Eighteen years after the release of the original Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz eponymous film comes a reboot of the series, directed by Alex Kurtzman and starring Tom Cruise in the lead role this time. While the original was no paragon of perfection, it had managed to be an entertaining blend of comedy, romance and action. The remake, unfortunately, only manages to poke holes in the legacy of its namesake, adding little of value to the genre - you are left wondering why they bothered with a reboot at all.
The plot is the standard shtick - a trio of two men and one woman, of which the primary protagonist is given the title of "The Chosen One" and the lady is a smart, bookish sort of person, deal with magic and myth as they attempt to evade an all-powerful villain trying to murder them (Harry Potter, did anyone say?). True to the original, the uniformly Caucasian trio invade the middle-eastern country of Iraq and end up unleashing the wrath of a mummified undead being on the world despite multiple warnings not to. The movie does deviate from its previous version in some respects - scarab beetles and locusts are substituted for spiders and crows, and the far more appropriate setting of Cairo is passed over for modern-day London.
Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), an arrogant, cocky and selfish soldier who is more interested in prosperity than patriotism, and his partner Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), find themselves in a reluctant partnership with Dr. Jennifer Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), a female version of Indiana Jones. When Nick accidently releases the sarcophagus of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) from its prison (the Egyptians apparently had a curiously propensity to keep potentially evil mummies where they might be conveniently resurrected instead of destroying them like any sane group of people would), he marks himself as the one who is to channel Set, God of Death, with whom Ahmanet had a long-standing agreement.
Thus cursed, Nick and Jenny begin their journey to defeat the ever-increasing power of Ahmanet. Their battle takes them across the seas to London, where they briefly team up with a Dr. Henry (Russell Crowe). Henry is both a doctor and a lawyer, but that is not the only duality. After a lot of unnecessary running about and close calls, the film ultimately gives you a long-winded conclusion that leaves less of an impression on you than bullets on an undead mummy. The movie ends on a semi-positive note, though it takes its sweet time getting there.
The movie has a sense of incompleteness to it - it feels like a haphazard, disconnected bunch of plotlines have been tied end to end to form a knotty narrative that lacks smoothness and coherency, with a few loose ends, too. The romance between the leads is poorly developed, and the transition from indifference to love is far too jarring to be believable. A few of the dialogues do earn a laugh or two, but a lot of them sound stilted and forced. The action scenes are rousing, and the plot is interesting enough to keep you awake, but for a mummy horror film, there is no mounting sense of dread nor the remotest feeling of fear for the villain. There are a few jump-scares here and there, but those are courtesy of dim lighting and loud sound effects.
Tom Cruise is a bit of a disappointment in this movie - his dialogue delivery is wooden and unfeeling, and the progression of his character's personality is poorly depicted. He is funny at times and occasionally expressive, but he lacks the easy charm and emotional depth that is needed in this role. Wallis is adequate in her shorter role, and does a fair job portraying the smart and spirited archaeologist, as well as her character's growing regard for Nick. Boutella falls flat as the villain - she is not the least bit intimidating, and is utterly forgettable.
Jake Johnson and Russell Crowe do far more justice to their supporting roles than any of the leads do to theirs. Johnson, like his Chris, is amusing to have around. Crowe delivers as a driven, focused man with very specific and rigid beliefs, and expresses the opposing facets of his personality well.
The soundtrack suits the tone of the scenes, but is nothing memorable - the background score never takes centrestage, neither in the movie nor in your mind. The cinematography is pleasing, with panoramic shots of sandy, bright middle-eastern landscape, and of the muted whites and greys of London. The scenes with the villain all have a dark undertone with an emphasis on murky green shades, which helps make you feel the sense of foreboding that the actual scenes cannot. The 3D effects and VFX are satisfactory, and make the theatre experience just worthwhile enough to justify the ticket price.
In a decade of constant remakes, reboots and live action versions, The Mummy is another attempt to capitalise on the success of a much-appreciated film from the '90s. Unlike with Disney, however, the execution leaves much to be desired.