Tom Cruise throws everything into this film: action, special effects, fantasy, comedy, a little romance, Russell Crowe doing accents (truly) and a dash of Robert Louis Stephenson. Could such a heady brew make for a satisfying adventure yarn? It couldn’t, and it doesn’t.
Trying to be too many things at once is never a good idea, and in the end The Mummy falls flat. Like King Arthur a few weeks ago, its best moments are its occasional laughs – enjoyed by the audience in the screening I attended – but in between, the attempts at genuine tension lack, um, genuine tension. Maybe we’ve had our fill of action/fantasy/big budget movies. They’re getting a little predictable. The Mummy does have its share of well- executed stunts, to be sure, as we expect from Tom Cruise. But maybe we’ve seen Tom run, climb, fall and get knocked around too often. This too is wearing a little thin, for all that we may admire the man’s fitness.
At least the action is watchable enough. But what the film needs to make it stand out from the rest is a clever story. That’s what it needs. Alas, it’s not what it gets. The plot is weird, contrived, and laughable. That’s harsh, but let’s consider the premise.
Cruise is soldier-on-the-make Nick Morton, who along with buddy Chris Vail (Joe Johnson), is out to make good money pilfering artefacts in Iraq. The pair accidently unearth the tomb of machiavellian Egyptian princess Ahmanet, embalmed centuries earlier, after she was foiled in an attempt to raise the god of death, Set. Whew. Actually, there is momentary promise here, with Cruise playing a little against type as a bit of an opportunistic shyster, albeit with a heart of gold.
But then comes the shoehorning of other elements. Also on the scene is archaelogist Jenny Halsey, played by Annabelle Wallis. Jenny wants to take Ahmanet’s sarcophagus back to London for study, but actually she’s in the employ of Russell Crowe’s character, a man named ..wait for it ..Dr Henry Jekyll. I could sense jaws dropping around me when this cinematic morsel was delivered. Crowe hams it up like there’s no tomorrow, which only lends more farce to proceedings.
And what is Jekyll’s intention in all this? He’s a good guy, then a bad guy, then maybe a bit of both. It doesn’t really matter. But when he later undergoes a certain physical transformation, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I chose laughter.
But let’s get back to Tom. With Jenny and Ahmanet’s sarcophagus in tow, the flight to London turns into disaster, as you will have seen in the trailer. Tom is killed, then re born.Also reborn is Ahmanet herself, played with some relish by Sofia Boutella.
So Tom fights a battle on two fronts: against the resurrected Ahmanet, and against the dark power inside him that’s responsible for his own re-birth. I’m getting giddy just writing this down.
He must save Jenny, save the world, and try to save himself. But hey, for a bloke used to impossible missions this is no big deal. And, more to the point, no surprise.
Where the film shows a decent dose of chutzpah is that the whole enterprise is a set up for a sequel. Tom seems to want to create an ongoing character something like The Preacher, or Constantine, from graphic novels. That may be the intention, but I’m not sure audiences will want it. Plenty may buy a ticket to see Tom in his latest adventure. But it’s hard to see them splashing out for chapter two, if it ever comes.