Thursday, June 29, 2017

Film Review: The Mummy (2017)

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable 
Violence Mature
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

Many people are nostalgic for the Boris Karloff version of the Mummy or the Brendan Frasier trilogy of the same title.  I am not one of them.  I was never emotionally attached to the Karloff films and I found the Fraser movies too goofy.

And I found that I quite enjoyed this Tom Cruise version of The Mummy.

Cruise plays Nick Morton, a member of the American military in the Middle East.  Along with his partner Chris (Jake Johnson), Nick is in charge of finding terrorist insurgents and preventing them from destroying things of historical significance.  But Nick is also a war profiteer who gets first crack at the antiquities to sell on the black market.  He is foiled by Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) who idealistically tries to preserve as much of the historical record as possible.  Nick and Chris unwittingly uncover an ancient burial sight of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an ancient Egyptian princess who made a deal with the evil god of death to gain power.  However she was thwarted and buried alive until Nick released her.  Once released, chaos ensues as Ahmanet seeks objects of power that will allow her to incarnate the god of death on this world.

This movie is the first chapter in Universals attempt to create a shared cinematic universe for its cadre of monster characters known as The Dark Universe.  So this movie is meant to be the "Iron Man" of Universal's franchise.  And for the most part it succeeds.

I must tell you up front that I am not a fan of most horror.  It is a genre I respect but do not very much enjoy.  This movie does have its scares, but I wouldn't call it scary.  But it wasn't over-the-top, wink-at-the-camera silly as the previous Mummy films.  I found the script to be funny and charming, although very, very heavy on the expositional elements.  The movie really does try to beat you over the head with the story, as if it is too complicated for you to understand.

And the plot is meandering a bit.  It overcomplicates what should be a very straightforward story.  Part of the reason for this is that it has to incorporate elements that will be used in future installments of the franchise, including Russell Crowe as a character whose name once given would be a bit of a spoiler.

Cruise is as charismatic as ever.  He does not look like a man in his mid 50's at all.  He has an energy and a physicality that still puts him at the top of any action film.  He does well with the roguish charm, but I couldn't help but feel like his part was written with someone like Chris Pratt in mind; it has a slightly more comedic side to it than Cruise is used to doing.  I also thought Boutella did a good job as Ahmanet.  She is alternately horrifying and sympathetic.  There is one moment towards the end of the movie where you can feel her character's sense of power shifting and it was fascinating to watch her communicate that with her body language and facial expressions.  Wallis is serviceable as the foil/love interest to Cruise, but she doesn't stand out.  Johnson does, however, match Cruise's charisma with his own comedic sensibilities which makes him the best thing in every scene he's in.  Crowe also does a good job in his role, but I don't get the sense that he was at his peak.  If he brought a bit more of what we've all seen him do in movies like Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind then I think he could be a wonderful lynchpin to the Dark Universe.

Director Alex Kurtzman has a good eye for visual action.  I love his use of mercury as an important substance to the film.  It's strange liquid behavior adds a nice extra flair to a number of scenes.  The action sequences are fun and exciting to watch, skirting the line between horrifying and silly.  The plane crash sequences was thrilling, as was a sequence in a church where Nick and Jenny have to fight Ahmanet and her minions.  That isn't to say that all of the effects are great, but they are good enough to keep me watching.

The most interesting thing to me about the film is that Nick, our hero, is not a good man.  In many ways he should be an antagonist and Jenny should be the protagonist.  But the film is about whether or not Nick will become good or remain evil.  He is essential to Ahmanet's plan and his choices could make all the difference.  And I enjoy stories where the real battle is not with monsters in front of us, but the monsters inside of us.

The Mummy is not a great film.  But it also not nearly as bad as many of the critics are saying.  If you wanted to wait for Redbox or Netlfix, that would be fine.  But if you do you will have a fun time.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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