limelight – but enough about Tom Cruise.

 

The Mummy herself has a short amount of (meaningful) screentime which is a shame as she should really be the focus of her movie, instead we get Tom Cruise rutting a younger woman who becomes enamoured by him and being slobbered over by a scantily-clad seductress, whilst also having him naked to show us he has a better figure than we do at 54 years of age. The focus is all wrong. Sofia Boutella is a fine actress but her participation in this movie is baffling, if it was to raise her already high profile she needs a new agent. There’s not much she can do with what she is given. Annabelle Wallis is utterly abysmal, her fluctuating accent more interesting than her beyond wooden act. Russell Crowe emerges to add some credibility and his scenes are the more interesting, though how a double-edged monster became head of Prodigium (the corporation that seeks out monsters) is oddly ignored. The Dick van Dyke cockney accent Mr. Hyde adopts allows to movie to have the tiniest bit of fun and for Crowe to ham it up.

 

I actually enjoyed the initial introduction to the character of Ahmanet, via flashback and Crowe’s voiceover. The visuals were bleached in sultry sunburst and orange and the tone created was intriguing and slightly sinister. Had the movie retained this mood then it would’ve been a far better affair. Boutella is allowed a rare moment in the movie to have a go at acting but its downhill from there. Crowe is an outstanding performaner who rarely goes wrong, and he does his best here and just manages to retain credibility.

 

The end of the movie exists merely to set up the Universe and the twist confirms this. My hopes for the next movie in this world, Bride of Frankenstein (with Bill Condon directing), have been lowered but it’ll have to try very hard to be worse than this.

 

This movie made me want to mummify myself and spend eternity in a lonely tomb.

August 4th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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