Action Adventure

'The Mummy' Film Review: World-building on Cruise control

June 9, 2017Ben Mk



   
The battle for the box office these days is all about world-building, with the end goal being to create a shared cinematic universe capable of supporting multiple characters and films. The best example of this, of course, is the Marvel Cinematic Universe; and it's a template the makers of the latest The Mummy reboot have clearly taken to emulating, with admittedly entertaining, albeit somewhat uneven, results.

The bulk of the narrative is set in the modern day, where roguish treasure hunter Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and his partner-in-crime, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), have stumbled upon the discovery of a lifetime in northern Iraq, unearthing the 5,000-year-old tomb of a long-forgotten Egyptian princess named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). As they and Egyptologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) soon learn, though, this is no ordinary tomb, and Ahmanet was no ordinary princess. And when Ahmanet is unleashed, Nick becomes cursed, and their fates become intertwined.

Meanwhile, an ocean away in London, another underground burial chamber has been discovered. This time, it's a centuries-old catacomb containing the corpses of several dozen Crusader knights, one of whom has been buried with an artifact near and dear to Ahmanet's plans for world domination. This is also where the movie's plans for world-building come into play, as control of the tomb is quickly seized by none other than Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), the head of Prodigium, a shadowy organization specializing in the destruction of evil, in all its forms.

As Nick's and Henry's paths converge, The Mummy shambles from genre to genre. Sometimes, it's a buddy action-comedy, and at other times, it's a fantasy-horror. If we're being completely honest, however, the film is really a superhero origin story with the usual cataclysmic stakes. The difference is that in this world, the Hulk is a brilliant scientist who uses an EpiPen of his own design to subdue his dark side, whereas Iron Man is still a handsome jerk seeking redemption, only minus the billions of dollars, the rock star attitude and the A.I. butler.

Of course, in the wake of Wonder Woman, it's tempting to view The Mummy as a tale of female empowerment. And in some ways, it is — a sort of supernatural take on Kill Bill, if you will. That said, there's also a bit of misdirection afoot on the part of director Alex Kurtzman and writers David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman, who've been tasked with laying the groundwork for this "Dark Universe," and who delight in twisting audience expectations, even tossing in a nod to An American Werewolf in London for good measure.

It all adds up to a commendable start to what is sure to be one of the most high-profile film franchises set to hit multiplexes in the coming years; but make no mistake, the filmmakers' eagerness to duplicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe occasionally serves as a detriment, and you'll likely wish that Cruise's zest for stunts wasn't overshadowed by the liberal use of CGI. Still, The Mummy proves to be more than just a loosely wrapped remake, but only time will tell if there are any Scorpion Kings or Dragon Emperors in the series' future.


The Mummy releases June 9th, 2017 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 50 Mins.








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