Monday, 19 June 2017

THE MUMMY : Wednesday 14th June 2017.

'THE MUMMY' which I saw last week is an ancient Egyptian action adventure film and a reboot of the late '90's franchise that saw Brendan Fraser portraying the 1923 American explorer Rick O'Connell as he battles against the revived corpse of an Egyptian Priest, Imhotep, as he rises back into a force to be reckoned with and intent on destroying the world as we know it. That 1999 film Directed and Written by Stephen Sommers went on to spawn two sequels - in 2001, 'The Mummy Returns' and in 2008 'The Mummy : Tomb of the Dragon Emperor'. The three films were made for a combined budget of US$323M and raked in at the global Box Office a collective US$1.42B. These films also saw a spin-off series kick starting with 'The Scorpion King' in 2002 with Dwayne Johnson in the title role and three direct to video follow-ups in 2008, 2012 and 2015. Of course the Mummy has a long history in film lore, going back most notably to 1932's 'The Mummy' Directed by Karl Freund and starring one Boris Karloff as our bandaged from head to toe ancient antagonist. Now in 2017, 'The Mummy' is once again resurrected, dusted off and brought out to play. This time Directed by Alex Kurtzman and Co-Written by David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie this is the first instalment in 'The Dark Universe' series of films that will subsequently see reboots of 'Bride of Frankenstein' in 2019, 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' also in 2019, 'The Invisible Man' in 2020, 'Van Helsing' and 'Wolf Man' both thereafter. The film Premiered in Sydney on 22nd May, went on general release in the US and Australia in early June, cost US$125M to bring to our screens and has so far grossed US$296M, despite fairly lacklustre Reviews.

In a fairly lengthy introductory prologue we first see a group of Crusader Knights in the early twelfth century entombing one of their dead with a large ancient Egyptian ruby stone. We then fast forward nine hundred years or so to modern day London. As daylight breaks through the deep excavation for a new cross city tunnel, in the process exposing a long deeply buried catacomb housing numerous ancient tombs of those Crusader Knights buried there centuries before. Whilst the construction crew meddle about amongst the ancient ruins scratching their heads, a mysterious figure appears and takes control of the site. He ventures upon a set of hieroglyphics in a circular mural etched onto a wall in the cavernous subterranean burial ground, that indicates the history surrounding Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who was stripped of her birthright to succeed her Pharaoh father as the ruler over all of ancient Egypt and its lands. Filled with rage, and an overarching desire to rule, she kills her father, his wife and his new born son, and promptly sells her soul to the Egyptian God, Set. Before she can give Set physical form, she is found out by her fathers priests who capture the would be Queen, and mummify Ahmanet alive in a sarcophagus for all eternity burying it in a far away land deep underground and encased in a bath of mercury so holding her monstrous form captive for ever. But, we are told, nothing lasts forever!

After the history lesson, we are instantly transported to modern day Iraq and here we are introduced to Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) as a marauding soldier of fortune plundering (or liberating as he likes to put it) ancient artefacts for sale to the highest bidder. Caught in a gun battle with local insurgents with his partner and friend Chris Vail (Jake Johnson), after an air support strike by American troops on the ground in the area, a huge hole in the ground opens up, and the insurgents are sent running. When the dust has settled, and Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) has arrived on the scene, the three venture down into the big hole in the ground to explore what lies beneath, under orders from US Colonel Greenway (Courtney B. Vance) that they have two hours to do so, otherwise their flight outta there goes without them.

Underground, they are greeted by an ancient burial site with large statues, an intricate pulley system and weights designed to keep something captive, and a river of flowing mercury leading into a central pool. Halsey concludes that this is in fact not a burial site, but a prison, designed to keep something or someone in. In his haste, Morton unleashes the pulley system so setting in place a chain reaction whereby the ancient sarcophagus containing the mummified remains of Princess Ahmanet is raised out of its pool of mercury. It is duly raised to the surface and hurriedly packed onto a transport plane bound for England with Greenway, Morton, Vail and Halsey on board.

By now Ahmanet is already awakened in spiritual form and is doing her level best from beyond her grave to wreak havoc on her flight. The first casualty is Vail, who was bitten by a camel spider when they were first investigating the underground chamber from which the sarcophagus was raised. His body is possessed by Ahmanet and he falls under her spell killing Greenway in the process, before turning on Morton and Halsey with deadly intent. Morton puts three bullets into Vail which stops him in his tracks. The plane is then struck by a huge flock of crows which crash through the cockpit windows and into the engines, sending the transporter into a nosedive from which it cannot recover. All those on board are killed, except for Halsey who is parachuted out at the last minute with Morton's help.

The next day, we are in a morgue somewhere in Oxford, with several bagged and tagged corpses from the downed transporter flight. Morton is one of those bagged and tagged corpses, who wakens wondering WTF is going on. Stumbling around the  dimly lit room he is greeted by the undead body of Vail (channelling Griffin Dunne as the undead rotting corpse of Jack Goodman in 1981's classic 'An American Werewolf in London') who explains that he has been chosen and cursed by Ahmanet as the replacement vessel for the physical manifestation of Set, and hence her reason for bringing him back to life.

Meanwhile Ahmanet's mummy is set free from its sarcophagus in the as yet unclaimed wreckage of the transporter plane that has been spread far and wide over the English countryside. To regenerate its decomposed body, Ahmanet feeds on rescue workers by sucking the life out of them, and turning them in the process into her zombie underlings. With control over Morton's thoughts, Ahmanet lures him and Halsey to a chapel, where she intends to sacrifice Morton's body using the discovered Dagger of Set, with which to manifest Set in a new physical form. Morton and Halsey successfully manage to evade Ahmanet and her zombie minions, for a short while at least, until a group of unknown soldiers arrive and subdue her.

It turns out that said unknown soldiers were working for 'Prodigium' a secret organisation headed up by one Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) whose purpose in life is to track down supernatural threats, evil monsters and deadly creatures, and that their base is located under the Natural History Museum in London. It also turns out that Halsey is in the employ of Prodigium as an Agent. Jekyll reveals that Ahmanet cursed Morton when he unlocked her tomb, and that the only way to prevent Ahmanet from realising her ambition is to let her carry through with her plan for Set to possess Morton, so that Set, and his evil, can be destroyed forever. Needless, to say, this plan doesn't sit so well with Morton, and as a result the pair come to blows within the secure confines of Jekyll's offices.

While this is going on, Ahmanet being held captive and drip fed mercury to keep her subdued, possesses one of the Prodigium technicians, that sets in motion as escape plan that sees Morton and Halsey charge through the Museum and out into the streets of London. Ahmanet, having escaped her chained captivity summons to rise from the dead the army of Crusaders to thwart the Prodigium soldiers, hunt down Morton, and at the same time conjure up a massive sand storm to engulf all of London.

With the Dagger of Set retrieved earlier on, Ahmanet only needs the ancient ruby stone laid to rest with the buried Crusader all those centuries ago to to be able to free Set into physical form. Having been discovered by the Prodigium team during their clearing of the site, it is there for the picking by Ahmanet. Reuniting the Dagger of Set with the ruby into the dagger's pommel, a fight breaks out between Morton and Ahmanet with her strength being too much for his mere fragile human form. Succumbing to her overbearing power, he allows himself to be embraced by her, but as a ruse to steal the dagger, and thrust it into his own heart, so allowing his body to be possessed by Set. Now with greater strength than Ahmanet, but still half Morton, he sucks the life out of her so returning Ahmanet to the shrivelled up ancient mummified body that she was.

This is a fast moving effects laden fantasy adventure film, the like of which we have seen countless times before in Sci-Fi and horror genre movies that really deliver a bigger and better result probably for a whole lot less. Tom Cruise, plays the likable tongue in cheek, wisecracking rogue that we have seem him play with a safe consistency throughout his career, Russell Crowe phones it in as Jekyll and his unhinged alter ego Edward Hyde, Annabelle Wallis as the eye candy love interest and really serves no other purpose, and Sofia Boutella as the heavily made up ancient evil this time female antagonist puts in a good enough turn as our resident (yummy) Mummy! The action set pieces are impressive enough, there are moments of humour, the performances from the principle cast are OK, but, is this enough to carry the film that carries the weight of expectation of bigger and bolder things to come from Universal's newly launched 'The Dark Universe' series, of which this is the first instalment. The film is worth a look, but don't go in expecting too much.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-  

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