DIR: Alex Kurtzman • WRI: Allan Heinberg • PRO: Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder, Richard Suckle • DOP: Matthew Jensen • ED: Martin Walsh • DES: Aline Bonetto • MUS: Rupert Gregson-Williams • CAST: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis.
Shared universe cross-film franchises are so hot right now.
Universal kicks off their ‘Dark Universe’ series (lawsuit pending from Warner Bros., if rumours are true) with The Mummy, a film chockfull of Tom Cruise pursuing his favourite pastime, running away from danger and explosions, and little else. While the first entry into this new cinematic universe is lukewarm at best, it yet remains to be seen whether the public will view Universal’s new venture – which will also see the Bride of Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, and the Wolfman being dusted off and pranced across screen once more – as a refreshing take on the current web of connected comic book films à la Marvel and DC, or whether the studio will fall to the same fate as Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur adaptation by greenlighting several projects before the first instalment has proven itself in the box office. Falling heavily on the ‘action’ side of the action-horror genre, The Mummy takes itself too seriously to be a fun-time summer blockbuster, but lacks the grit to provide genuine scares or tension.
The ever-limbering Tom Cruise is Nick Morton, an army reconnaissance solider stationed in northern Iraq with a shady side business dealing in the trade of ancient antiquities from war-torn areas on the black market. When an attempt to infiltrate a village occupied by oppositional forces results in the uncovering of a hidden Ancient Egyptian tomb, Morton and archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) quickly discover that their momentous find contains something far more sinister than some dusty old relics and a mummified corpse. Having unwittingly released Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), the titular ‘Mummy’, from what was supposed to be her eternal prison, Morton and Jenny find themselves on the run from a particularly archaic force of evil. Enter right Prodigium, a mysterious organisation led by the brilliant Dr Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) of Jekyll and Hyde fame that specialises in the study and destruction of evil in all its shapes and forms. But Ahmanet is a Mummy with a mission and poses a threat to the world that not even Tom Cruise may be able to outrun.
From a technical standpoint the film is pretty competent. The visuals are strong and sleek, but action sequences throughout suffer from choppy editing and rushed pacing blurring what exactly is happening on screen. The big set pieces are handled well however, if somewhat paint-by-numbers. One of the weaker elements by far is the film’s grasp, or lack thereof, on the horror portion of the narrative. Other than a few cheap jump-scares, director Alex Kurtzman fails to utilise practically any of the possibilities that an ancient mummy brought back to life provides. Aiming at somewhat older audiences than usual Hollywood blockbuster fair (it has received a 15A rating in Ireland), the film hesitates to take the plunge into true horror, relying on the tired old clichés that are arguably the worst part of the genre.
The film suffers from other, more nuanced problems too in its… shall we say, implications? It’s safe to say no one walks into a film called The Mummy and expects a completely accurate depiction of archaeological politics and the ethics involved in excavating sites in foreign conflict-ridden countries, yet the film asks us to suspend our sense of disbelief a bit too much in regard to these topics. There is definitely an unsavoury flavour of the ‘white-saviour’ complex running along the narrative; we never meet any Iraqi or Egyptian people who are not terrorists or a supernatural incarnation of evil. The question of removing artefacts from their native homeland is only touched upon once in a tone-deaf throwaway line of dialogue from Morton near the beginning of the film where he defends his theft of these ancient items as a sort of liberation – from the ignorant local people who couldn’t truly appreciate their market value, one can assume. Considering we now live in a time where historians and archaeologists from the Middle East are literally being killed for trying to preserve their countries history, it seems a massive oversight on the films part.
Overall, The Mummy is a forgettable, if ever-so-slightly-sometimes-kinda enjoyable, flick that straddles on the edge of, well, edginess, preferring to be bland rather than bold.
15A (See IFCO for details)
The Mummy is released 9th June 2017