Tom can’t save a monster mess
The Mummy (15) Universal studios launch their new Dark Universe — resurrecting and linking together their classic movie monsters from the 1920s-to-50s — with the return of the bandaged antagonist (whisper it, apparently we’ve to pretend 2014’s Dracula Untold never happened).
And there is no better way to get the ball rolling than by hiring the world’s biggest movie star — Tom Cruise — to take on the repackaged Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella).
A surefire recipe for success? Well, not quite because by the end of this uneven, mediocre, at times downright dull, romp you’ll be pining for the derring-do and cheesy fun of Brendan Fraser and Co’s 1999 take on The Mummy, never mind Boris Karloff ’s iconic 1932 appearance.
Cruise himself is fine. His ex-military officer coming across as a modern Indiana Jones with impulsive and reckless tendencies, complete with the 54-year-old’s love of crazy stunts and aping of his macho status — taking his fair share of slaps to the face from his female co-stars.
It’s virtually everything else that’s the problem, not least Boutella’s relentless and physically nimble-but-sorely lacking in menace villainess.
In fairness, though, she’s given little time to shine in a muddled story penned by no fewer than six writers — including The Usual Suspects’ Christopher McQuarrie and Jurassic Park’s David Koepp — that sees fullyfleshed characters take a back seat to wonky supernatural powers and magical artefacts.
Alex Kurtzman, who delivered scripts for the likes of Star Trek and Transformers, directs only his second movie — and his first blockbuster — and struggles to serve up sufficient popcorn thrills and spills.
The plummeting, pressure-less plane set piece that dominated the marketing campaign is the film’s action highlight, with not even a London sandstorm coming close. Ahmanet’s zombie-like minions — and more crows than even Hitchcock could’ve handled in The Birds — add very little intimidation or peril.
Kurtzman’s film doesn’t feel very big either. After an ancient Egypt-set prologue, we go from Iraq to London — and that’s it. The lack of globe-trotting maybe wouldn’t be as noticeable if there weren’t so many scenes of people talking in rooms and other tight locations.
Cruise’s hero’s visions stall the forward momentum and Annabelle Wallis’ pompous, cold archeologist and Jake Johnson’s barely used comic relief feel like forced comrades for the leading man, rather than natural buddies.
At least Russell Crowe looks like he’s having a blast as Dr Henry Jekyll — positioned as the Dark Universe’s answer to Nick Fury.
But if this universe is to grow and see its planned multitude of flicks come to fruition, it will need a lot more energy, thrills and chills than this deeply disappointing opener.
On the edge Cruise and Wallis hang on for dear life in The Mummy