The Mummy

by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday June 8, 2017

Tom Cruise and Jake Johnson star in 'The Mummy'
Tom Cruise and Jake Johnson star in 'The Mummy'  

A rugged adventurer slowly extends his hand towards a valuable historic artifact while the score swells in intensity. Later, this same rogue spars verbally with a beautiful yet tough female counterpart, their exchanges saturated with sexual tension. All of this, of course, against a backdrop of golden desert sands. Sound familiar?

In its opening scenes, there's no denying that Universal Studios' latest incarnation of "The Mummy" longs to echo the audacious thrills of Steven Spielberg's first Indiana Jones adventure, "Raiders of the Lost Ark." In later scenes, as a certain character's zombie-like ghost follows Tom Cruise around in a comedic subplot, one can't help but be reminded of this particular shtick's obvious influence: John Landis's "An American Werewolf in London." As our eponymous Egyptian monster begins to rise, she attacks a series of cops, investigators and guards, transforming them into walking corpses that visually resemble a whacky hybrid of Guillermo Del Toro, George Romero and Sam Raimi.

"The Mummy" wears its inspirations on its sleeve and doesn't try to hide them. Nor does it attempt to conceal the overbearing silliness of its source material, characters and script -- it's far more of a hilarious film than its fun, yet serious promotional campaigns would lead you to believe, and because of this "The Mummy" surprises. It also kicks like a mule, with pacing that halts only when the film adheres to the will of a studio-obligated framework for the new "Dark Universe" line of Universal monster movies. Thankfully, these moments are brief and unlabored, never feeling as force-fed as something like "Iron Man 2" or "The Avengers: Age of Ultron" (there isn't even a post-credits stinger!). However, the original "Iron Man" also stirred up similar reflections ... by the 10th Dark Universe film I may not be singing the same tune.

But as a standalone, "The Mummy" delivers enough thrills and laughs and genuine entertainment value to justify its existence. Tom Cruise is known for being an action star willing to do anything to snag a perfect shot (he's basically an insane person, a quality that I think makes him unbelievably excellent at his job). In this film, CGI certainly takes reign over practical effects, but this doesn't lead to Cruise phoning it in. The actor is just as convincing getting his ass kicked by a bunch of CGI zombies as he is when he is actually hanging off the edge of a plane or actually dangling from a skyscraper. (The film, which features many, many scenes of Tom Cruise getting thrown around, punched and narrowly avoiding giant objects, serves as an excellent companion piece to the actor's "Edge of Tomorrow").

Admittedly, some mileage may vary when it comes to the strained dialogue. You know a script is lazy when upon discovery of the mummy's tomb, the line "This isn't meant to keep people out ... it's meant to keep whatever's down there in" is immediately followed by "This isn't a tomb ... it's a prison." Throw in some unwanted exposition and moments of cheese, and the script is certainly the film's weakest component (while some may be turned off by the occasionally goofy CGI).

Despite flaws, "The Mummy" is fine entertaining escapism -- a lean and solid summer blockbuster that thankfully doesn't end with a bunch of shit crashing into other shit. Yeah, it's karaoke, but the movie gets you drunk enough on its own carefree zeal that the occasional flat notes don't seem to matter. In fact, you may just catch yourself singing along.