In Ancient Egypt, there was a tale told of a Princess (Sofia Boutella) who was convinced she was destined for great things, so convinced in fact that she would go to murderous lengths to fulfil her self-proclaimed destiny. Taking a sacrificial knife, she executed all members of her family who would have got in her way, but her peers were appalled by her acts and decided to punish her by mummifying her alive, then burying her sarcophagus in the most remote reaches of their known world. Thousands of years later, and adventurer and treasure hunter Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and his sidekick Sergeant Vail (Jake Johnson) are investigating Iraq, where ancient treasures are not best kept, and they stumble across something...
You could say the rot set in with Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man in 1943, because that established the notion that what audiences wanted to see was Universal Monsters pitted against one another, preferably in a battle to the (un)death, so when the studio announced its plans for their Dark Universe franchise where they would revive the horror movies that made their fortune back in the nineteen-thirties, you might have anticipated we were not going to be blessed with something frightening or even suspenseful. On the evidence of The Mummy, whose mediocre box office reception threw the entire proposal into question, you would be correct: this was pure blood and thunder.
Only they were stingy with the blood and overgenerous with the thunder, making one of the noisiest horror flicks of all time, with lots of shouting, crashing and explosions, all to little effect as nobody involved appeared to be interested in doing very much original with the Mummy character: even making her female had been done before. Indeed, as many who recalled the eighties recalled, this was essentially a straight rip-off of the Cannon sci-fi unintentional farce LifeForce with Miss Boutella (who didn't look very Ancient Egyptian) in the Mathilda May role and Tom Cruise not that bad a replacement for Steve Railsback, though given the courting of Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark, another Cannon franchise it resembled was their duo of Allan Quatermain movies.
Again, Tom Cruise not a bad replacement for Richard Chamberlain, but seeing as how they were no sane person's idea of a great evening out at the pictures, emulating Cannon duds was not the most sensible path to have taken. Considering this was more or less Running Away and Shouting: The Movie, fans of the vintage classics would find very little recognisable in comparison, and with Cruise playing a pain in the arse so he can receive redemption come the end of the movie, it wasn't much fun to spend the best part of two hours with either. Certainly the indestructibility of The Mummy down the years had led to various action sequences, Christopher Lee playing that part in his Hammer effort for example, and burial alive had been taken from the Boris Karloff version too, though that was more of a dreamlike experience completely out of the grasp of this.
No, here it was basically The Mummy as a computer game, and if the purists had thrown up their hands in, well, horror at what Stephen Sommers did to the character back in the nineties, they could not look back on its primitive CGI and think, well, maybe it looks quaint in comparison to what we were asked to swallow here. Director Alex Kurtzman was a slick operator on this evidence, usually a producer and writer but in this case stepping into the helm when the project kept shedding its other directors due to "creative differences". That seemed to be code for Cruise moulding the production to his whims, being an A-list star still, and there were apparently grumbles about the way he steered it to his personal wishes - certainly he got the blame when it underperformed in many territories. But if it was not a complete flop, you did hanker for something with more personality: when Russell Crowe showed up as a character destined for his own movie, he was at least someone with an amusing disposition, though far from its origins (and not a classic Universal horror). It was merely another chapter in The Tom Cruise Show, when it should have been the first chapter in the franchise show. Music by Brian Tyler.
No doubt Tom Cruise will bounce back with yet another Mission Impossible film but I hope we have not seen the last of Sofia Boutella. She seems to be the 21st century's female equivalent of Boris Karloff, morphing from film to film as a monster, alien or evil henchman. Plus her dance background enables her to imbue these creatures with fascinating physical quirks.
27 Nov 2017
Yeah, I should have mentioned Miss Boutella was the highlight of a nothing-y movie, although she was more like an alien than an Ancient Egyptian.