Is The Mummy worth watching?

Is The Mummy worth watching?
The Mummy.
PHOTO: UIP

First things first: this version of The Mummy has almost nothing to do with the Brendan Fraser movie back in 1999, which spawned two sequels.

This Mummy is part of something much, much bigger - the ambitious "Dark Universe", a cinematic universe that consists of reboots of Universal Studios' classic monster films, including The Bride Of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, The Wolfman, Dracula, Creature From The Black Lagoon and Phantom Of The Opera.

Yes, I know what you're thinking. "What? Why does every film these days have to part of a cinematic universe?" And didn't Van Helsing try to put the Wolfman, Frankenstein, and Dracula in one movie and fail miserably?

Well, even if the idea of a shared monster universe doesn't appeal to you, one thing it does having going for it right now is the number of A-list actors it has attracted. Javier Bardem is set to play Frankenstein's monster in Bride, Johnny Depp has signed on to play the Invisible Man, and The Mummy stars two of the biggest A-listers in the industry right now - Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe.

Cruise is Nick Morton, a "liberator of precious antiquities" (in other words, a treasure looter) who happens across an ancient Egyptian tomb in war-torn Iraq. It turns out that the tomb is not a tomb after all but the prison of an ancient Egyptian Princess named Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who was mummified alive for killing her father and infant brother, and for trying to bring the evil God of Death, Set, into the world of the living.

When Morton unknowingly sets Ahmanet free, she decides that he is the "Chosen One" to be Set's mortal vessel when she tries the ritual again.

Helping Morton out with his girl trouble is archaeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), whose main job in the movie is to explain what the hell is going on, as well as introduce Morton to a certain Dr Henry Jekyll (Crowe), who has a terrible secret to Hyde, er, I mean hide.

On its own, The Mummy is a solid but unspectacular action movie that delivers some thrills and spills that aren't good enough to leave an impression.

The action sequences are decent (an early plane crash sequence and one underwater chase involving swimming zombies are especially memorable), and there are some cheap scares here and there, but in the end, the two A-listers are the bandages that hold this flimsy Mummy together.

Cruise is entertainingly likable as the roguish, witty Morton, and as usual, does well with the action sequences (he's getting really good at running away from sandstorms). Crowe's role is a bit more enigmatic, even though he doesn't really play a part in the main fight against Ahmanet; in fact, he does nothing but deliver exposition (as well as, er, a hiding to Morton).

'I knew those free flight tickets were too good to be true.' Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis in The Mummy.

However, the presence of his character alone gives the film the sense that The Mummy is just the beginning of something bigger. The fact that his character can be both good and evil also sets up a certain amount of intrigue for the Dark Universe - will Dr Jekyll convince the monsters he encounters to fight for good, or will his evil side prevail instead?

The way Dr Jekyll goes on about seeking out other monsters also reminds me of the role Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury played in the first Iron Man movie back in 2008, which planted the seeds of what would grow into the mighty Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Mummy may be nowhere close to being as memorable as Iron Man, but at least it does its job of setting up the Dark Universe well enough. Let's just hope that it lasts long enough for us to see all the monsters get their time to roar.

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