Not to be confused with the three funny Mummy pics with Brendan Fraser, or indeed the Boris Karloff 1932 version, the Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing 1959 version, and many others, this is a straightforward action outing with only glimmers of horror, and serves as a kickstarter to a whole new world of rejigged ‘Universal Monsters’.
A cheesy Tom Cruise rather lets it down, but there’s still much to enjoy in this epic from co-producer, co-writer and director Alex Kurtzman, including Sofia Boutella’s surprisingly impressive turn as the titular figure, a supernatural force that, in the best tradition of the classic monsters, proves pretty scary and yet ultimately sympathetic. She’s certainly more engaging than Tom.
Nick Morton (Cruise) and his sidekick Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are a pair of mercenaries in and around the Middle East who do lots of dangerous stuff, including getting perilously close to what must be ISIS forces (although the screenplay is very cautious to remain vague about it). Nick’s devil-may-care attitude is always putting the pair in danger, which provokes scene-stealing we’re-all-going-to-die gags from Johnson’s Chris, and when they inadvertently unearth a huge underground tomb (or is it?), Nick’s only too happy to virtually leap in. Yes, there wouldn’t be much of a film if he didn’t, but he still comes across as a reckless idiot.
The FX chamber has something to do with ancient Egyptian graves discovered in London (?), and all this draws the attention of archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), who naturally has a history with Nick, and a posh scientist whose identity has been given away already so it isn’t much of a spoiler: he’s no less than Dr. Henry Jekyll and he’s played by Russell Crowe, who’s obviously having fun while putting on his trademark plummy accent. Jekyll serves as a sort of Nick Fury (from The Avengers) proxy who works with a secret international organisation keeping an eye on monstrous forces such as the ones about to be unleashed, and, you guessed it, he knows all about beasts as he occasionally turns into one. Although all we really see is a glimpse of a kind of gorilla-esque Hulk with a line in Jason-Statham-like leering.
Understandably Ahmanet (Boutella), who has a whole backstory of painful hubris and is initially resurrected by way of death-snogging incidental characters, doesn’t take too kindly to being chained up and mistreated, and soon her city-destroying powers are tearing London apart as she furiously comes for Nick.
Technically not quite the first female movie-mummy, but promoted as being so anyway, Sofia is the best reason to sit through this first-cab-off-the-monstrous-rank saga, and, yes it’s true, a series of ‘Universal Monster’ reinventions are on the way, beginning with a new Bride Of Frankenstein and possibly set to rope in Dracula, the Wolfman and more (and check out what’s in the jar on Jekyll’s desk, which is sure to get a whole movie of its own too). The bandages are well and truly off.
Rated M. The Mummy is in cinemas now