For a film franchise that began in 1931 (with Boris Karloff in the original title role) and includes literally dozens of pictures, there are still some new things I learned from this latest edition (directed by Alex Kurtzman, “People Like Us”) of The Mummy.
For instance, mummies and other otherworldly entities — even though buried for millennia — can still claim to be the most powerful force in the universe (see “X-Men: Apocalypse” for details); bodies of horrible plane crash victims are completely intact and not scattered all over with the craft’s wreckage; all it takes to disable a mummy or zombie or any long-dead person resurrected for the purposes of evil is a simple, but powerful Tom Cruise right cross; Cruise continues to make some questionable movie choices after staring in many acclaimed and award-worthy productions; Courtney B. Vance, coming off an amazing Emmy-winning performance in “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” is 0-2 in films since then (see “Office Christmas Party” for details); whenever someone is a resurrected mummy, they grow an extra eye pupil (it’s a fact); Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic literary character, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, was in reality a mummy hunter (see “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” for clarification); there is evidently an elite paramilitary force that does nothing but chase and subdue evil mummies; royal Egyptian women suddenly have embossed tattoos whenever they make deals with the Devil; and, finally, I discovered that I really miss Brendan Fraser.
There. That was cathartic.
Now on with the review. Produced by Universal Studio’s in their new “Dark Universe” as a way to re-introduce their great monsters of the past, The Mummy is certainly not the introduction for which they were hoping. As written by the committee of David Koepp (“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”), Christopher McQuarrie (“Edge of Tomorrow”) and Dylan Kussman, Cruise (“Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”) plays Nick Morton, a fortune-hunter who has some kind of vague connection to the American military in Iraq. Joined by his comic relief, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson, “Jurassic World”), they discover a long-buried sarcophagus after an air strike.
Soon, archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”) joins the idiots and removes the structure thus bringing pure evil back to the world.
Sorry for the backstory now, but bear with us: You see, evidently Egyptian Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella, “Kingsman: The Secret Service”) is the heir to her Pharaoh father’s throne until he has a son. Ahmanet, of course, is well within her rights to invoke an early form of feminist action by calling on Set (the god of death) to help her kill her dad, his wife and even the baby (off-camera, of course).
While trying to mate with some guy and bring Set into a mortal body (for some unexplained reason), she is captured and mummified alive. There, we are now caught up. What happens now is that the coffin is loaded aboard a military flight and Nick begins to have visions about making out with the princess, but who can blame him?
Chris, meanwhile, after being bitten by a spider (see Peter Parker for details) then goes insane and begins stabbing everyone in sight until Nick is forced to shoot him.
Anyone who saw the trailer then knows that the most exciting (and probably the most expensive) action sequence now takes place when a bunch of crows cruising at 35,000 feet cause the plane to crash. Oh yes, I forgot, mummies also have sway over animals like crows and rats (see “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” for details). Who knew?
Nick then saves Jenny by throwing her out of the plunging aircraft with the plane’s only parachute, but because he now is Ahmanet’s “chosen one,” as well as the star of this picture, he somehow survives. Chris, on the other hand, keeps appearing to his friend who killed him, in a more deteriorated state each time (see “An American Werewolf in London” for details).
The mummy is now released from her sealed casket and begins to suck the life out of her victims which causes them to appear like extras in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video and rejuvenates her physical body (see the campy 1999 version of “The Mummy” for details), raise dozens of Crusaders from the grave and begins her search for Nick to kill him or to bring back evil or to cause world turmoil or . . . Look, by this point in the film I was not only struggling to understand the ludicrous plot, but struggling even harder to stay awake (yes, it is THAT dull).
Even Russell Crowe’s (“The Nice Guys”) appearance as the aforementioned Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde to capture the undead ruler/murderer cannot remedy the situation even though he has his moment to go haywire because of his split personality. You did not believe that a film with Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in it would not have him go nuts did you?
Nothing comes of it, though (there’s no spoiler alert even necessary here), and what little twist the conclusion offers is only done to create the possibility of a sequel, although I certainly cannot see anyone in their right mind clamoring for such an effort.
While there is some decent CGI work, it is far from enough to compensate for a muddled script, zombie-like performances (pun very much intended), awkward pacing and especially the lack of chemistry between the leads (you lost me at “Hello”). Finally, the biggest sin of The Mummy is the a complete lack of knowledge and respect for the same creatures that made Universal the home of some of the most genuinely frightening motion pictures of the 1930s and beyond.