Directed by: Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Sofia Boutella, Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Russel Crowe, Jake Johnson
Rated: PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity
Universal Pictures is taking their monster movies out of deep storage, dusting them off, and trying to give them a new life. If “The Mummy” is any indicator, the project has some merit. This attempt at a new twist on the old story has some problems, but also gets a lot of things right. If all you want are awesome visuals and a halfway-decent story to hang them on, this is your movie.
During a longish narrative opening (which only makes sense once you’re about halfway into the film), we get to meet Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an ambitious princess from ancient Egypt who attempts to gain ultimate power. Her ritual is interrupted, she’s mummified alive, and her sarcophagus is left undisturbed until two present-day military treasure-hunters, Nick (Tom Cruise) and Vail (Jake Johnson), find her tomb. Research archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) stops them from stealing from Ahmanet’s tomb, and decides to take the sarcophagus back to London with them.
Naturally the plane goes down and Ahmanet’s sarcophagus is opened, setting her loose. We meet Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) and our protagonists set about stopping Ahmanet before she can complete her interrupted ritual. She, meanwhile, reanimates corpses to fight for her and battles anything between her and Nick – she’s chosen him as the sacrificial victim for her interrupted ritual.
The gender swap “The Mummy” makes from earlier incarnations of the creature is interesting. Nick is apparently an able soldier of fortune, but he can’t fight Ahmanet physically or mentally. She can manipulate his thoughts and affect his actions. It brings an interesting dynamic to the story and makes one curious about what Universal will do with the other films.
The acting leaves a lot to be desired, however. The script can’t decide if Nick is a good dude or not, and since Cruise continues to have approximately 1.5 facial expressions and barely above-room-temperature chemistry with anybody, he doesn’t pick up the slack. The rest of the actors aren’t much better. Johnson falls into his schtick as his character from “The New Girl” pretty quickly, Jenny is dull, Boutella isn’t given much to work with beyond “ambitious and evil.” Crowe at least seems like he might be having a good time with some low-key scenery chewing, but that’s about it.
There’s no camp here, either. If you’re hoping for some awesome ridiculousness in the fashion of Brendan Fraser’s movie, you are going to be disappointed. This is a gritty and serious remake – there’s a little humor (or attempts at it) threaded through, but it’s not always successful.
If you don’t mind the film’s failings, it’s worth seeing. The special effects are good, the action pieces are frequent, and if you turn off your brain, you may well enjoy the ride. If, on the other hand, you want a silly, fun movie or one with developed characters, stay far away.