“The Mummy”


            This one's a real mishmash, but that's also part of its appeal.  It combines elements of legendary tomb curses, classic English literature (“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”), re-fashioned Egyptian mythology, a kind of “Star Wars” internal struggle between choosing good and evil, a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” type of pop archaeology, zombie combat, a little history lesson about English Crusaders in the 12th century, and with Tom Cruise as the invincible action hero, it feels like a “Mission Impossible” episode.  There's even a bare hint of romance thrown in, but we're way too busy fighting cosmic principalities and invisible powers here.

            Nick (Tom Cruise) and his buddy Chris (Jake Johnson) are a couple of American soldiers stationed in Iraq who have a little black market business going on the side:  the sale of purloined antiquities.  Yeah, that doesn't exactly endear them to us, because the exploitation of valuable artifacts is, at the very least, a crime against the preservation of historical culture.

            But one of Nick and Chris' exploits uncovers something completely unexpected:  an intact Egyptian reliquary, right in the middle of Iraq.  Seems unlikely.  Enter Dr. Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), who's ecstatic over this remarkable discovery (how did she find out so quickly?), and she even seems to have some inkling of the back story, which we viewers already know:  the tomb is that of a particularly wicked princess of Egypt, Ahmanet, who made her own deal with the devil (well, the Egyptian god Set) and her remote resting place is disturbed at considerable risk.

            Now we have sudden sandstorms, plagues of rats, swarms of spiders, aggressive flocks of crows (what, no snakes?), culminating in the rising from the dead of  Ahmanet (the beautiful Sofia Boutella in an unglamorous role).  Except this is no beatific Christian resurrection story, this is evil re-incarnated.  With dark powers at her disposal, including the capacity to literally suck the life out of hapless humans in order to vivify her dessicated, mummified, self, she makes for a near-invincible adversary.  Especially when she puts her curse on you.

            Nick and Chris fall victim to her curse, but whereas Chris gets zombie-fied, Nick retains his beautiful self, because Ahmanet has selected him to be her “chosen one,” an honor he would just as soon decline, but her mind power can be very persuasive.  It's only when Nick is around Jenny that he seems able to start turning away from The Dark Side, because then, at least, he's thinking about someone besides himself.  Except that Jenny is more complicated than first appearances, because she's part of some mysterious clandestine anti-evil organization headed up by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), who has to take powerful injections to prevent his own transformation to evil (actually he's more like the Incredible Hulk off his meds, but we have enough hodge podge here without adding comic book figures).

            Well, this unique combination is just inconsistent enough to compel us to pay no attention to any potential cohesiveness.  We just know that Nick needs to stop Ahmanet, somehow, and part of that is by overcoming her attempts at mind control over him.  Director Alex Kurtzman keeps it moving fast enough that we don't have to worry about narrative sequence, anyway.  Just eat the popcorn and enjoy the action.

Questions for Discussion:

1)                  Who should own artifacts, the expedition that “discovers” them, or the country in which they are uncovered?

2)                  Which ancient culture has the most compelling pantheon of deities?

3)                  Do you believe in curses?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association