The first movie was, obviously enough, The Mummy. It was a slightly quirky summer blockbuster. It tried to be serious at times, but it was basically Big Dumb Fun.
The second movie The Mummy Returns seemed to get a better handle on what it was really about. Both are amongst my favourite movies, but I tend to find myself re-watching The Mummy Returns more often. I think that it’s got a much greater story momentum – all the exposition is out of the way but the meat of the coolness still remains.
The biggest problem with this new movie is that in a lot of ways its back to square 1. We know the main characters, but in this story they are placed out of context. Imhotep is defeated, and the new story is set on the other side of the world. Consequently, the first bit of the movie is taken up with exposition; indeed, quite a lot more exposition than both previous movies. Even the “teaser” explaining who the villain is felt long to me.
Eventually however, the story gets going, and its basic structure and arrangement seemed to me to be based on the same template as the previous two movies. Indeed, at various junctures the story shape is identical, almost feeling like an alternate take from The Mummy Returns.
The ingredients, therefore, are basically right. A villain of ancient origin, mysterious and expansive powers, and a series of challenge points where the heroes are defeated before eventually finding a way to defeat the villain at the height of his powers. I think anyone who saw this movie in isolation would be satisfied that it was a reasonably standard summer blockbuster with a mythic flavour and consider their money well spent; if not as well spent as some other recent blockbusters.
Of course, there’s a “but”. The logic in this movie is no better than its predecessors, but whereas I can easily forgive those, this one doesn’t quite have the verve and charm to carry it past the various miscellaneous problems. You find yourself asking “why?” and “huh?” quite a bit more because the movie gives you time to do it. The smokescreen of flashing lights and exciting interludes is just not as thick as the previous movies, and the almost breakneck speed of plot is reduced to something all together too manageable.
The mortal blow for an unequivocable recommendation though is the relatively wooden acting, and especially the loss of Rachel Weisz as Evie. Fraser and Weisz had a palpable chemistry which just isn’t there with Maria Bello. She does a respectable job, but her accent slips a couple too many times, and her timing on the comic moments is just a bit stilted. In just the same way, Jet Li just doesn’t invoke either the menace or the pathos of Arnold Voslo. Even John Hannah seems to be too old, or too tired, to bring the effortless charm and fun to Jonathan that he did in the first two movies.
Once you start to ponder the plot mechanics and think about the screen chemistry, you realize that one of two things needed to happen. Either they should have thought a bit more carefully about the plot, or they should have dumped a whole lot more Big Dumb Fun into the mix. As it is, things feel too contrived, too flat and make too little sense.
My recommendation therefore would be… if you were a fan of the first two movies, you will still enjoy this movie, just quite a lot less. It’s nowhere near as disappointing as the new Indie or the prequel Star Wars movies. The formula is basically right. If you like Big Dumb Fun, you’ll probably enjoy this movie. I give it 6/10. With a heavy editorial hand in the opening half hour (mainly to simplify the exposition part) or Rachel Weisz, it could easily have been a 7 and might have been an 8.