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.