Thursday, June 8, 2017

Review: "The Mummy"

“The Mummy” doesn’t sound like a particularly good idea: pairing up an aging action star with a creature feature staple that’s been shambling around in one form or another since the 1930s.

This reboot of the franchise doesn’t do anything particularly new or exciting, though it works up a fair amount of sweat getting there. It’s definitely in the mold of the Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz romps, which placed an emphasis on digital effects, humor and light horror.

The role of soldier/treasure hunter Nick definitely falls outside of Tom Cruise’s groove: likable good guys with a scallywag twist. Here it’s all scally and no wag.

The girl keeps telling him he’s good guy down deep inside, but then he does things like flee from the mummy in a van, leaving her behind. But no, she insists, remember when we were on the plummeting plane and you gave me the only parachute?

“I thought there was another one,” he confesses.

This refers to one of the film’s more memorable scenes, were Nick goes down in a plane crash and wakes up in the morgue writhing inside a body bag, not a scratch on him. It seems he’s been selected by an ancient Egyptian princess to be his “Chosen One,” who will become the vessel of Set, god of death, bringing about a reign of evil upon the Earth. In the meantime, the curse keeps him from dying.

Considering how her betrothed keeps rejecting her, running away and stabbing her with stuff, you’d think a smart she-mummy would just go off and choose someone else for the honor.

Sofia Boutella plays Ahmanet, the mummy. She’s visually arresting but not particularly scary. She starts off as a twisted bug-like skeleton wrapped in bandages, and gradually gains strength and flesh by kissing people and sucking out their vital essence, which in turn adds them to her growing army of zombies.

Her skin is an ashy gray riddled with etched markings, while a few bones pop out of her wrappings. Most arresting are her eyes, which have double irises.

Annabelle Wallis plays Jenny, an archeologist who had a fling with Nick and now considers him a waste of her time. It’s an odd, mismatched pairing, almost as if they split Indiana Jones into a couple and made each half resent the other.

Jake Johnson plays Nick’s wingman, Vail, the sort who’s always urging him to take the safer path, and his advice is never heeded. And Russell Crowe pops up as a very polite doctor with a mean streak.

You may have heard “The Mummy” is the first picture in Universal Studio’s “Dark Universe” project, an attempt to revive all their classic monsters -- Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, Dracula, etc. -- and bind them together in a shared world like comic book superheroes.

I’m all for it, but based on this movie they’re off to a shaky start. Director Alex Kurtzman is a seasoned writer/producer marking only his second stint behind the camera. He lacks visual flair, and has an unfortunate tendency to shoot the action from oblique angles so we don’t get the full impact of the gruesome beasties.

The script, credited to Christopher McQuarrie, David Koepp and Dylan Kussman, borrows liberally from other movies. There’s a fight inside a truck lifted straight out of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and there are plenty of visual cues from other mummy movies, such as the creature’s face appearing out of a sand storm. Also an ongoing postmortem conversation with a friend a la "An American Werewolf in London."

“The Mummy” isn’t a bad movie, just a disjointed one. They should’ve left this one buried a little while longer until the time was ripe.

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