The Mummy

Year: 2017
Directed by: Alex Kurtzman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

18 years after Brendan Fraser’s ‘The Mummy’ surprised us all by actually being good and fun, we have a re-imagining of ‘The Mummy’ as the first instalment of Universal’s planned Dark Universe. Dark Universe is meant to be a shared cinematic universe (how many of those have come and gone since Marvel near perfected the formula?) of some of cinema’s most iconic monsters, including The Invisible Man, The Wolfman, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. There is a lot of star power behind this incoming franchise, led by Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe. On paper, the conceit could be a fun one, but frankly, after ‘The Mummy’, the Dark Universe is already off to a rocky start.

When an ancient tomb and sarcophagus is discovered long-buried under Iraq, our heroes Nick Morton (Cruise) and Jennifer Halsey (Wallis) are tasked with transporting the sarcophagus to London for investigation and analysis. En route, disaster strikes as the contents of the sarcophagus, an Ancient Egyptian princess by the name of Princess Ahmanet (Boutella), is awoken and hell-bent on taking Earth for her own. Beyond that, we have a search for a MacGuffin or two, and a meeting with a mysterious figure (Crowe) who knows all too much about Ahmanet and her quest for world destruction.

For my money, despite its fairly damning reviews since its release, I didn’t find ‘The Mummy’ to be wholly without merit. Tom Cruise has, deservedly, earned himself the title of Hollywood’s go-to movie star, and he does everything he can to sell this film. Cruise is evidently having a lot of fun as he does Tom Cruise things. Whether it’s rolling around a plummeting plane, swimming away from swimming mummies (you heard), or legging it from an incoming giant face-made-of-sand in the middle of London, ‘The Mummy’ hits all the beats of your typical Tom Cruise film. Ultimately, the film is almost astoundingly generic, but when it’s “Tom Cruise generic”, you know you’re in for an entertaining time at least.

The film is also surprisingly funny in parts, using physical comedy and occasionally embracing the ridiculousness of the film. Sadly though, these funny parts are in direct contrast to much of the action on screen, which is where ‘The Mummy’ begins to unravel. Hold your applause.

‘The Mummy’ is tonally all over the place. The film regularly jumps from mysterious, Nathan Drake style tomb investigation to a scene from a horror film to the characters having friendly banter in a pub. One of the lead characters meets an untimely end in the first third of the film and their death is treated as something of a joke after the character who killed them accidentally fires a third shot. ‘The Mummy’ is a film that doesn’t entirely know what it wants to be. It even earned a 15-rating in the UK for sustained threat, but it never fully utilised its rating. In a film primarily linked to a horror character, you want more than the occasional jump scare, only a few of which are actually effective.

The key problem with ‘The Mummy’ is it tries to do too much in one film. It tries so hard to set up its own cinematic universe after so confidently opening the film with a Dark Universe title card that it forgets some of the fundamentals of making a good film.

Now, setting up the Dark Universe wasn’t entirely unsuccessful as I found a mid-point scene involving Crowe and Cruise the highlight of the film. Crowe’s, without giving too much away, alternate ego is a hugely entertaining 5 minutes that above all showed Crowe having fun. Crowe is handed an incredibly exposition-filled role as he explains to Morton and Halsey what exactly Ahmanet is and what she wants, and it’s nice to see him get a satisfying moment in the spotlight.

Where the writers (5 of them! Yes, 5!) and director Alex Kurtzman fell-short was convincing us ‘The Mummy’ was a film that could work on its own. It doesn’t commit to its characters enough as no one beyond Cruise, Crowe, and Boutella even register as anyone of interest (I found Wallis to be particularly poor in all honesty). There is no real through-line from where the film begins to where the film ends; it’s more a collection of 5 or 6 initially unconnected action set-pieces (though mostly entertaining) woven together through thinly plotted dialogue scenes.

I couldn’t shake the feeling as the film ended that what I watched was, ultimately, pointless. The film itself will leave no lasting impression beyond setting up the Dark Universe, should this even carry on after the critical mauling ‘The Mummy’ has received. I found myself mostly entertained for the majority of its run-time, but I can assure you that the 2017 reboot of ‘The Mummy’ will not leave the same lasting impression the 1999 version of ‘The Mummy’ had. Wherefore art thou, Brendan Fraser?

Rhys’ rating: 4.7 out of 10

Captain Underpants

Year: 2017
Director:
David Soren
Starring:
Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele

Written by Dalton Brown

Nostalgia. Nostalgia is why I wanted to see ‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’. I didn’t go to laugh or anything. I went because my inner child consumed me, brainwashed me, and basically forced me to go see this. My inner child is an idiot. But hey, ‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’ could have been a lot worse and, honestly, probably should have been. As it stands though, ‘Captain Underpants’ is alright; kind of underwhelming.

Based off a series of children’s books, the film follows Harold (Thomas Middleditch) and George (Kevin Hart) – two best friends that are inseparable. They like making comic books about this imaginary superhero known as “Captain Underpants!” When they’re not writing their next masterpiece, they’re pulling pranks on their mean school principle… Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms). Mr. Krupp hates fun. One day, Harold and George push Mr. Krupp past his breaking point; thus, forcing him to relocate the two friends to separate classrooms. The boys panic and try to hypnotize him. And it somehow works, cue “Captain Underpants!”

‘Captain Underpants’ is beautiful to look at, I’ll give it that. And it has a nice cast of characters too. The voice work is good. Everything about it is solid. Even the jokes. Though they do grow tiresome very quickly, they’re not completely unbearable. So, why was it underwhelming? Because I’m too old for it anymore, mostly. But also, there was a joke that had to do with the choir that kind killed it for me. And the third act became repetitive.

Despite all of this, it’s still a good movie. Granted, kids will probably get a lot more out of it than adults but there are some great messages about laughter and friendship and things.

I like the messages. I like the animation. I like what the movie is going for, but it could have been better. Maybe if it embraced its mediocrity? I don’t know. I suggest seeing it at some point, but don’t get your hopes up. It’s an easy watch and I enjoyed most of it, I was also expecting something a bit better.

Dalton’s rating: 6.0/10

Wonder Woman

Year: 2017
Director: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Lucy Davis

Written by Fiona Underhill

Usually I start a JumpCut review by discussing what drew me to the film and my expectations of it. However, there are two major shadows cast over this particular movie. 1) DC – believe me, I could write A LOT about previous DC films and how it has affected my expectations of ‘Wonder Woman’, however, I’m not going to. 2) Feminism – an endless stream of articles have been produced about what this film does or doesn’t do for women. It feels like the weight of half of the world is on Wonder Woman’s shoulders. However, I am going to endeavour (and I may fail) to write about this film on its merits as a standalone feature. 

After a brief prologue, we first encounter Diana (who will become the lovely Gal Gadot) as the only child in the city of Themyscira, a paradise peopled by the Amazons – a tribe of female warriors given the duty of guarding mankind. However, they have abandoned this cause (which they view as hopeless) and retreated to their secret and protected island. They remain highly skilled in combat and continue training, led by Antiope (Robin Wright) – their greatest warrior. Diana’s mother, Hippolyta (Gladiator’s Connie Nielsen), wishes to protect her daughter, but Diana is headstrong and has the urge to learn the ways of her people. This idyllic haven is punctured one day by a WWI fighter plane, which crashes into the waters just off the islands, followed by German troops in boats. This leads to a stunning beach-based fight scene, which frankly had me welling up with emotion. 

The pilot who has crashed into this mythical world is Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and he leads Diana on a mission to try to stop ‘Doctor Poison’ – a brilliant German scientist, from formulating a deadly gas that can dissolve gas masks. This is in what should be the dying days of The Great War, with politicians behind the scenes frantically negotiating their way towards Armistice. One of these politicians is Sir Patrick (a lovely surprise to see David Thewlis) and another beloved British actor in the London-based scenes is Lucy Davis (Dawn from The Office) as Steve’s secretary – Etta. Steve Trevor assembles a small band of rogues (including Charlie, played by Ewen Bremner), to attempt to stop the gas from getting as far as the trenches. 

Firstly, ‘Wonder Woman’ is full of humour. Much of this comes from the ‘fish-out-of-water’ Diana – a demi-god with little experience of the world of men, negotiating the world of war. Secondly, it is visually stunning. The action scenes are thrilling and yes, I will say it, this has a lot to do with the sheer glee of seeing a badass woman on screen in what could not be more of a man’s world. What to say about Gal Gadot? She is physical perfection and she does play Diana’s prowess, coupled with vulnerability and confusion very well. Chris Pine is playing a variation on Captain Kirk – sharp wit, ego, honour and the ability to be blown away by someone he underestimates. Coupling the world of superheroes with the world of twentieth century war does work surprisingly well (I will avoid mentioning one of my favourite Marvel films that does the same). 

Hopefully you have got the gist by now that I loved this film. It wasn’t perfect – there were moments of lull that made the film feel slightly too long, but it was definitely more exhilarating than boring. I am sure Diana will ‘play nicely with others’ in the upcoming DC ensemble films and I can’t wait to see what she does next. I hope she gets to have sequels in her own right – I will assuredly be turning up for them. It is thrilling that at long last, a female superhero in a film DIRECTED BY A WOMAN is getting her due (I warned you that I probably wouldn’t be able to reign it in). I urge you all to support this film in the all-important opening weekend – you won’t regret it. 

Fiona’s rating: 8.5 out of 10