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"THE MUMMY"
(2017) (Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Horror: Two military looters, an archaeologist and others must contend with the accidental release of an ancient Egyptian princess from her long-forgotten tomb.
PLOT:
When U.S. soldiers Sgt. Nick Morton (TOM CRUISE) and Cpl. Chris Vail (JAKE JOHNSON) aren't patrolling volatile parts of Iraq, they're working as "liberators of precious antiquities," meaning they plunder archaeological sites to sell items on the black market. While on such a mission, they encounter a number of hostile locals and the airstrike they call in results in the unearthing of a long-buried and long-forgotten Egyptian tomb. Enter British archaeologist Jenny Halsey (ANNABELLE WALLIS) who's excited by the find but peeved at Nick for stealing a map to the location after their one-night stand. Nonetheless, Col. Greenway (COURTNEY B. VANCE) orders him and Chris to join Jenny in a quick examination of the find.

Once down inside there, Jenny is amazed by the discovery, while Nick and Chris are solely interested in what they might snatch up for a later sale. During this, Nick shoots a cable that releases a sarcophagus from a pit of mercury designed to keep the mummy inside and any evil from getting in. With hostiles and a sandstorm approaching, they remove the sarcophagus and take flight, only to face evil that possesses Chris and then sends the cargo plane plummeting toward Earth. Jenny gets out via parachute before the impact that Nick somehow survives, although he now has visions of Egyptian princess Ahmanet (SOFIA BOUTELLA) who was released by the crash and is now transforming from mummy back to human form.

All of which draws the interest of Jenny's boss, Dr. Henry Jekyll (RUSSELL CROWE), who's the split personality head of Prodigium, an organization that's involved in finding, studying and destroying monsters and evil around the world. From that point on, Nick tries to wrap his head around what's happening, all of which includes Ahmanet wanting to use his body as the physical host for the ancient Egyptian god of evil.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
As much as I was a huge fan of comic books back in the late 1960s and '70s, I was equally as enthused about movie monsters. Part of that was obviously natural with boys my age (I don't seem to recall many, if any girls being into such creations -- or at least they didn't publically admit it back then), but some of that also stemmed from an older cousin of mine giving me his movie monster magazines from that era. I read and studied those religiously.

Heck, I even had an A to Z guide of such cinematic creations, along with plastic models of Frankenstein's monster, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Creature From the Black Lagoon, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde and the Mummy. The only one I could never find was the one for the Invisible Man. Go figure.

In any event, and long before even VHS existed, I'd be overjoyed when any of the classic horror movies featuring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr., and others would appear on TV. Some scared me and some didn't, with the Mummy ones falling into the latter category.

Of course, back then, the title character was wrapped in strips of linen, nearly always had one arm stuck out in some fashion of a frozen grasp, and lumbered about quite slowly, much like the zombies of the same, slow-moving era. Simply put, I didn't see them as much of a threat and thus the figure and related movies came in at the bottom of my favorites scale.

All of which could explain my somewhat blasť attitude toward the Brendan Fraser reboot of the movies that took place in 1999, followed two years later by, natch, "The Mummy Returns" and then the last and utterly forgettable installment, 2008's "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor."

Since Hollywood is nearly bereft of original ideas or the guts to try something novel, and much like "Spider-Man" who got a second reboot not long after the initial one, we now have a new version of "The Mummy." And beyond being important to the singular franchise, this offering -- from writers David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman and director Alex Kurtzman -- is significant in that it's the lead-off entry in Universal's so-called Dark Universe.

Much like the assembly of characters in the same for Marvel Comics and DC Comics, the venerable studio that kicked off these characters nearly a century ago is hoping to mimic the superhero film assemblies, cross-pollinate them, and count all of the dollars pouring in not only from the movies, but all of the accompanying products.

Far more akin to the Fraser version than the mummy movies of old, the film stars Tom Cruise as Nick Morton, a U.S. military sergeant who makes an extra living plundering archaeological sites in the Mideast with his pal and fellow soldier, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson doing the comic relief bit in both live and dead ways, much like Griffin Dunne did in "An American Werewolf in London").

Their latest attempt -- following a prologue of showing the title character's back-story from long ago -- ends up unintentionally unearthing the tomb of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) as well as the attention of archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) who's working for none other than Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe) who's now taken over a different but ultimately related significant find under London.

What follows is the film's signature action sequence -- and quite the doozy at that -- which was already teased and mostly shown in full in the film's initial trailer. And that's when bad stuff happens to a cargo plane carrying a sarcophagus as it runs into something far worse than turbulence -- ancient Egyptian evil.

It goes down, Cruise's character somehow survives (also shown in the trailer), and the Egyptian mummy princess is unleashed and literally starts sucking the life from others to regain her non-mummified, human form. As she then attempts to place the Egyptian god of evil, Set, into a human host (that being the body of Mr. Cruise), our hero tries to figure out what's going on and save his own hide (including from Mr. Hyde).

Aside from that latter figure, the rest of the Dark Universe characters are MIA for those cross-pollination needs (although I suppose the Invisible Man could be present through, that cheeky see-thru fellow). Thus, this is mostly a singular character offering, but while the teased plane crash sequence had my hopes riding high, the rest of the film can't live up to those lofty and exciting expectations.

Yes, there's other action, moments of adventure and some comedy elements (not as far as the goofy parts of the Fraser films, but probably closer than you would have imagined for a Cruise pic in this genre). But beyond the plane crash, none of it's particularly memorable, and the horror element isn't, well, that horrifying, at least in terms of raising some goose bumps.

The performances are generally decent, with Cruise doing more of an "Edge of Tomorrow" character thing than Ethan Hunt or Jack Reacher while Annabelle Wallis initially gives a strong female lead performance before the script essentially abandons her. Crowe is believable as the scientist trying to keep his alter-ego in check, while Boutella is okay but not terribly memorable as the title character (mainly due to being a one-note villain).

Diehard "Mummy" fans might have a different reaction (up or down, it's hard to tell) to what's offered here, but this latest installment doesn't change my opinion on the character being one of the least interesting in the Universal movie monster pantheon. It rates as a 4.5 out of 10.




Reviewed June 6, 2017 / Posted June 9, 2017


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