The Mummy; 110 min; Rated PG-13
Apparently, Universal Studios has launched a panoply franchise of sorts, the goal being to resurrect those iconic monsters that chilled audiences in the '20s, '30s and well into the '50s. “The Mummy” is the first of what Universal calls the Dark Universe.
If this picture is an example of what lies ahead, I’d judge the yet-to-be-realized franchise is off to a weak/limp start, and unless the writing improves hugely, they might reconsider the entire project. Although, I confess that I would welcome the chance to see how they update one of my boyhood favorites, “The Creature From the Black Lagoon.” I will never forget raising goosebumps on top of goosebumps as a group of unsuspecting scientists remains topside in a research boat, floating in an ominous jungle lagoon, while a man/fish, covered in scales with large webbed hands, swims just beneath the surface, waiting.
Unfortunately, the recent incarnation of “The Mummy” is a mess, and the narrative's incoherency chronic. No matter that the idea of a resurrected mummy, trailing bandages while staggering after archeologists who never ever should have opened its sarcophagus, dates back to Boris Karloff in the first 1932 version, then brought back in the 1999 Brendan Fraser trilogy, featuring Egyptian tombs and curses and Fraser as a swash-buckling, Indiana Jones type. Same gauzy bandages, indeed, but just a bit more elaborate regarding special effects and artifacts and if memory serves, lots of black beetles and sand storms.
Which brings us to 2017 and the durable and protean Tom Cruise who portrays Nick Morton, a mercenary artifact hunter who is also happens to be in the Army and is accompanied by his sidekick, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson).
The setting is Iraq. A drone missile blows a deep hole in the village square exposing an enormous Egyptian stone mien that curiously happens to be in Mesopotamia. Cue Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), archeologist, who appears and recognizes that what has been exposed is a tomb or sorts and must immediately be investigated.
And so begins a barely intelligible story about an ancient Egyptian princess, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who commits patricide and is wrapped and buried alive in an evil looking sarcophagus filled with mercury (don’t ask). Clearly, the hieroglyphics covering the casket make clear that it would be best to not open same. Standard trope.
Jenny tries to explain this to Nick, but his eyes glaze over wondering only what such an artifact might bring on the black market. His favorite hieroglyphic is “show me the money,” which is a line we’ve heard before.
There is a plane ride that is the best part of the movie 1 that would be where Nick, Chris and Jenny accompany the sarcophagus back to England and the large military plane goes down, overwhelmed by a flock of crows. It’s quite a gravity-defying ride.
The rest of the movie challenges you to suspend your disbelief and try not to say, “as if.” Nick and Jenny are chased, they run, again they chase, and run some more. Who’s chasing them? How about 12th century Crusaders released from their tombs. And there’s a dagger, missing a red stone that Ahmanet really, really wants to get a hold of and if she kills Nick with the dagger that will release Set, Egyptian god of death. Follow? No? Me neither. There are more crows and rats and even a Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe) appears who is taking regular injections to ward off becoming a grim Mr. Hyde. Seriously.
Suffice it to say that the sarcophagus is no ark, and Cruise is no Indy, and when in doubt, add more bandages, unless said mummy is a shapely princess, then less is definitely more.
If there is eternal life, then it rests with Tom Cruise’s abs, which are on display and don’t look 54 years old. I can’t recall if said abs appeared in the most recent "Mission Impossible." Now that’s a franchise that has yet to disappoint. “The Mummy”? Skip.