ON IN CINEMAS
Tom Cruise and Jake Johnson play Nick Morton and Chris Vail, a pair of U.S. army reconnaissance scouts with a sideline in hunting down the antiquities of Mesopotamia (now situated in war-torn Iraq). Following a treasure map stolen from archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) they investigate a desert town occupied by insurgents. After calling in an airstrike on the town, they expose the tomb of Ahmanet. She was an ancient Egyptian princess who was banished to the region after carrying out an evil deed: in a bid to usurp her kingdom’s throne, she murdered her immediate family and attempted to kill her lover as a ritual sacrifice to invoke the god Set (thus gaining immortality) - but was caught before the latter could be carried out.
The furious Jenny plus Nick and Chris’s superior officer Colonel Greenaway (Courtney B. Vance) catch up with them, and the pair are ordered to help the former investigate the site. In doing so they uncover the mummified Ahmanet and attempt to airlift her coffin back to the U.S. However, while flying over London a number of supernatural incidents occur that causes the plane to crash. Before it hits the ground, Nick gives the only parachute to Jenny, thus allowing her to escape with her life.
Back at the morgue, however, Nick suddenly wakes up in his own body bag. Moreover, Ahmanet herself comes back to life amid the aircraft’s smouldering wreckage as an undead creature who regenerates by sucking the life force out of any hapless mortals she comes across. She begins pursuing Nick, who now needs the help of Jenny, Chris (who now appears to him in the shape of deathly pale talking corpse) and the mysterious Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) - who, himself, is investigating the tombs of some Knights Templar who were uncovered during the building of a new London Underground line - in order to get a handle on his desperate situation.
The Mummy starts out rather well in an Indiana Jones-style high adventure manner. Okay, it’s maybe not quite that good, but the first half hour or so still provides a decent sense of old-fashioned fun as sparks fly between Nick, Chris and Jenny, and they haphazardly wind up in one spectacular scrape after another amid spectacular orange desert landscapes, filmed in Namibia by Ben Seresin. Unfortunately, the moment of the aforementioned plane crash becomes largely symbolic of the film itself. It starts to feel like a mixture of superhero mythology/origin story, a ripoff of Tone Hooper’s 1985 Lifeforce with a female Egyptian mummy replacing a female space vampire, an element or two from John Landis’s 1981 classic An American Werewolf in London, and an archetypical love triangle story. It’s as cluttered and messy as it sounds, taking in far too many outlandish ideas for either the viewer to have a hope of keeping up with them, or for the story to be coherent.
Why has Nick survived a plane crash without receiving any visible body damage? Has he become immortal - and if so, why does a later scene with him swimming underwater have him resurfacing to take in air? How does Ahmanet get so many special powers from beyond the grave when the ritual she attempted prior to her mummification was stopped before its completion? How did Dr. Henry Jekyll (who still falls victim to his Mr. Hyde persona) manage to set up a mysterious organisation which has been granted such authority that it can interrupt the construction of a new London Underground line by simply whipping out a letter and showing it to a foreman? Unfortunately, any attempt to explain it all is sacrificed amid an endless succession of sequences where our heroes either run away or are thrown around by various CGI supernatural beings: spiders, bats, rats, zombies, sandstorms, Mr. Hyde or the resurrected Ahmanet herself. It’s all rather exhausting, and the effects are too shiny and poorly-integrated to be convincing. There isn’t much visual flair beyond the earlier sequences; once we hit London everything sinks into a deep grey murk that’s trying its darndest to be dark and moody.
The cast? Well, Tom Cruise does the heroic stuff well enough, depending on your tolerance for his rather mannered acting tics. Sofia Boutella makes for a slinky, intimidatingly sexy incarnation of evil. Jake Johnson is likeable as Cruise’s semi-comedic screen buddy. It’s Russell Crowe, however, who takes the honours with a seasoned piece of Sir Anthony Hopkins-style scenery chewing in his dual Jekyll-Hyde role. The weak link in the cast is English actress Annabelle Wallis, who is stiffly prissy and fails to generate much chemistry with the self-assured Cruise. Any dramatic gaps between the film’s non-stop cavalcade of SFX setpieces could have been filled with Nick’s dilemma of choosing between slow-to-thaw “good girl” Jenny and sexy-but-outright-bad-for-him Ahmanet. However, when the cast doesn’t click so well it’s just superfluous window-dressing.
In fact, The Mummy could have been improved a lot if the 110-minute runtime was expanded by at least half an hour to allow the plot intricacies to breathe, and the material was lent a more assured touch than Alex Kurtzman (this is his second feature as director, and the first with a big budget) has given it. It needed to either lighten up a little to play up the escapist aspects, or crank up the horror potential to appeal to the Mummy mythos’s established following. As it is, the non-stop mayhem will bore anyone who isn’t an undiscriminating popcorn junkie.
Runtime: 110 mins
Dir: Alex Kurtzman
Script: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman, Jon Spaihts, Alex Kurtzman, Jenny Lumet
Starring: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance