UK Release Date: 9th June 2017
Runtime: 110 minutes
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Writer: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson, Courtney B Vance
Synopsis: A soldier uncovers an ancient prison in which a murderous Egyptian princess was jailed thousands of years ago and unwittingly unleashes her, where she attempts to complete a ritual from before she was mummified alive.
Universal has shown a great degree of what is either confidence or hubris in assembling the beginnings of its Dark Universe. The studio has a huge A-list cast in place and is now firing its opening salvo with The Mummy, in which Tom Cruise slots into another franchise action man role and Sofia Boutella plays one of the most memorable monster characters in cinema history. Despite a pasting from critics, leading to a pretty dismal 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is actually a hugely enjoyable action adventure, with a liberal helping of effective, skin-crawling horror.
Nick Morton (Cruise) and his friend Vail (Jake Johnson) accidentally discover an Egyptian tomb in Iraq after an airstrike. Archaeologist Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) helps the duo to explore the tomb and Nick inadvertently releases a sarcophagus containing the princess Ahmanet (Boutella), who was locked up when she killed her baby brother and tried to make a pact with Set – the god of death. After Nick survives a plane crash that should have killed him, it becomes clear that Ahmanet, now on the loose, has something planned for him. This brings him into the world of shadowy organisation Prodigium and its boss Dr Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe).
Alex Kurtzman, with the help of an alarmingly huge selection of writers, has actually managed to construct a compelling Mummy movie. It’s a bonkers and unfocused ride of a film, but one that nonetheless manages to find a midpoint between the CGI-augmented action of the noughties Mummy trilogy and the creeping dread of the Boris Karloff movies in the 1930s. Kurtzman manages the action scenes with real flair, aided by impressive CGI zombies, and finds plenty of room for horror in among the blockbuster noise. The film’s willingness to embrace a 15 certificate rather than shooting for 12A allows for a more intense, oppressive tone than the average Hollywood tentpole.
The film is helped greatly by the reliable presence of Tom Cruise. He’s the type of performer who can work as an action leading man in his sleep and he does good work here with a character who could easily have been an insipid blank slate. He is upstaged, though, by the film’s key women – whether it’s Boutella as the titular creature or Annabelle Wallis, who does impressive work with what is a fairly meagre role in terms of script. Boutella is a real delight as Ahmanet, contorting her body in unusual ways and finding the right balance between creepiness and the seductive edge that makes her pursuit of Cruise even more unsettling.
Alongside its job of telling a compelling horror adventure tale, The Mummy is also tasked with laying some groundwork for the Dark Universe. This manifests largely in the appearance of Russell Crowe as Jekyll in a performance that has been divisive but, for me, exemplifies the sense of joy and silliness that powers the whole movie. The people behind this film, like with Wonder Woman earlier this month, aren’t taking blockbuster franchise filmmaking too seriously and that sense of silliness creates a forgiving feel, which helps to paper over some narrative cracks.
The Mummy is a film that presses down hard on the accelerator from its first scene and never lets that foot lift for the entire running time. It’s a movie with energy in spades that culminates in a final act so bonkers and committed that it’s hard not to smile. The final few scenes are perhaps a step too far towards nonsense and some of the city-destroying carnage feels a little unnecessary, but Kurtzman has done a lot of heavy lifting here. As long as the box office dollars come rolling in, The Mummy should see the Dark Universe starting in very good health indeed.
Pop or Poop?
Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy, which balances the thrills and chills of old school Universal horror with the more modern spectacle of Tom Cruise running around a lot, is a triumph of a blockbuster that knows its tone and never lets up on its pacing.
It makes missteps along the way and suffers from a poor ending, but it’s largely a film that sets the table for a universe without ever feeling overwhelmed by its franchise duties. Every time the story begins to unravel, there’s enough fun to keep the bandages tightly wrapped.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.