June 08, 2017

The Mummy

Parachutes? Where we're going,
we don't need parachutes.

Grade: C +
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, and Russell Crowe
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.

The last thing you can say about Tom Cruise’s screen persona is that he lacks for confidence. But that’s precisely the sensation exuded in The Mummy, a tonally turbulent monster mish-mash in which Cruise reads his lines like someone who first saw them five seconds before the director yelled, “Action!”

The Mummy is the first installment in the Dark Universe series, a revival of the Universal Monsters creature features of the 1920s to 1950s. In terms of execution, the film is all over the place. It’s a monster movie full of zombie cannon fodder. It’s a history-based caper à la National Treasure. With scenes of action-based slapstick, it tries to turn Cruise into something approaching Indiana Jones’ dopey kid brother. But Cruise’s Nick Morton isn’t an adventurous archaeologist. He’s a grave-robbing soldier (we never see in uniform) who plunders unsuspecting women and ancient antiquities. One illicit adventure leads to Iraq, where an American Hellfire missile unearths a sarcophagus buried conspicuously far away from its Egyptian home.

Turns out Nick and actual archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) are about to unleash Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) back upon the world. She’s the mummy, interred centuries ago after forming a cursed pact with the god of death to slay her family and reclaim her birthright … you know, the usual. Nick is an accidental player in Ahmanet’s master plan, which also involves hitching a flight to London, a murder of crows, a tomb of ancient Crusaders, a jewel-encrusted dagger, and Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll (with everything that comes with that). Crowe’s Nice Guys take on Jekyll is a welcome, offbeat inclusion, and Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) manages to be both fetching and fearsome in a role that only requires her to hiss and preen a lot.

Cruise isn’t credited as one of the film’s producers, but you can detect his kitchen-sink imprint, perhaps born of panic. Director Alex Kurtzman co-wrote Cruise’s Mission: Impossible III. Co-writer Christopher McQuarrie has written four Cruise scripts, including Jack Reacher, which counted Mummy co-writer Dylan Kussman in its cast. Then there’s co-writer David Koepp, who worked with Cruise on the first Mission: Impossible but whose influence manifests itself here through the hash he made of both Da Vinci Code sequels and the last Indiana Jones misfire.

To tame Ahmanet, at one point she’s pumped full of quicksilver, a word that also means something that changes quickly and unpredictability. It’s an apt metaphor for the mercurial Mummy, a batch of CGI silliness—sandstorms on city streets, underwater grappling, the whole nine yards—that culminates with who’s able to lip-lock the life out of someone last. Will Nick eschew the brainy, blonde Jenny for the temptations of brunette Ahmanet, the Veronica to his Betty?  Other than serving as an undead table-setter, The Mummy should have stayed under wraps.

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