Movie Review: The Mummy

Certificate 15, 110 minutes

Director: Alex Kurtzman

Stars: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis

The Mummy, the latest version in the Mummy franchise opens, not as might be expected, in ancient Egypt, or even in the present, but in England, 1127 AD. A group of knights, Templars by all appearances, are holding a funeral for one of their number. As he is placed in a sarcophagus, a large red gemstone is placed on his breast, and the coffin is sealed.

In the present, a mining machine, part of London’s Crossrail project, breaks into a large crypt full of sarcophagi, clearly the same place. The crypt is partially flooded, with some parts being under water, and is a tomb for Crusaders who went to Egypt. Then a new organisation, led by Dr Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) – and no, that name is not a coincidence – take over the exploration of the crypt. Jekyll then narrates (this is often not a good sign) about an ancient Egyptian princess who has been written out of history, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). Ahmanet was in line to the throne of the Pharaoh, her father, her mother having died in childbirth, but after her father had a son with another woman, her infant half-brother would now take the throne.

The MummyAhmanet did not take this well and made a pact with Set, described as being the God of the Dead (not actually true and, like most Egyptian deities with a negative role, Set was also not generally considered to be purely evil, having an important part to play in maintaining balance). Set agreed to the pact, giving Ahmanet a dagger with a gemstone just like the one seen buried with the Crusader earlier, Ahmanet being covered in markings and her iris and pupils doubling up. She then kills both her father and her half-brother and then plans to embody Set in a mortal body, but is stopped before this is accomplished. She is then mummified alive and her sarcophagus is taken to a place far beyond the boundaries of Egypt.

In Mesopotamia, described as being the cradle of civilisation before insurgents destroy some of said symbols of civilisation, also known as modern Iraq (the difference between the birth of civilisation and the destruction of its creations would appear to have been deliberate), two U.S. soldiers, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) – the latter clearly a variant on the comedy sidekick – are watching the village the insurgents have taken control of. They are there with a map that Morton has ‘acquired’, one which shows the apparent location of a tomb. Which they plan to loot.

The effort to infiltrate the village quietly does not go to plan, and Vail winds up calling in an airstrike. An after-effect of this is to open up a huge hole in the street, revealing a tomb below the village. Their superior, Colonel Greenway (Courtney B. Vance) is not happy about their actions – they are over a hundred miles away from where they are supposed to be and he clearly knows that they have been stealing artefacts – and nor is Jennifer Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) when she arrives – Morton had stolen the map to the tomb from her.

Halsey recognises the tomb as being Egyptian – which in Iraq is more than a little odd – and tells Greenway they need to explore. They are given a limited amount of time to do so and she, Morton and Vail enter the tomb. During which process, Halsey decides it’s not a tomb, but a prison – three guesses for who and the first two don’t count. Morton realises that there is something kept below in a pool of mercury (according to Halsey, this was used by the Egyptians to imprison evil spirits) so he naturally decides to release the sarcophagus from the tomb by shooting out the mechanism keeping it under (because of course that’s what you do, and why would you make a prison where if the mechanism is released it also frees the prisoner?). This also causes Morton to start seeing visions of Ahmanet

Halsey wants to take the sarcophagus back with her, and it is loaded on a C-130 Hercules and shipped back to the U.K., along with Halsey, Morton, Vail and some other troops. The journey does not go to plan when birds fly into the plane over Surrey, causing it to go into a nose dive towards the ground. Halsey gets out using a parachute that Morton straps to her but he is on the plane when it ploughs into the ground.

This would normally have killed Morton, as it did everyone else still breathing on the plane when it crashed, and indeed he wakes up in the morgue. That is the key – he wakes up in the morgue, apparently totally unharmed from the crash. Ahmanet has a use for him, as he is the one who freed her. She, meanwhile, is going around sucking the lifeforce (there is a film by that title in which the same happens; there are scenes that, according to reviewers, have been taken from a host of other science fiction and horror films, and you certainly can spot them) out of people (which greatly improves her appearance) and then animating the husks as some sort of shambling undead servitor. She clearly needs stopping, and that’s where Dr Jekyll’s organisation is going to play a part – in their rather Victorian at times headquarters, there is a room filled with the parts of lots of unusual, and dead, creatures.

The film is available in 2D and 3D, with the 3D version being the one seen. The film is to a large extent live action, with most CGI being fairly close-up; as a consequence, the value of the 3D is fairly negligible. There are a few scenes where it is clearly noticeable, but on the whole it isn’t.

Regarding the cast, Tom Cruise seems to be a bit miscast as a soldier more than a little lacking in morals. It seems the actor doesn’t really want to be portrayed as such, so his dalliance with the dark side is more surface than deep, rather lessening the inevitable rehabilitation of his character. Perhaps another actor would have played the, supposedly somewhat of an anti-hero, role better. Someone who doesn’t tend to play clean cut characters like Cruise does. Sofia Boutella’s portrayal of the classic mummy monster as a female mummy (an odd phrase) is a bit more unusual, but it doesn’t feel as groundbreaking as perhaps it should be. She does do a decent enough job in the role though (but, with Halsey, there is a bit of an Evil Bond Girl/Good Bond Girl vibe going on). There are some humorous edges, but they aren’t significant, and it isn’t quite as fun as the last revival of The Mummy. It also has an unusually higher certification; it really doesn’t seem quite gruesome or violent enough to justify a 15.

There are some nice CGI scenes, and the Victorian/modern lab of Jekyll’s organisation gives a bit of a steampunk feel to it. The sandstorm sweeping through London is quite impressive, but to a degree it also seems rather irrelevant to the plot. As, indeed, do a few other things in the film.

This latest remake of The Mummy is intended to launch Universal’s new Dark Universe, resurrecting the monsters from its past, hence the appearance of Dr Jekyll and the unusual specimens in his headquarters. There is perhaps a bit too much attention paid to building potentialities for the future, and as a result trying to include them in the plot, whether they fit or not, than there is on the plot of the film itself and making sure it makes sense, or at least sense for a monster movie. This means there are definitely sequels intended; whether or not these will materialise now is somewhat open to question, although it seems unlikely that Universal will give up the whole concept of resurrecting its monster films. This has not been a brilliant start to the series though – at the moment it seems like resurrecting is a polite term for digging up the dead and trying to animate them again. Perhaps not a wholly inappropriate metaphor for the types of film. The Mummy clearly intended to be a big opening film launching Dark Universe but unfortunately it just doesn’t quite do it.

 

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