By Jim Slotek
“You’re a younger man,” says Crowe as Edward Hyde (oh yeah, we’ll get back to that), assessing his foe before warning him not to underestimate his dangerousness.
For the record, Cruise is 54 and Crowe is 53. But that there is a line in the script reminding us how young Cruise looks, speaks volumes to what an awkward age that is for an action star.
Hey, we can see the six-packs, Tom. We’ve got eyes.
But to paraphrase a line from that point in Cruise’s career when he was trying to win Oscars… Where is the mummy? SHOW ME THE MUMMY!
Even back in the far more fun Brendan Fraser Mummy trilogy, the filmmakers seemed less and less interested in mummies, to the point that the third film was about re-animated Chinese terracotta warriors.
Director Alex Kurtzman and several credited writers decided to take this story equally as far away from Egypt and mummies. It opens in London, England, where a tube extension project unearths a tomb of medieval crusaders amid Egyptian relics.
Then Crowe begins to narrate a very long story about an Egyptian princess named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) whose ambition to be Pharaoh led her to make a deal with Set (who is erroneously named here as the god of the dead), leading her to murder, a thwarted doomsday spell, and a sentence to be “mummified alive” (so no sucking her brain out through her nose or putting organs in separate vessels, we’re just basically wrapping her in bandages).
Bye bye, Egypt. When next we encounter Ahmanet, her tomb is uncovered (with little explanation) IN NORTHERN IRAQ (hey, Arabs, right?) by a U.S. military bomb, and a rogue soldier-turned-blackmarket-antiquities-salesman named Nick (Cruise).
Brain hurts. This is, I believe, the last time the word “mummy” is spoken in The Mummy.
Instead, The Mummy becomes every monster movie that notes from paranoid studio executives could possibly inspire. Ahmanet is basically a succubus, kissing people and dessicating them as she steals their energy and morphs from corpse to deadly cover-girl. They emerge as zombies. In fact, the dead everywhere come to life. As zombies. That can swim. While wearing medieval chain mail.
There’s paramilitary action with a London-based anti-evil club that includes one Henry Jekyll (Crowe), mixing horror mythologies like a shooter at a beach bar. There’s a woman scientist (Annabelle Wallis) who constantly needs rescuing, and says science-y things like “We’ve angered the gods!”
And there’s wise-cracking (and dead) Jake Johnson (New Girl), who posthumously heckles his buddy Nick in bars and such, a la Griffin Dunne in An American Werewolf In London (old reference, I know, but Cruise remembers the '80s as well as I do).
It all gives Cruise lots to do, fight monsters, swim with them, get tossed around in myriad ways that would put most fiftysomethings in the hospital fracture ward, and challenge them in the face of CGI IMAX 3D storms of sand, birds, rats and debris.
Because, you see, he’s carrying a curse. He’s Ahmanet’s “chosen one” (because if you’ve been buried for 5,000 years, you’re looking at Tom Cruise and going, “Yep, that guy. The one who could not possibly be as old as Wikipedia says.”)
Which is the single biggest flaw in Tom Cruise carrying something called Dark Universe. He does not do dark well. Even as the Vampire Lestat, he never seemed anything but Tom Cruise pretending to be a vampire. It is expected that he will carry on in the series as a dark, cursed figure – with perfect teeth, six-pack abs and a cocky attitude. But dark.
The Mummy. Directed by Alex Kurtzman. Starring Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis and Russell Crowe. Opens wide Friday.
Jim Slotek is a former Toronto Sun columnist, movie critic, TV critic and comedy beat reporter. He’s been a scriptwriter for the NHL Awards, Gemini Awards and documentaries, and was nominated for a Gemini Award for comedy writing on a special (the NHL Awards). Prior to the Sun, he worked at the Ottawa Citizen as an entertainment reporter.