Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Review #1,236: 'The Mummy' (2017)

Alex Kurtzman's The Mummy marks the arrival of Universal's 'Dark Universe', the studio's attempt at re-branding its flagpole monsters from the archives as a kind of flawed superhero team who will no doubt be brought together to face off a big bad sometime in the future. With a plan to introduce the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and The Phantom of the Opera, The Mummy seems an odd choice to start, given the recent not-so-well received trilogy starring Brendan Fraser that kicked off as recently as 1999. It's a humongous task, but one need only look at the success of Marvel to learn that billions of dollars can be raked in if enough care is taken when building the expansive world from the ground up, teasing the characters and events to come while telling a satisfying self-contained story at the same time.

But one can also looks at DC's venture into universe-building to see how it can fall flat on its face, although it now thankfully seems back on track after the success of Wonder Woman. The Mummy makes the grave mistake of laying all of its card on the table, trying to be everything from a horror to an old-school adventure to a Tom Cruise blockbuster, while never convincing as any. Tying this new world of gods and monsters together is Russell Crowe's Dr. Jekyll, the Nick Fury who will eventually unite the team under a secret society called Prodigium, the Dark Universe's version of S.H.I.E.L.D. Shortly after he introduced, he fails to get to his drugs on time and turns into Mr. Hyde, a type of evil Ray Winstone only with super strength, in a scene that verges on the downright embarrassing. Is it not enough to simply mention the name and let the audience generate their own excitement? No, as The Mummy aims to be nothing more than a show-all, CGI-reliant Michael Bay movie that throws so much shit at the screen that it becomes impossible to care about anything you're seeing.

Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, an unconvincing cheeky-chappy antique hunter-cum-thief who also works for the U.S. Army in some capacity. He's in Iraq with his assistant Chris (comic relief Jake Johnson), and it isn't long before the town around them is torn apart in a hail of bullets. In a stroke of luck, they uncover a massive Egyptian tomb for Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). Nick just wants the loot, but as eye-candy archaeologist and exposition-machine Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) informs us, the discovery is big news. Nick's impatience gets the better of him and he accidentally releases the tomb in a splash of mercury and CGI spiders. It's love at first sight for Ahmanet, who takes an instant liking to Nick's botoxed face and wants him as a vessel for the return of Egyptian God Set. And so begins her vague plan to destroy London with an army of CGI monstrosities and fart clouds, as she sets out to recover a ruby found in a recent excavation.

The Mummy is made all the more frustrating by offering tiny glimpses of the film it should have been. A stand-out plane crash set-piece and an impressive performance from Boutella (who was a badass in Kingsman: The Secret Service and stole the show in Stat Trek Beyond) hint at an exciting and modern adventure-horror movie, but the script by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman seems more concerned with pandering to a mainstream crowd and bending the story to the strengths of its lead actor, despite this being one of his worst performances. It switches between horror, comedy and action, often within the same scene, cramming in baffling exposition and universe-building on top. 1999's The Mummy had many of the same problems, but the first film at least had a goofy charm. What this means for the franchise going forward is anyone's guess, although things to seem to be moving forward despite this film's critical and commercial failures. But will anyone seriously want to see a stand alone film about this interpretation of Dr. Jekyll?

Directed by: Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson
Country: USA

Rating: **

Tom Gillespie

The Mummy (2017) on IMDb

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