REVIEW / ACTION FANTASY
THE MUMMY (PG13)
111 minutes/Opens today/3 stars
The story: Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is a soldier and treasure hunter (think Indiana Jones meets the men from 2001's Black Hawk Down). He and buddy Chris (Jake Johnson) find a treasure tomb bearing the remains of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), a prize claimed by archaeologist Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), much to his annoyance.
This movie might be an original property, in the sense that it is neither a sequel nor a spin-off. But, by golly, it really feels like it came off an assembly line.
First, we are in the shadow of Hollywood's last true action hero Tom Cruise. So even if the film is named after its villainess, Cruise takes centre stage. And by that, we mean he runs, a lot - from Iraqi insurgents, from the monster and from her undead minions. When not running, he is leaping from airplanes or swimming under flooded castles.
All that non-stop movement is necessary because there is no central idea behind the story other than "monster attacks". So random events requiring strenuous physical activity must happen every five minutes.
Most of the action is set in England, but for all it matters, the setting might have been Kentucky; there is very little Englishness on show here.
Thankfully, the formula of "Cruise plus random events" sometimes pays dividends (see his Mission: Impossible franchise).
So except for moments when it tries too hard to be likable (especially when it tries to inject humour), this is, for the most part, a well-made piece of summer entertainment. It just clobbers the viewer senseless with action.
Director Alex Kurtzman and his team of writers set out to - pardon the pun - flesh out Ahmanet's backstory in the few minutes given over to scenes where people stand still.
But that is not all. This is the first movie in the Dark Universe franchise, so characters such as Dr Jekyll (Russell Crowe) pop up to perform show-and-tells, about places such as the Prodigium, a monster zoo and superhero headquarters rolled into one.
Kurtzman and crew dispense Dark Universe information in palatable chunks, a style different from some superhero franchises, which drop viewers in at the deep end.
It helps that the world of Nick and Ahmanet is just like our own, except for the hidden, parallel world of gods and monsters.