Monday, 13 August 2018

The Mummy (2017)

Like the film, Annabelle Wallis stares at Tom Cruise in awe in disaster laden (in more ways than one) The Mummy


Director: Alex Kurtzmann
Cast: Tom Cruise (Nick Morton), Sofia Boutella (Ahmanet), Annabelle Wallis (Jenny Halsey), Jake Johnson (Chris Vail), Russell Crowe (Dr Henry Jekyll), Courtney B Vance (Colonel Greenway), Marwan Kenzari (Malik)

Many films have killed their franchises. It takes a really special film to kill a franchise before it has even started. Welcome to the first, and probably last, entry in Universal’s misguided Dark Universe franchise, a Marvel-style playground for all Universal’s old monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman etc. etc. And of all of them, The Mummy was the one they decided to start with? 

Anyway, our hero is Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) a sort of soldier of fortune in modern day Iraq, plundering antiquities under the banner of the US Army like some low-rent Indiana Jones. He and his hapless sidekick Vail (Jake Johnson) stumble upon a tomb of mysterious lost Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) after stealing information from archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis). On the clock to take as much as they can from the tomb, Jenny and Nick take home Ahmanet’s sarcophagus. Their plane crashlands in Dover, with Jenny the only survivor – only for Nick to be resurrected in the mortuary. Looks like reborn Ahmanet wants to bring Set, the God of Death, into the world and has chosen Nick as the vessel for Set’s soul. Or something. It’s not really clear. 

In fact the whole film is pretty awful. What sort of film were they trying to make here? Is this a horror or an action film or a buddy film or some sort of black comedy? The tone shifts wildly from moment to moment: one minute Tom Cruise is exchanging Indiana Jones-style banter with his buddy Vail (Jake Johnson). The next he is shooting a possessed Vail at point-blank range (even this is played for laughs a bit). The next he’s being haunted American Werewolf style by a ghost or vision or zombie or something version of wise-cracking Vail. What is going on here? What kind of film is this?

Tom where he normally is - centre of the frame
Well actually we know what kind of film it is: it’s a Tom Cruise starrer. Allegedly, the Cruiser (already quite the control freak perfectionist) took over most of the production from inexperienced, Universal suit Alex Kurtzmann. The DVD’s special features don’t half support this, with Cruise shown effectively directing most of the action sequences while Kurtzmann stands quietly to one side or (best of all!) greeting the star after the opening aircraft crash has been filmed to be told “you’ll love the footage Alex!”. 

Well the studio had doubled-down on Cruise to launch their franchise with his glittering smile and international box-office appeal, so I guess it’s fair enough the guy was shoved square centre. I know the film is called The Mummy but it might as well be Nick Morton. Cruise is in almost every single scene, most of the characters spend the whole time talking about him, and all the action is done by him (every other character is completely useless). The best lines, such as they are, go to him. He’s starting to look a little bit too old for the “young buccaneer” role he has here – and certainly too old to be flirting with Anabelle Wallis – but the film doesn’t care.

Anyway, the plot charges about London with odd time jumps, and unclear character motivations abounding. Why does Ahmanat have such an idee fix that Nick has to be the vessel for Set (other than, of course, his Tom Cruise Awesomeness)? Is it a good or bad thing that Nick could or could not get the powers of a god? Why does Ahmanet need Set in the first place – she “sells her soul” to him in ancient Egypt times for the throne, but basically just cuts the throats of her family at night (hardly requiring the demonic powers of the dead)? In Egypt she’s easily defeated with a blow dart but by the time she’s reborn in London she has incredible powers over minds, matter and animals – why didn’t she use any of this before? 

On top of that, we’ve got the incredibly dull Prodigium organisation (a sort of SHIELD for monster fighting) run by Nick Fury-ish arc character Dr Henry Jekyll, played with lumbering crapness by Russell Crowe. Why Russell, why? Crowe plays the part half like a plummy Stephen Fryish professor, the other half like some demented OTT cockney geezer. Of course the film isn’t subtle enough to avoid giving us Jekyll going full Hyde, a laughable moment of cheesy rubbishness with a wild-eyed Crowe reduced to “alrigh’ mate” hamminess while tossing Cruise around in a punch-up that looks like two drunk dads at a wedding going at it.

Oh Russell, why? Why do you make it so difficult for your fans?
The film is also saddled with one of the most inept female characters since Roger Moore’s Bond years. At one point, poor Anabelle Wallis stumbles on Ahmanet and her zombie minions on the verge of stabbing Nick to death and turning him into a demon-host, and Nick’s response is an irritated cry of “Jenny!” as her total lack of proactive response to this, like even he finds her arrival pointless and annoying. I’m afraid to say after that moment, every moment in the film with Wallis weeping, panicking, running away or laughably cheering Nick’s Tom Cruise Awesomeness from the wings (“Kick her arse Nick!”) was met by me and everyone I was watching the film with shouting “Jenny!” at the screen with the same exasperated annoyance.

The only good sequence in the film is the opening plane crash – and that is spoilt as it was all over the trailers. By the time we are in a secret crypt (getting in the way of the crossrail construction) with zombie Templar knights wrestling Nick (no seriously) you’ll have long since ceased caring. Even the fun of saying the next line in the cliché-ridden script before the actors do will be less fun than it used to be.

The Mummy sounds like it should be some sort of camp classic. But it’s really not. It’s ineptly made, poorly written, with a plot that makes no sense and action that varies from dull to laughable. Terrible characters, awful pace, rubbish acting, lousy direction and half-hearted from start to finish – it could barely launch a fart let alone a franchise.

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