After Christopher Lee and Boris Karloff turn as the bandage bound horror it’s the turn of Sofia Boutella who frankly is a lot easier on the eye although here make up has her face looking like an algebra whiteboard. So with Disney’s Marvel universe and Warner’s DC universe its Universal who are plundering their admittedly great back catalogue for monsters to create their Dark Universe franchise and despite Dracula Unbound and The Wolfman a few years ago The Mummy is the first in the intended franchise. It’s Tom Cruise who is really the selling point of this film starring as a military type figure and ISIS agitator who after commanding a plane strike on a bunch of them in a small middle eastern town uncovers a burial chamber where the evil Princess Ahmanet is buried in a pool of liquid mercury. Her back story as a power mad tyrant – think Donald Trump without the comedy combover and having killed her father and his baby son who would be heir to his empire finds herself captured and buried alive in an anonymous spot in the desert where Cruise and co find her thousands of years later.
Having been lambasted by Annabelle Wallis, playing archaeologist Jenny Halsey who had a fling with him, they transport the Mummy back to London for examination. Wallis is the spiky attitude girlfriend in a similar vein to that of Alison Doody in Indianna Jones and the last Crusade though hopefully her career won’t peter out in the same way as Doody’s did. It’s here that the films one real great set piece is set as the plane is attaccked by crows and they bounce about in the cargo hold gravity less with her escaping and him sent crashing to earth in a sequence that will almost certainly cut from any version shown on an in flight movie. Remarkably though he survives scratch free and it is here that the plot and explanation for this starts to get tangled which is a shame as the scriptwriters include Hollywood heavyweights David Koepp (whose credits include Spiderman, Mission Impossible, & Jurassic Park) and Christopher Mc Quarrie (whose credits include The Usual suspects, and Mission Impossible :Rogue Nation). Throw into the mix Russell Crowe as Dr Jekyll and you can see the seeds of cross fertilization of the franchise beginning. Crowe is pretty good in the role constantly injecting himself with a some potion to prevent his Mr Hyde alter ego coming to the fore though at one point inevitably failing which is unfortunate as its best when the film hints at what he is on the verge of transforming into. Unfortunately when he does change it is a disappointment as he merely seems to get a skin pigment problem and adopts a cockney geezer accent. Whether a full on Mr Hyde transformation as per that seen in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is being held back for his stand alone film is anyone’s guess.
Inevitably Cruise and co, including a dead friend who reappears to offer help, much like Griffin Dunne in An American Werewolf in London, must battle the mad mummy who, having been awoken, continues her quest for world domination raising the CGI dead to do her beckoning and its Cruise who holds the key to continuing the franchise. Unlike previous incarnations he won’t be lumbering around in bandages because it seems the mummy trademark here is to have four pupils in their eyes. For once here are characters who can be called four eyes without taking offence.
Universal’s classic monsters offer a great array of stories but the beauty of those old films was their practical effects and make up whereas today’s audiences are bombarded with CGI which, out of necessity, works well with the plane crash sequence but as fans of Oscar winning make up artist Rick Baker will know there’s far more credibility to practical effects which was embraced and acknowledged when The Force Awakens was being shot as opposed to the CGI fest that was The Phantom. It’s for this reason that perhaps the hieroglyphics are on the wall as though this is proficiently filmed it is ultimately something of a generic action film which doesn’t benefit from being in 3D either.
Here’s the trailer…….