Historical and archaeological accuracy isn’t a high priority for The Mummy, the latest attempt to resurrect a big-budget cinematic franchise.
Such intricacies are hardly important to this action spectacle that provides a cross-training opportunity for Tom Cruise prior to the next Mission: Impossible installment.
The charismatic Cruise is certainly in his comfort zone as a globetrotting hero who emerges from shootouts and explosions with nary a scratch. It’s a transparent attempt to launch another franchise he can add to his portfolio, since even at age 54, he still makes the requisite physical rigors seem effortless.
“You can’t keep the past buried forever,” explains an early warning from Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), whose infamous alter-ego also makes an appearance later. So you know it will go unheeded by Nick (Cruise), a wisecracking American military contractor in Iraq — formerly Mesopotamia — who happens upon some ancient ruins beneath the desert sand.
Despite more warnings to stay away, Nick and his colleague (Jake Johnson) do the opposite, seeing the discovery as a chance to bag some valuable jewels. However, when they do so, they awaken the corpse of a malevolent 12th century queen (Sofia Boutella) who’s not exactly a morning person.
So Nick teams with a scientist (Annabelle Wallis) to dodge rats, spiders, bats, zombies, shifting rock formations, and everything else in the supernatural arsenal of mummified royalty seeking revenge on the world for some 900-year-old wrongs.
Noteworthy for its inclusion of more women in its lead roles, this version of The Mummy certainly amps up the action compared to previous incarnations, including those starring Boris Karloff in 1932 and Brendan Fraser in 1999. The idea, of course, is to fill the screen with constant motion to distract from the threadbare plot and flimsy character development.
As a result, director Alex Kurtzman (People Like Us) keeps the pace lively with some visually imaginative action sequences — such as a genuinely exciting sequence aboard an out-of-control airplane that feels like it belongs in a different movie — and abundant special effects.
Of course, once you dig beneath the slick surface, it’s all quite formulaic and predictable, hardly bothering to explain the logic behind its mix of ancient Egyptian legends, contemporary military conflict and modern scientific exploration. No matter how often it’s buried, this is yet another big-screen concept that never seems to die.