June 09, 2017

Movie Review - "Mummy"

By Carl Kozlowski *
Official movie poster for "Mummy" / Credit: Universal Pictures
Official movie poster for "Mummy" / Credit: Universal Pictures

Between his 1983 breakthrough in “Risky Business” and “Collateral” in 2004, it seemed Tom Cruise could do no wrong. But ever since he went off the deep end in 2005, jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, the magic that had enabled him to jump from action flicks to romantic comedies to dramas seemed to disappear, leaving him stuck between science-fiction films and the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, with only the “M:I” entries still delivering explosive returns.

The chance to finally land another blockbuster by bringing the Universal studio’s classic 1932 horror film “The Mummy” and its 1999 Brendan Fraser remake back to life no doubt seemed like a slam-dunk. It gives Cruise the chance to attempt Indiana Jones-style heroics that combine his old sly charm with his current reliance on stunts.

While it is a nice change of pace to see him play a character who’s not unstoppably superhuman like his “M:I” agent Ethan Hunt, this “Mummy” is too convoluted in places, too gruesome in others, never quite scary enough and sadly falls completely to pieces in its utterly bizarre and confusing final half hour.

The film kicks off in England in 1127 AD, as a knight who fought in the Crusades is buried with a giant red diamond in his tomb while other knights chant in Latin amid a foreboding ceremony. It then jumps to the present day, where the tombs of the knight and his peers have been discovered and a mysterious man named Henry (Russell Crowe) takes over the excavation site with his minions.

As Henry stands in awe of the tombs, his pretentious voiceover and a rather intense flashback informs viewers that the site is tied to an evil ancient Egyptian woman named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). She was the daughter of a pharaoh, destined to inherit the throne until he fathered a son, who would take her place in line.

Ahmanet clung to her power by killing her father, his wife and son, and attempted to live forever by ritually killing a lover with the supernaturally powered Dagger of Set, the god of Death. After being captured before achieving her goal, she was mummified alive and trapped in a pit more than 1,000 miles outside of Egypt, with the intention of keeping her there forever.

But back in present-day Iraq, two U.S. reconnaissance officers – Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) and his sarcastic sidekick, Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) – have gone rogue by looting and selling the ancient treasures of the villages they are supposed to protect from insurgents. Nick finds way more than he bargained for while seeking the Dagger of Set, when the ground opens to reveal Ahmanet’s pit, with Nick unwittingly bringing her sarcophagus to the surface.

This discovery results in a confrontation with beautiful archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), who is angry because Nick stole her map to the pit after a one-night stand. Nick’s military supervisor orders the sarcophagus flown on a cargo plane to the U.S. for examination, unleashing a string of disasters including a sandstorm and a massive swarm of crows that destroy the plane’s engines and windshield.

Nick saves Jenny from certain death by offering her the only parachute on the plane as it careens to the ground, then awakens mysteriously unscathed and in a body bag in a hospital morgue. But Chris is now a wisecracking zombie and Nick is troubled by visions that make Jenny realize that Ahmanet is alive and attempting to make him her accomplice in bringing Set to life and making herself immortal.

Ahmanet is also on a rampage to find the diamond that was buried with the Crusader, as it is key to giving the Dagger its full evil powers.

I’m exhausted just typing all that, and events only get more confusing from there. Somehow, director Alex Kurtzmann manages to make it seem fun and coherent for the first two-thirds, but when Nick and Ahmanet each wind up at Henry’s bizarre compound, the movie goes off the deep end with a string of violent and annoying confrontations that destroy what little logic remains.

To make things worse, the film ends with a ridiculous voiceover conversation between Henry and Jenny that attempts to establish further globetrotting adventures for Nick. But judging from the fact that the audience didn’t laugh and cheer during the climactic fight’s big catchphrase, and didn’t even provide the customary round of applause that accompanies nearly every free screening in Hollywood, Universal can stop the franchise development process right now.

What’s truly disappointing is the fact that the movie features a dark focus on Ahmanet’s occult behavior and chanting throughout. The sequence in which Ahmanet kills her family, strips naked (her rear end is seen directly, with her exposed breasts seen from the side) and attempts ritual murder while atop her implied naked lover really pushes the limits of the PG-13 rating. Repeated flashbacks to these killings and some truly gruesome zombie transformations mean this is inappropriate for kids under that age, while people 13 and older are more likely to be offended by the fact they spent $15 on a ticket.

Carl Kozlowski has been a professional film critic and essayist for the past five years at Pasadena Weekly, in addition to the Christian movie site Movieguide.org, the conservative pop culture site Breitbart.coms Big Hollywood, the Christian pop culture magazine Relevant and New City newspaper in Chicago. He also writes in-depth celebrity interviews for Esquire.com and The Progressive. He is owner of the podcasting site www.radiotitans.com, which was named one of the Frontier Fifty in 2013 as one of the 50 best talk-radio outlets in the nation by www.talkers.com and will be relaunching it in January 2014 after a five-month sabbatical. He lives in Los Angeles.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.

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