Curse of the crummy Mummy: Buried in cliches as old as the pyramids, Tom Cruise's monstrous remake is beyond redemption

The Mummy (15)

Rating:

Verdict: Cruise control is not enough?

My Cousin Rachel (12A)?

Rating:

Verdict: Handsome Victorian melodrama?

Hard on the heels of Wonder Woman comes The Mummy, about a vengeful Ancient Egyptian princess who is woken from the dead 5,000 years after being mummified alive.

That makes it an all-female battle for supremacy at the box office, which The Mummy deserves to lose, bandaged hands down. We all like a few hieroglyphics with our hokum, but this is too much, an absolute barrage of digitally enhanced silliness that not even Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe can save.

However, there are some undeniably slick action scenes, some great stunts and, for amateur Egyptologists, all the cliches you hold most dear: sarcophagi, scarab rings, sphinxes, amulets, pyramids, the lot. I really can’t say pharoah than that.?

Come To Mummy: Sofia Boutella as Princess Ahmanet.?We all like a few hieroglyphics with our hokum, but this is too much, an absolute barrage of digitally enhanced silliness

Come To Mummy: Sofia Boutella as Princess Ahmanet.?We all like a few hieroglyphics with our hokum, but this is too much, an absolute barrage of digitally enhanced silliness

Tom Cruise stars next to a sexy archaeologist (in the movies there are rarely any other kind) called Jenny Halsey?(Annabelle Wallis)

Tom Cruise stars next to a sexy archaeologist (in the movies there are rarely any other kind) called Jenny Halsey?(Annabelle Wallis)

Cruise plays Nick Morton, a soldier with a U.S. reconnaissance unit in modern-day Iraq, who exploits his position to steal ancient artefacts and sell them on the black market.

Following a bombing mission against insurgents, the desert dust gives way to reveal the burial chamber of Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), which, in one of several nods to the Indiana Jones movies, is guarded by thousands of scuttling spiders.

It is also of great interest to a sexy archaeologist (in the movies there are rarely any other kind) called Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis). She is wise to Nick’s shady activities because they have recently had a one-night-stand in Baghdad, during which he sneakily raided her belongings.

But she is soon in his debt. Shortly before their transporter plane crashes — over Surrey of all places, and with Ahmanet’s sarcophagus on board — Nick saves her life by hooking her up to the aircraft’s only parachute and pushing her out.

Cruise’s character is meant to be innately malignant, but you can almost hear him and the producers agreeing that he must have a whole sarcophagus-full of redeeming qualities

Cruise’s character is meant to be innately malignant, but you can almost hear him and the producers agreeing that he must have a whole sarcophagus-full of redeeming qualities

That he miraculously survives the crash himself turns out to be the work of the resurrected Ahmanet, with whom he has a mysterious ancient connection conveyed in lots of meaningful flashbacks.

Yet there is no mystery in this film greater than that of Jenny’s pink lip gloss, which through the hairiest tribulations imaginable, including the plane incident, a high-speed ambulance crash, and near-fatal immersion in a flooded London Underground tunnel, remains utterly immaculate.

A two-hour Revlon commercial could not champion the wonders of lip gloss any more spiritedly than The Mummy.

The action moves to London, in case you were wondering, because in 1127 AD, a knight crusader was buried with the ruby stolen from the handle of the iconic Dagger of Set, the Egyptian God of Death.

Ahmanet wants it back, and to that end she has enlisted a small army of the living dead, including Nick’s old army accomplice, Vail (Jake Johnson).

By now everything is getting terribly overwrought, and I can’t have been the only one in the cinema to have shifted uncomfortably in my seat during a scene in which terror is visited upon the streets of our capital, with thousands fleeing for their lives.

Could, should, the release of The Mummy not have been postponed in the wake of the London Bridge attack?

Still, it’s not as though any of this seems remotely real. And new levels of preposterousness are reached with the help of Dr Henry Jekyll (Crowe), who leads a shadowy organisation devoted to finding and exterminating monsters. The irony is that Dr Jekyll himself has a monstrous alter ego, by the name of . . . Mr Hyde.

I have no idea why Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic story of split personality should be absorbed into The Mummy. Perhaps director Alex Kurtzman and his writers wanted to anchor the film’s soaring daftness with something vaguely familiar.

There are also a few modest frights and Cruise fans can look forward to heaps of derring-do, not to mention a fleeting glimpse of him in the buff

There are also a few modest frights and Cruise fans can look forward to heaps of derring-do, not to mention a fleeting glimpse of him in the buff

Not even the A-list names of Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe can save The Mummy from being a let down

Not even the A-list names of Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe can save The Mummy from being a let down

If so, it doesn’t work. It just makes it dafter still.

All that said, there is an energy to The Mummy that might appeal to some cinema-goers. There are also a few modest frights and Cruise fans can look forward to heaps of derring-do, not to mention a fleeting glimpse of him in the buff.

Mind you, I watched the film in full IMAX 3D, which frankly is no way to see anyone unclothed, and also makes you want to shield your eyes from the megawatt Cruise smile.

In this film, as in 2014’s superior Edge Of Tomorrow, Cruise’s character is meant to be innately malignant, but you can almost hear him and the producers agreeing that he must have a whole sarcophagus-full of redeeming qualities, for the simple reason that he’s Tom Cruise.

It’s not one of his better endeavours, frankly. Towards the end, as Nick tries to make things right between him and the lovely Jenny, he says: ‘I have made so many mistakes, but not this time.’ I’m not at all sure about that.

?

If the Mummy has several cinematic antecedents, going right back to the 1932 Boris Karloff version of which it is very notionally a remake, My Cousin Rachel has just one.

There was a 1952 version of Daphne du Maurier’s novel about obsessive Victorian love on the Cornish clifftops, starring Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton. So it is more than ripe for another interpretation.

The writer-director this time is Roger Michell, best known for Notting Hill (1999), with Rachel Weisz as the title character and Sam Claflin playing Philip Ashley, the younger man in her thrall.

Philip first learns that his older cousin Ambrose, from whom he stands to inherit a fortune, has married an Englishwoman called Rachel while convalescing in Italy. When Ambrose’s letters home suggest he needs protection from Rachel, his ‘torment’, Philip rushes to the rescue. But by the time he arrives, Ambrose is dead.

Philip is distraught and angry, but on meeting the beautiful Rachel falls immediately under her spell, and back in Cornwall starts lavishing his inheritance on her. Yet he, too, is inexplicably falling ill. Does the black widow have a fatal bite?

Michell’s screenplay ensures we assume the worst of her, as do Philip’s guardian (Iain Glen), his daughter (Holliday Grainger) and, in a disappointingly minor role as the family lawyer, the mighty Simon Russell Beale.

On the other hand, the spoilt, infatuated Philip is hardly deserving of our sympathies either. When he and Rachel have sex on a carpet of bluebells (not something Burton and de Havilland ever did), it is meant to look uncomfortably like rape. Which poses another question: which of this attractive pair is really the predator?

It’s all marvellously acted and gorgeous to look at. Cinematographer Mike Eley practically makes an extra character of the light: lustrous sunlight, luminous moonlight, flickering candlelight, dancing firelight.

But with a certain Cornwall-set drama back on our TV screens this weekend, I wonder whether, with its single-strand narrative and only limited shots of dishy heartthrobs galloping urgently along clifftops, My Cousin Rachel might also seem a bit like Poldark-lite?

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