Thursday, June 8, 2017

'The Mummy' vanquishes Tom Cruise

A muddled helping of horror? Campy fun? Or ... maybe it's just another summer dud.

In a better world, The Mummy would be wrapped in linens, placed in a sarcophagus and buried in an obscure location where it would be unable to knock on thousands of multiplex doors.

Even with Universal's history with mummy movies, something the studio revisited with several Brendan Fraser efforts, this edition never becomes a fitting member of the comic book/fantasy universe that dominates so much of the movie landscape.

Trace elements from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Night of the Living Dead, the customary booming effects and a lead performance from Tom Cruise aren't enough to elevate a badly muddled effort. The Mummy hits screens having been embalmed of logic with a story that begins by linking the Crusades to ancient Egypt.

In some of its scenes, The Mummy travels to London to unleash torrents of mayhem, prompting thoughts about how that recently battered city deserved a better break.

Cruise plays a soldier who seems to use his time in Iraq as an excuse to steal antiquities. During a burst of heavy fighting, Cruise's Nick Morton and his pal Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) discover a tomb that contains the mummy of evil Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella).

An Egyptologist (Annabelle Wallis) who happens to be wandering around Iraq immediately recognizes the importance of the find, and the mummy is carted away to Britain.

Asking whether the 5,000-year-old Ahmanet will spring to life is like wondering whether temperatures in the desert are prone to rising at midday. You shouldn't have to ask.

Six credited writers are unable to make sense or add much winking humor to a movie that doesn't seem to understand that its only pathway to success involves an indulgence in camp.

And forget about horror. The Mummy is no more scary than the average amusement park fun house.

Now in the midst of all this, we learn that everything involving the mummy is being orchestrated by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe). Crowe's Jekyll, who takes injections to keep his Hyde side at bay, arrives in the movie like a visitor from another planet -- or at least another movie and his doesn't look as if it could be any better than the one we're watching.

The movie's best creative touch: The risen mummy has four eyeballs, which -- perhaps -- means that mummies don't need special glasses to watch 3D movies like ... well ... The Mummy.

I can't say that I've loved every movie that Tom Cruise has made, but I've never seen him give a performance quite this unconvincing. Perhaps Cruise was trying to be funny or perhaps he, like the movie, couldn't find the right tone for a story that tries to present Ahmanet as a seductress for the dark side. She inhabits Nick's mind, causes him to have visions and makes him seem as addled as the movie itself.

Whatever prompted Cruise's performance, a murky script makes The Mummy his mission impossible for the summer of 2017. Do I need to ask you to pardon the pun?

Director Alex Kurtzman serves up plenty of mediocre action as he staggers to a conclusion that suggests that sequels loom, as well as other movies from what Universal is calling its Dark Universe series, films based on rights the company owns. Maybe Universal's other monsters will fare better.

As for The Mummy, the only appropriate conclusion might be: Let the dead continue to slumber. Please.

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