Starring Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson and Russell Crowe
Screenplay by David Koepp and Christopher McQuarrie and Dylan Kussman
Directed by Alex Kurtzman
Reviewed by Patrick and Paul Gibbs
This movie starts out feeling like a complete rehash of the 1999 version, with flashbacks to ancient Egypt, telling the origin story of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), the daughter of Pharaoh, who committed an unspeakable act in order to rule Egypt then and forever (it even has the voice over narration, but this time it's Russell Crowe rather than Oded Fehr). It goes on to introduce our roguish hero (Tom Cruise) and his comical and somewhat cowardly sidekick (Jake Johnson) serving in the military and getting themselves into trouble, when suddenly they stumble upon something truly unexpected in the desert. Sound familiar? Does it bring to mind watching Martin Sheen trying to find a way to tell Andrew Garfield "with great power comes great responsibility' without actually using those words?
Cruise plays Nick Morton, a Sargent in the U.S. Army stationed in Iraq, who likes to try to find valuable antiquities before the locals can get their hands on them. In his unscrupulous quest to do so, he literally screws over Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), an archaeologist searching for an important find. But Halsey (and the Army) catch up with Nick and his partner in crime just in time to claim their discovery: an ancient tomb that appears to be Egyptian in origin.
Probably the closest thing to an actor making a solid impression in this movie is Jake Johnson as Vail, Nick's sidekick. Universal has promised that there would be more of an attempt to make this incarnation genuinely scary, and of course these days that means a crapload of zombies (and it takes very few zombies to turn a movie into a load of crap.). Johnson does his best to make this fun by seeming to be under the impression that he is Shaun of The Dead, but it's hit and miss, and Johnson isn't given material that allows him to really shine like he does on the sitcom New Girl or in his goofy, scene-stealing turn in Jurassic World. As far as the "genuinely scary' boast, they don't even succeed at the kind of jump in your seat moments that Kong: Skull Island was crammed so full of, and the only thing "genuinely scary" about this film is that Cruise has finally managed to get involved with an even bigger waste of time and money than Scientology.
Director Alex Kurtzman, one half of the Hollywood powerhouse writing team of Kurtzman and Orci (specifically, the Kurtzman half) does a relatively capable job, all things considered, and shows a certain degree of promise, but he seemed much more comfortable with his last film, the more character oriented People Like Us. In fairness to him, this is such a haphazard and manufactured commercial effort that the director is barely in charge and gets little chance to distinguish himself. But with the combination of Kurtzman, Cruise and writers David Koepp (Jurassic Park. Mission: Impossible, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Angels & Demons) and Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, The Usual Suspects, Edge of Tomorrow), you're getting a creative team that has pretty consistently provided highly watchable films, if not always truly great ones. The fact that the four of them couldn't do better than this says a lot about how much the studio micromanaged this into the kickoff of a business venture as opposed to being a film, and while Cruise was able to pull in his current favorite collaborator, McQuarrie, the lack of a producer credit for Cruise shows that his creative control was more limited than it usually is for his action blockbusters,
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