Tuesday 22 August 2017

Review: The Mummy

Year: 2017
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Screenplay: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman,
Starring: Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance and Russell Crowe.

Synopsis is here:

It's too easy to hate Tom Cruise. I've always enjoyed the man myself. Despite his rather obvious array of tics, Cruise's charm has always been my case for him rather than against him. I find that the animosity towards him often stems from folk who are my age or were just a little too young to get into the young maverick hype of the 80's. The Cruise from the turn of the millennium, the Cruise we see now is one where more attention was paid to his religion. His private life seeped into his persona more and the looming weirdness (along with one or two less than appealing movie choices) became the Cruise we recognise more. A shame. As a movie star, the man has it. Or rather had it in the case of the mummy, a rather pitiful attempt to rebrand some old gear under the new sparkly cinematic universe guise. Why? Because Disney/Marvel.

Thanks to Marvel’s ability to create an expansive universe for their media, we now have the likes of Universal trying to catch the fever. What do you do when you have all the classic monsters under your trademark? Shove them all into one great big “cinematic universe” and wait for the dollars to roll in. If you can grab a well know star whose shine is a bit scuffed. Then quids in! Who wouldn’t want to see some like Cruise rise to the occasion, despite plying his trade in the well received and successful Mission Impossible films? No pitfalls to be seen here. Mostly because the executives have huge dollar signs for eyes now.

Unfortunately, Cruise is the main component as to why this film doesn't sit right with me. It's not the weird jokes about his sexual prowess. Despite being in his mid-50's the film is quick to inform you his youthful vigour in the sack with markedly younger women. The issue is that Cruise with his demeanour and tics, never fully gels with the material. The 1999 version of The Mummy, the best-known version, has a strong sense of scale, style and wit about itself. It's location and timeline is well observed and give the film the right mood in which to absorb it. Bravo to Stephen Sommers. No seriously.

This Mummy Movie confoundingly spends its time in modern-day London with Cruise desperately trying to grasp at the fountain of youth. When we look at the silver fox actioners of Liam Neeson, we may be aware of his age, but the films often do well to at least try and cater to the situation. This had me screaming for A: Sidekick Jack Johnson to be the lead. He's more than capable. B: An actual film of the video game Uncharted which would feel far more relevant than this hasty cash in.

What we have now is a modern-day mess about an Egyptian mummy buried in Iraq (LOOK! RELEVANCE!) which spends most of its time in London, featuring a leading star who doesn’t appear to understand that his relevance has altered with his age. Cruise’s desire to perform his own stunts is as always very commendable (especially since his recent injury) and scenes show hints of what made him an interesting presence. However, this is a rather mundane blockbuster starring an A-lister who’s trying to portray a man whose twenty years younger than he is. Unlike the likes of Live, Die Repeat (2015) and the later additions of Mission Impossible franchise, in which Cruise becomes more of a vessel for those around him, Cruise spends his time looking more dead-eyed than the CGI grotesques which populate this drab affair.

To be fair, it’s not as if director Alex Kurtzman doesn’t attempt to make this summer diversion appealing. The central aircraft crashing set-piece would be more astonishing if it had not seemed so heavily borrowed from Christopher Nolan’s bag of tricks. Despite the criticism aimed towards him, the inclusion of Russell Crowe may be grown worthy in consideration of the so-called “dark universe” but comes with a scenery chewing performance which at least seems in sync with the pulpiness that made the 1999 Mummy so attractive.

Now we’re given a film which like many recent summer films of its ilk, is more interested in what happens in the next film than the present one. The Mummy finishes with a finale so anti-climactic that one may ask why they even bothered. Then again, when you’ve owned the rights something for so long as Universal has with The Mummy, you remember you don’t really need to answer that question.