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Fun while it lasts

Tom Cruise in The Mummy.

Tom Cruise in The Mummy.

The Mummy
3 stars
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Stars: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis
Duration: 110 mins
Class: 15
KRS Releasing Ltd

The sombre tones of Russell Crowe’s brilliant scientist un­wraps The Mummy, introducing us to Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), set to be crowned Queen of Ancient Egypt. However, her inheritance is threatened by the arrival of an infant half-bro­ther, and so Ahmanet embarks on a killing spree in order to resurrect the ancient god Set, who she hopes will grant her more power and eternal life.

She is stopped by the ancient priests before the ritual is completed, and is cursed for all eternity and buried alive, until she is accidentally freed in the present day by soldier of fortune Nick Morton (Tom Cruise). Somewhat angry and vengeful all these millennia later, Ahmanet is hoping to carry on where she left off by using Morton as a vessel to complete the ritual.

The Mummy is poised to be the first in a series of films reviving the so-called Universal Monsters – the protagonists of the horror films made by Universal Studios from the early 1920s to the 1950s (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Mummy, and Creature from the Black Lagoon to name but three). However, this new franchise, dubbed the Dark Universe, does get off to a bit of a shaky start. And, for all the fun that can be had with it, in no way does it evoke the campy, scary, B-movie-esque tone of the era.

The script proffers a load of ancient, mysterious mumbo-jumbo which, for a large part, is undecipherable

For one, it’s too modern. It’s chock-full of James Bond-style żinnati, with some admittedly crackerjack action scenes crowding the narrative – yet these do little to disguise the lame plot, the cardboard-thin characterisation, or the over-reliance on CG.

Secondly, for all the film’s helpful exposition narrating Ahma­net’s rise in Ancient Egypt – including a 12th century interlude where an army of Crusaders discover a gem integral to the plot and lots of jargon bandied about in between the action – the plot is a tad muddled. The script proffers a load of ancient, mysterious mumbo-jumbo which, for a large part, is as undecipherable as the many hieroglyphics adorning Ahmanet’s tomb.

A ‘surprise’ extended cameo by one of the classic monsters is heral­ded almost immediately and, ultimately, jars. Yes, it is a film that needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, yet there are too many contrivances to ignore.

If one gets the feeling Cruise is on autopilot with the cocky, charming, rogue character bit, it’s a part he does well enough. Yet, it’s been put to better use in recent efforts, such as the Mission: Impossible series.

Annabelle Wallis as Jenny, the archaeologist caught up in the mix, and the inevitable love interest, makes for a good foil to Cruise’s regular shtick. Still, there are moments when the character falls into damsel-in-distress type tropes which are unnecessary, while the burgeoning love story between the two never rings true.

As the Mummy of the piece, Boutella is all rage and no characterisation under the heavy tattoo-filled make-up.

Yet, for all its myriad flaws, there is no denying that The Mummy is fun while it lasts, and certainly does not deserve the critical mauling it received on its release in the US. It is a rollercoaster ride of a film, starting with the glowing golden scenes of Ahmanet’s history, after which the filmmakers hit the action pedal and never let it go; from Morton’s accidental discovery of Ahmanet’s sarcophagus to an extended claustro­phobia-inducing underwater se­quence via a gargantuan sandstorm hitting London.

There are predatory crows, rats, zombies, reanimated crusaders, creepy crawlies – everything but the kitchen sink. And it all whizzes by at a pace zippy enough that it doesn’t allow you to stop and think, peppered with a couple of funny enough zingers to make you laugh.

It is too early to tell whether the film’s critical woes and the so-so box office to date – The Mummy ended up on the losing end of a battle with Wonder Woman – will nix production of the sequel that is rather blatantly hinted at in the end. Yet, if The Mummy does get her spawn, the filmmakers are going to need to come up with a engaging story and better characterisation to give her the longer life she wants.

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