Monday 12 June 2017

Film Review: The Mummy

Universal has a go at cracking into cinematic universe game with The Mummy, the first in a string of remakes and reboots that will overlap and interlock. 

After a brief prologue delves into ancient Egyptian history and the tale Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a malevolent royal who awakens the spirit of Set in pursuit of power, we jump to modern day Iraq. Two special forces soldiers, Nick (Tom Cruise) and Chris (Jake Johnson), and an archaeologist, Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), accidentally crack open a tomb and release Ahmanet's curse, which dooms them to suffer all manner of twisted plagues.

Too many cooks spoil the broth, or so the old saying goes. With six different credited writers, it's an adage that is undoubtedly relevant to 2017's iteration of The Mummy. Intended as a springboard for a wider universe of gods and monsters (dubbed the 'Dark Universe'), The Mummy tries its hand at a whole range of things - and excels at none of them.

However, before we get into that, let's look at the positives. Well, the action is pretty neat. The zero gravity plane sequence that dominated the trailers is impressive and, as you would expect, Cruise commits wholeheartedly to his craft. I also liked the Mummy herself, Boutella. Getting coated in makeup and bandages and speaking in tongues for most of the film is a thankless task for any actor, so it's great to see her shine here as she has in her two previous blockbuster outings (Kingsman, Star Trek Beyond).

I also liked most of the first half of the film, which angles towards horror more than I was expecting. It's scary enough that a family of four with two little girls hurriedly left the theatre after the first 40 minutes, around about the point The Mummy started to stalk a string of victims and eat their souls. I also liked the take on Russell Crowe's fantastical character, whose identity I won't spoil for those who aren't in the know.

However, there are some fatal flaws that hamper the film in almost every other aspect. Firstly, the characters are as dull as dishwater. Cruise's character is so much alike every other Cruise character that he might as well be called Jack Reacher or Ethan Hunt. The supporting characters, like Jenny and Chris, are utterly hopeless. The former's sole character trait is 'damsel in distress' and the latter's comedic schtick gets tiresome really fast.

The cumbersome writing doesn't help matters. Most of the middle act is an elongated exposition dump and on a number of occasions characters will explain aloud why certain things are happening or why they are going to do things. It's a really lazy and forced attempt at moving the plot forward or building the universe.

Lastly, the ending. The entire third act is creaky to say the least, but the final resolution is downright shit and certainly doesn't inspire me to see whatever happens next in this burgeoning cinematic universe.

The Verdict: 5/10

Not even Cruise, as hard as may try, can outrun the issues that plague 2017's The Mummy. An odd concoction of elemental horror, Mission Impossible daring-do and Uncharted-esque adventure, Universal's launching pad for a wider universe of gods and monsters gets off to an unconvincing start.

The Mummy is in cinemas across Australia now.

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