Cruise and Wallis in an anti-gravity scene
Boutella as Ahmanet, the Egyptian princess

IF you think that this is a remake of the Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz adventure from 1999, it is not. Instead, this is a whole new horror-adventure, part of Universal’s Dark Universe — a cinematic universe with reimaginings of several classic monsters, including the beloved Frankenstein and Dracula.

A-listers Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe mark their first team-up, and they are joined by stunning beauties Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service) and Annabelle Wallis (King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword), as well as supporting actors Jake Johnson (Jurassic World), Courtney B. Vance (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and Marwan Kenzari (Ben-Hur).

As for the creative team, director and producer Alex Kurtzman and producer Chris Morgan have been instrumental in creating some of the successful film franchises of the past few years — Kurtzman wrote for the Transformers, Star Trek and Mission: Impossible film series, while Morgan did the same for the Fast And Furious.

Cruise is Nick Morton, a liberator of precious antiquities, who with his best friend and fellow US soldier Chris Vail (Johnson), stumble upon an ancient Egyptian tomb in war-torn Iraq. Approached by archaeologist Jennifer Halsey (Wallis), the duo join her in exploring the tomb and learn that it is actually the prison of an ancient Egyptian Princess, Ahmanet (Boutella).

Ages ago, Ahmanet exacted cruel revenge for being robbed of her right to the Egyptian throne — she killed both her father and her newborn brother, in collaboration with the diabolical god of death, Set, whom she attempted to bring into the world of the living. As punishment for her act of treason, she was mummified alive and imprisoned far away from her homeland, in Sumeria (now Iraq).

Morton accidentally sets Ahmanet free and she immediately decides that he will be Set’s mortal vessel. This is made loud and clear to our hero, when the vengeful princess causes his return flight to the US to crash but spares his life.

Back in the US, Halsey introduces Morton to a certain Dr Henry Jekyll (Crowe), who happens to be the same Robert Louis Stevenson character — this time, he has been reinvented as the scientist who heads Prodigium, a mysterious organisation dedicated to locating, containing and destroying evil, and he even has a state-of-the-art headquarters beneath the Natural History Museum in London.

Meanwhile, Ahmanet escapes from her sarcophagus and begins feeding on rescue workers to regenerate her decomposed body. Turning the workers into zombies, she lures Morton and Halsey into a trap, forcing them to fight off the zombies.

The Egyptian princess proceeds to wreak havoc and destruction across London, summoning an army of deceased crusading knights to serve her. She also resolves to find a magic dagger hidden in the British capital, to stab Morton and release the power of Set.

On the surface, The Mummy is a decent adventure movie, with good horror elements thanks to Ahmanet and the zombies. The action sequences, namely, the plane crash and an underwater chase involving zombies are commendable and well-executed — references to earlier horror and adventure films are subtly inserted, too, for example the crash pays homage to Cruise’s high-octane Mission: Impossible films.

Cruise’s reputation as the “face” of Hollywood also gets a ribbing, courtesy of a brief yet memorable scene that has him scream “Not my face!” Acting-wise, Cruise is entertaining as the roguish, witty Morton and nails it with his meticulously-rehearsed action sequences (he seems good at running away from sandstorms after the last Mission: Impossible).

Crowe’s role is enigmatic and those who expect him to join Cruise in fighting the monsters may be a little disappointed to learn that he hardly lifts a finger against them.

For the larger part of the film, he serves as its narrator and here’s hoping that he will have more action in other Dark Universe outings. In fact, the way his Jekyll talks about seeking out monsters reminds viewers of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in the first Iron Man movie in 2008.

The picture-perfect Wallis (niece of the late Irish actor Richard Harris) may lack character development but as the female lead Halsey, she is not dependent on Morton and even orders him to do the right thing.

As for Johnson’s Vail, he is a flat sidekick, who exists merely to provide comic relief.

Boutella, who was chillingly monstrous as the blade-legged Gazelle in Kingsman, is equally if not more so as the title character. Her Ahmanet truly encapsulates the saying “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” and her awesome make-up, which includes a body-wide tattoo of hieroglyphics, transforms her into a beautiful beast.

One criticism of the super villainess, though. While Ahmanet’s back story is compelling — a princess robbed of her birthright by a male-dominated society, the script seems to sexualise the character a tad too far.

In a nutshell, The Mummy is a blockbuster with a decent retelling of the classic monster story. It delivers a sufficient dose of thrills, and as for its target audience — Cruise fans, they will get to see him as a more apologetic and emotional hero, who is flanked by two strong females capable of cutting him down to size (one tries to do this literally).

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THE MUMMY

Directed by Alex Kurtzman

Starring Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Marwan Kenzari, Russell Crowe

Duration 100 minutes

Rating PG13

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