Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Mummy

In present day London, a Crossrail construction team discover a thousand-year-old tomb which holds the graves of the crusader knights who captured a large ruby from ancient Egypt, this ruby is an important part of an ancient ritual. Meanwhile, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) his mate, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), and Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) uncover the ancient tomb of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) and unleash an unparalleled evil upon man kind.

The whole purpose of the The Mummy is to kick off the shared Dark Universe which aims to mimic Marvel’s shared Universe. This shared Dark Universe will feature the likes Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein, the Mummy, Dracula and creature from the Black Lagoon (among others). However, for this shared universe to ignite they need to start hiring a better writing and directing team. That said, collectively the writers’ CVs includes the likes of The Usual Suspects and Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol so they have some impressive films under their belt, but here they totally phone it in and with contributions from six writers the film is a mismatch of genres and tone. The biggest issue is the narrative which, essentially, follows a basic pattern of an action scene, followed by exposition, followed by an action scene, followed by some exposition, some more exposition and then an action scene and then…you get the point.

The mismatch of tones and genres just adds to the film’s writing woes particularly when the different genres clash. However, it’s not all bad as the horror aspects are done reasonably well (there are one or two tense moments), and there are some good moments of comedy (which sometimes do clash uncomfortably with the horror elements), but the disaster movie aspect is fleeting and boring. If done right the clashing of genres and globetrotting can be fun (I did enjoy the first two thirds of the film) but its lacking the campy fun of the Brenden Fraser films (which weren’t exactly masterpieces either) that relished having fun with ancient Egyptian mythology.  There’s very little of that in the 2017 reboot as it seems the writers were too busy focusing on their task of kick starting the Shared Universe rather than focusing on creating a coherent and enjoyable story. 

Director Alex Kurtzman, who is directing his second feature following the more modestly budgeted People Like Us, struggles to cope with the film's many tones and exposition heavy script by failing to maintain an even pace. Kurtzman also makes a hash of the majority of the film’s many action scenes by deciding to shoot much of the action in dark tunnels, decerped churches or dingy alleyways making it hard to follow the action, which is a shame because the zero-gravity airplane crash sequence was superb and perhaps the highlight of the film (a lot was made of the 70 + takes it took to shoot).  

In a month which saw the first major female lead character in a major superhero movie (directed by a woman no less) it’s frustrating to see a character so poorly written as Annabelle Wallis’ Jenny. Whatever happened to Jenny (be it a car accident, plane crash, attack by mummy) Jenny’s face remained remarkably pristine and beautiful. Apart from knowing a little bit about ancient Egypt, and a bit of the lingo, there is literally nothing to this character. She contributes nothing to the plot but filling in our hero with some Ancient Egyptian back story. On the more positive side, making the major antagonist a female is interesting and Sofia Boutella has an impressive screen presence giving the role a brilliant physicality.

Tom Cruise is, as ever, perfectly serviceable in the lead role even if his character is nothing more than a cocky cocksure who will eventually show redeemable characteristics. Crowe also makes appearance as Dr Jekyll and (pointlessly) Mr Hyde and attempts to do two different English accents (something he was ridiculed for a few years back) in what is a disappointing start to the shared universe.


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