I had planned to visit my own mummy last Wednesday evening, but belatedly noted The Starfish was slated to attend another Mummy over at Reading Cinemas, Belmont.
Admittedly the overworked notion of a moaning chap lurching about tangled in threadbare field dressings and toilet paper, arms outstretched blindly groping for the light switch, had a certain risible appeal on a dreary midweek afternoon.
The fact that the flick features Tom Cruise and our own Russell ‘Rusty’ Crowe also had a small draw for moi. I hadn’t seen these manly protagonists matched on the silver screen before. Now I know why.
Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy has very little to do with the 1932 Boris Karloff version (a fine early monster movie) or the 1999 Brendan Fraser take on the tale of a wicked Gypo crypt escapee at large in the modern world.
Firstly, this mummy (Sofia Boutella) is a shapely woman with four eyeballs, a hole in her cheek, a body festooned in hieroglyphics and cuneiform tats, who spends most of the movie in a state of advanced decomposition. She does, however, moan for one Nick Morton (Tom Cruise).
Secondly, like Boris Karloff 85 years before, she takes the acting prize, which is no mean feat when pretty much everything around you, and on you, is computer generated. There was also far less embalming cloth covering Ms Boutella than her antecedents.
The saga kicks off with a tunnelling machine in London breaking into a lost chamber crowded with the tombs of crusader knights. One contains a precious bauble the soldier of God pinched while ransacking the Levant long ago.
This is linked to the sultry ancient Egyptian royal temptress Ahmanet, who is clearly part of a dysfunctional pharaoh family (yep, they had them then, too), which she summarily dispatches one by one, until she herself meets the same grisly demise when betrayed. Buried alive, in fact.
Perhaps due to delicate geopolitical sensibilities regarding he area (The Mummy could do well at the box office in Cairo), she is not laid to rest in Egypt, but inexplicably entombed and infused with an eternal curse, some 1000 kms to the northeast near Nineveh – or what we now know as Mosul, Iraq.
True to the modern Hollywood action movie method now in vogue, a genre in which the US at war in the Mideast is as standard as Yankee apple pie once was, The Mummy touches on some real-life issues.
For instance, anti-hero Nick Morton is a soldier of fortune who plunders ancient sites for priceless artefacts and sells them to the highest bidder, which is exactly what has been going on in the real Iraq and surrounds for decades now.
When Nick and his partner come under attack somewhere near Mosul, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths the Egyptian succubus Ahmanet, who by now has been festering under the desert for thousands of years, and it hasn’t helped her complexion one bit.
Her resting place is exposed at the bottom of a crater following a strike from a hellfire missile, launched from a US drone; another realistic touch in that benighted corner of the world.
Regrettably the aerial robot didn’t lob another rocket in the hole and blow the offending sarcophagus and everyone else to smithereens, ending The Mummy there and then. No such luck – things are just getting started.
The unlikely excavation team agree on the enormous significance of their find, primarily from archaeological and monetary stand points.
So they pack up the sarcophagus, load it on a military C-130 Hercules, and head for Old Blighty, but end up crashing in the English countryside because a peeved Ahmanet summons a murder of crows to smash into the plane. Russell wasn’t amongst ‘em.
With her powers constantly evolving, Morton (himself peculiarly possessed and betrothed) must now stop the resurrected monster as she embarks on a furious rampage through the streets of London, which look curiously damp and misty Dickensian for a present-day yarn.
This primarily entails the decaying femme fatale French kissing and sucking the life force out of assorted menfolk, leaving them resembling so many salted plums in uniform and doomed to join the expanding battalions of walking dead at her beck and call.
The ill-shapen seductress resembles a combination of Gollum, a mangy spider monkey and Lara Croft, but then you probably would after three millennia lying in a poorly sealed catafalque in a hot climate.
They say there is order embedded in all chaos, but it’s not immediately apparent in this offering from Universal.
Deafening explosions, gunfire, berserk ghouls, furious scuffles, and desiccated fiends falling foul of Morton’s flying fists and other blunt objects, regularly and rudely interrupt a tenuous plot.
Chat between Morton and blonde Egyptologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis) is far from high Shakespearean. A couple of times they squabble over his defective staying power in the sack during a brief boudoir bonk back in Baghdad.
And the shtick and buddy banter betwixt Morton and his army sidekick Sgt. Vail (Jack Johnson) is equally daft, but this is to be expected, since the latter is transmogrified into a lugubrious zombie early in the piece.
Russell Crowe plays the urbane chameleon Dr Henry Jekyll, a man with a deep interest in collecting rare pilfered antiquities and, you guessed it, a diabolical alter ego.
One of the sillier scenes involves the good doctor, having assumed his Mr Hyde persona, gibbering cockney bon mots as he biffs and hurls a less beefy Tom Cruise about his London premises like a middle-aged rag doll.
Rusty also flaunts a surprising profundity (an attribute rarely observed at Rabbitohs games), when he gazes into the middle distance, waxing lyrical about the eternal battle of good and evil in our world. It was as if there was an autocue plonked somewhere out of frame, flashing Mr Crowe choice platitudes from the Concise Oxford Book of Popular Quotations.
The Mummy features a lot of chases through dripping and shadowy sewers, flooded chambers and hideous demon hordes teeming through the Tube, which I found not indistinguishable from my days riding the Piccadilly Line at rush hour during UK sojourns past.
The plot, for want of a more apposite descriptor, fails to thicken, rather like a botched trifle, and becomes more fragmented and sloppy as it sloshes toward a yearned-for finale.
While I may be in error, it would seem the film is a motley amalgamation of concepts from more triumphant Hollywood pictures, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Romancing the Stone, Tomb Raider, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Three Kings, An American Werewolf in London, Dumb and Dumber, and of course the aforementioned mummy offerings.
Yet this rich but fruitless potpourri of pooled themes fails to achieve action blockbuster status, and left me a tad, well, mummified, peering sphinx-like at the screen in numb puzzlement.
The special effects are brilliant, but the story is muddled: alas, a common problem with many contemporary action-adventure flicks consisting of large amounts of CGI, a dearth of good script writing and enthusiastic but mediocre acting.
As the final credits rolled there began a general stampede toward the car park closely resembling the biblical Exodus from the Land of the Pharaohs.
Personally I walked like an Egyptian, feeling strangely enervated and confused, but I can assure you this was not due to being possessed, or seduced, by The Mummy.
The Mummy is now showing at Event Cinemas, Innaloo.
Watch the trailer…