Review / ‘The Mummy’ (M) *

IN 1911 filmmakers began scaring their customers with, at latest count, 200 movies and TV episodes in which a cadaver preserved by the ancient Egyptian practice of mummifying their pharaohs rises to wreak fear and disaster on unsuspecting victims.

The most recent of that filmic tradition is Alex Kurtzman’s fantasy using a screenplay by six wordsmiths led by David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie.

In Mesopotamia some 45 centuries ago, princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) swears a curse on the people who killed the children she had borne to her father (such shenanigans were not uncommon in those places and times as a means of securing the succession of royal families).

Ahmanet’s fate is to be embalmed alive by infusion with mercury. But she’s only waiting for the moment when she can arise and terrorise the world.

Tom Cruise plays a US Army sergeant in 2016 reconnoitering enemy movements in the Iranian desert who calls in an aerial strike that uncovers ancient Egyptian sculptures in a cave from which stalactites drip not water but mercury.

About the same time, in London, boring for a new tube railway uncovers coffins of 12th century Crusaders.

Those disparate events are precursors of a plot built from moments more comedic than scary, a braggadocio sense of the ridiculous, the impossible and the unnecessary, offering few belly laughs.

Special effects depict improbable events inviting a response more like “funny, that”. The acting is less than impressive. The best of it is Russell Crowe playing Dr Henry Jekyll and Mr Edward Hyde. Annabelle Wallis playing an archaeologist embedded in the US forces to rescue antiquities has to deliver lines that fail to convince us that she knows what she’s doing.

With tensions and conflicts less than convincing, the film lays the mummy genre to rest with all those others of its genre until some future filmmaker resurrects it. As will doubtless happen.

At all cinemas

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