Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Mummy – review

Director: Alex Kurtzman

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

This was the second false start of the Universal monsters’ reboot (dubbed Dark Universe). The first attempt, Dracula Untold, was so unsuccessful that it was allegedly dropped from the continuity. This did not set the cinematic world alight and the Dark Universe again looked unlikely. One issue was the push in both of these films at the action adventure, rather than horror. Whilst they can be used in various ways, the classic monsters are not superheroes or even supervillains – they are monsters and Universal lost sight of that.

So just covering off the idea that this is a Mummy film, and therefore not a vampire film. This might be right in the traditional sense, of course, but a Mummy is undead and, in this case, we get definitive energy vampirism as well. So… mummy and energy vampire and… Tom Cruise (Interview with the Vampire)…

the dagger
But before we go to Tom the film itself begins with a group of crusader knights burying a mystical gem in one of their sarcophagi in England. The burial chamber is uncovered during the Cross-rail project. We also go to Egypt and hear about Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) – the only child of the Pharaoh she was destined to rule Egypt… that was until he had a son through a second wife. She decided to turn to the God Set and pledged herself – he made her immortal and she was to have him incarnate in flesh through a sacrifice with a magic blade (of which the earlier seen gem was part of). She killed her family but was stopped by priests, mummified alive and taken to a tomb in Mesopotamia.

Tom Cruise as Nick
Mesopotamia is, of course, mostly modern-day Iraq and Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is part of the US military who is meant to be on long range reconnaissance with Sgt Vail (Jake Johnson, the Lego Movie). However they are investigating a village, 100 clicks astray, in order to try and steal and sell antiquities. The village is full of insurgents and Vail smartly suggests leaving but Nick cuts his water bag and leads him into the village – they are soon under fire. Vail calls in an airstrike, scaring off the insurgents and also revealing a huge underground chamber.

This leads to archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) coming to the town – Nick stole the map to the village off her after sleeping with her – and, of course, army superiors. Short story, shorter – they go down into the cavern and find the sarcophagus of Ahmanet sunk in apotropaic mercury and the sarcophagus is taken and then the plane they are on being forced to crash in England (at a church where the dagger of Set is held in a reliquary. Essentially Nick has been chosen by the immortal Ahmanet as the vessel to be possessed by Set and, if successful, the personification of evil will walk the earth… that really covers the main story.

killed with a kiss
Ahmanet is not in great shape when the plane crashes, a shrivelled husk of a corpse. However she is animate and soon starts drawing the life from victims through the mouth (in a kiss like fashion), which restores her to being fit and in fine fettle. The victims shrivel up and one is reminded of Lifeforce. Though they become animated there are two difference from the earlier film; firstly they do not feed on lifeforce themselves and secondly it would appear that she can animate the dead at will – later she animates corpses that are long dead and not her victims.

Jake Johnson as Vail
She is tremendously strong and has a range of magical powers; for instance summoning sandstorms, remotely smashing glass (presumably due to its sand content) and controlling spiders, rats and crows. And it is the control over the “meaner” animals that is reminiscent of vampires (especially Dracula) as well as the vampiric feeding. Pitched against her is a secret society run by Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) and the addition of Jekyll was a detail too much, to some extent, though clearly done to aid the “universe building”.

The effects were as good as one would expect and it wasn’t a bad actioner but it missed out on the humour that Brendan Fraser imbued into the 1999 Mummy film. It was also missing the whole horror element (as occurred with the previous Dracula Untold). People have an issue with Tom Cruise but, honestly, he did alright with what he had… but what he had was very little. The characters were entirely two-dimensional and we felt no sympathy for them because of it. Ultimately Morton is a bit of a dick – he puts friends at risk, uses people, is a thief and that isn’t the makings of a hero or enough for him to be an anti-hero (honestly, they rounded all that better in Dracula Untold). And that is where the film stumbles and falls. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

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