Thursday, 22 June 2017

Review: The Mummy

The Mummy (2017)
Cert: 15 / 110 mins / Dir. Alex Kurtzman / Trailer

Hey, I don't mind admitting when I'm wrong. Repeated exposure to the trailers for Universal's 2017 reboot of The Mummy had already convinced me that Sofia Boutella would be the best thing in an otherwise desperate franchise-startup. As it turns out, the French-Algerian kickass dancer and actress is almost wasted in the film, with most of the focus being reserved for Tom Cruise's range of expression*1. But I'm getting ahead of myself…

Anyway, in case you'd been living in a cave, The Mummy is an overhaul of the cinematic-property in general, last gracing our screens under Brendan Fraser's auspices in the 1999+ series. Now set in the present day, our hero is Tom Cruise's Nick Morton, an 'entrepreneur of antiquities' who, with his partner in adventure Chris (Jake Johnson), accidentally wakes up a very angry Egyptian lady (Sofia Boutella's Ahmanet) after stealing a map from a slightly less-angry British archaeologist, Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis)*2. Thrown into the mix is Russell Crowe's London-based research scientist, Dr. Henry Jekyll, anxious to get his hands on the newly-risen queen For Research Purposes™. As you can imagine, there's hell-on.

This of course is the first installment in the new 'Dark Universe' franchise, fresh out of the stable with a suitably hubristic ident following the standard Universal Studios intro. And there are, of course, an utterly shameless number of setups and future callbacks established here, with the studio not only throwing their hat into the continuity ring, but also betting the housekeeping on their eventual outcome. Front and centre of all this is Tom Cruise, leading a film as only he can, gleaming and coiffured in pretty much every scene, with a strategic box-to-stand-on when the need arises.

And you know what? I rather enjoyed this film.
There. I said it.

Having braced myself for the worst (the aforementioned trailers, plus the fact that the movie's been out for almost two weeks here and I hadn't summoned the willpower to walk ten minutes from my house to watch it), it becomes apparent after about fifteen minutes or so that it's not at all bad. I mean sure, it's The Tom Cruise Summer Blockbuster By Numbers Adventure Hour™, but it's bloody good at being that. I've certainly seen far, far worse this year, that's for sure. It helps that the film's a 15 certificate rather than the standard 12A. Things never get gory or even particularly savage, but there's an occasional level of intensity that you can't generally carry off at the lower age-rating*3. Conversely, there's no denying that Tom Cruise brings a lightness of touch to The Mummy which the film (and indeed series, if it's to continue) needs at its outset, in this age of desaturated frowny-destruction. Not all of the gags land in the correct place, but Big Tom has a surprising poker-face when it comes to delivering quips which would make many another actor stumble.

You'd expect this flagship offering to borrow tonally a little from the 1999 film-series, and that it does at first, with a decent amount of restraint. Although the screenplay also steals beats from Indiana Jones, which again is expected/fine. Oh, and The Birds. And Hellraiser. And An American Werewolf in London, The Lost Boys, Shaun of the Dead and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As tribute-acts go, The Mummy has pretty strong game.

As referenced up top there, it's more than a little disappointing that Sofia Boutella has been cast in the antagonist-role as a furious, vengeful sociopath and is then pretty much reduced to padding around in bandages and murmuring threats like a Sexy Mumm-Ra™, while the story revolves around what Tom's currently up to. But I suppose it's The Summer, right? Not Mad Mummy's Murder-Hour™.

Considering quite how generic this opening chapter is in both concept and execution, The Mummy is a pleasing ride. This isn't Universal's big splash, they're just testing the water at the moment. But you just know they've got their moves mapped out, and if the studio can maintain this level of accessible, disposable fun, they might just make their money back. Stranger things have happened…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Well other than all those movies it riffs on, it's very much .

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
For best effect, probably yes.
The transition to the small screen will not be kind on this movie

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Against all odds, it pretty much does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not one jot.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This film stars Sofia Boutella of course, used to far better effect in Kingsman, alongside Mark 'Skywalker' Hamill and Sam 'Windu' Jackson.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Oh, Tom does all of his face in this movie! [ BACK ]

*2 For some reason, the Oxford-born Wallis has apparently forgotten how to do an "Oxford-English" accent, instead slipping into Americanising her character's voice every third scene or so like an overenthusiastic DJ on a regional radio station. This infuriates me with American performers, but it's frankly baffling with an English one… [ BACK ]

*3 Although honourable mentions must go out to The Woman In Black, The Scorch Trials and Miss Peregrine, for showing exactly what you can do with a 12A... [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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