The Mummy franchise was first kickstarted back in 1932 with Boris Karloff, only to then be reignited in the 90s, is a cinematic stomping ground that thrives in its elusive nature, with an Indiana Jones-like approach, setting our protagonists on a path of mystery; puzzle breaking, finding clues and overcoming riddles. Rebooted (again) with Alex Kurtzman now at the helm, instead the film takes on the form of a rather more generic, survival horror flick. As the first film in the new Universal Monster Universe, it’s also left with the burden of world building, and while necessary in parts, this responsibility also drags the film down, transpiring in a tedious, disengaging production.
Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton – an opportunist soldier-cum-thief who, alongside his trusty, if somewhat apprehensive sidekick Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), stumbles across an ancient Egyptian tomb while serving in the Middle East. Calling upon the assistance of archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), they discover it’s the resting place of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) – a Princess with a vengeance, and if reconnected with her powerful, supernatural weapon, can unleash sheer evil upon the world. Needless to say when they bring the corpse to Britain for further analysis, she escapes, and it’s down to this small collective to stop her in her tracks, relying on the help of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) in their bid for survival.
Regrettably, however, we move away from Egypt as a setting, and while fun to see London come under attack by this malevolent presence, there’s more fun to had when the heroes are placed in the underground tombs, steeped in mythology (and those pesky scarab beetles). To correspond with the horror elements there’s a vital injection of comedic relief (mostly through Jake Johnson) and yet it still feels contrived in its implementation. Cruise is certainly commendable for his inclination to perform all of his own stunts, but he’s not quite so well equipped with his own puns on this endeavour. He’s still such an accomplished, dependable lead and it’s enjoyable to see him share the screen with Crowe for the very first time – though the latter struggles to impress, which is a shame given he’s likely to be a mainstay in this new universe.
Thankfully Boutella, becoming a rather reliable blockbuster star herself, shines in the eponymous lead role, in what is a distinctively physical performance, and the actresses’ passion for dancing is plain for all to see, presenting the film’s chief antagonist in such a graceful manner, as though appearing in a ballet, while never compromising on the fear factor in the meantime.
But it’s not enough to save this move, as Kurtzman struggles to achieve a balance between capturing the essence and flavour of the original movies, while presenting a unique, standalone feature. A balance that, if this new Universe is to succeed, is going to have to get right eventually.
The Mummy is released on June 9th