Friday, June 9, 2017

Tom Cruise vs. The Mummy and Her Zombie Horde

It's been more than eighty years since the first Mummy movie was released by Universal Pictures. Over the years the studio has put out other versions of the story, most recently with the increasingly disappointing films starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz. With The Mummy not only does the studio hope to reboot the entire franchise but use the film to relaunch several of their other classic movie monster properties as part of their new interconnected Dark Universe.

From the first trailer I thought this looked like a trainwreck. Although it proves to be more entertaining than expected, I certainly wasn't wrong. The bar for horror is pretty low, and the film does provide its share of fun even as it struggles with plot and pacing.

The movie opens by awkwardly jumping around several years and locales before finally settling in during modern day with a pair of soldiers (Tom Cruise, Jake Johnson) seeking a hidden treasure in Iraq. Let's just say they unearth more than they bargained for. With the help of archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Sofia Boutella), whose connection to the U.S. Military is never really explained, the pair unearth the tomb of a forgotten queen of Egypt.

Buried alive after killing her family and making a dark pact with the Egyptian god of death, Ahmanet (Boutella) has been trapped in the tomb for generations. Taking Nick Morton (Cruise) as her savior and worthy partner for unintentionally releasing her, the mummy hopes to complete the ritual which was interrupted years ago and bring forth the god Set inside Nick's body. To do so she'll have to hunt down an important relic broken in half and lost to time. In the meantime she'll suck the life out of any man who walks by, control sand and bugs, and raise zombie mummies to do much of the fighting for her.

Cruise is always a little more entertaining as a bastard or wild card, and he's having fun in the role of a thief and con man out primarily from himself who has to make some hard decisions after releasing the mummy. I also enjoyed Johnson in the role of comic relief as Nick's partner who quite literally haunts him for most of the film's running time. The zombies get a bit old after awhile, as do the creepy crawlies, but this is more a limitation of the concept than any failure of the script. The connection between Nick and Boutella, and her power over him, works a better than the love-hate relationship between Nick and Jenny which is central to Nick's decision-making over the course of the movie and its outcome.

Also introduced as part of the wider universe the studio hopes to launch with this film is Russell Crowe as the head of the Prodigium (a secret society battling supernatural threats). I won't give away his character's name, but there some clues fairly early on which should allow you to guess which classic horror character he represents (and who apparently has been tapped for the Rosario Dawson role to tie the various films together).

Despite announcing several movies in recent weeks, The Mummy isn't exactly the strong pillar on which to build off an entire franchise. While entertaining at times, often in spite of itself, the script isn't as fine-tuned as I'd like especially given the events in the final act which I won't spoil here (but which create some serious plot issues). As a big, dumb, popcorn flick The Mummy provides some basic entertainment and is actually a little better than I expected. As the first chapter to a larger franchise, however, it struggles a bit setting up the world and the rules which govern it (although there are some nice visual nods to other creatures we might see should there indeed be future installments).

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