If you’ve ever had the pleasure of strolling through the Egypt section of the British Museum, then you’ve experienced the allure of mummies. They’re lined up like cord wood there, and to be honest, strolling through thousands of years of desecrated, but artfully adorned entombment situations has its own special brand of creepiness.

The mummy film franchises have been around since olden days when Boris Karloff debuted a version in 1932.  More recently, Brendon Fraser battled the bandages in a series of films (1999 – 2008) that met with popular acclaim. The latest debut simply titled “The Mummy” capitalizes on the mummy mystique and brings some new spins to the genre, not all of them good.

The action and pace of “The Mummy” maintain enough suspense to keep the knuckles white, but with the two major names of Cruise and Crowe on the cast list, this $125,000,000.00 movie should be way better than it is.

Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, an antiquities broker who makes his way to remote parts of the world to trade in priceless museum pieces. Had Cruise drawn from his “Mission Impossible” character, he could have portrayed a far more interesting Morton. Cruise misses the mark completely and plays Morton as unfeeling, impetuous, and occasionally uninformed. He fails to elicit sympathy, even when he’s in the worst situation possible.

Although the script might be to blame for part of his character’s shallowness, a better choice for this heavy lead role would have drastically improved things. This film desperately needs somebody who could create an emotional context for his behavior and decision-making. Somebody like Kit Harington, who plays Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, could’ve made this movie memorable. 

Elaborate deal making must have gone on to create Russell Crowe’s character Dr. Henry Jekyll because it side-tracks the main plot and contributes nothing at all to the bigger issues. And yes, it’s the story of that Dr. Jekyll and his evil twin Mr. Hyde, neither of whom have any place at all in a mummy movie. Crowe plays the role with little energy or verve.

Herein lies the heart of problem: too many strange interventions muddy the clarity of the plot and diminish the story of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). This Egyptian princess turned so far to the dark side that her demise 2,000 years ago came about at the hands of her countrymen who understood her capacity for evil. To make a point and protect the kingdom, they refuse to entomb her in Egypt’s sacred spaces. Instead, they ship her sarcophagus to remote lands where it can do no further harm. That is, until she’s awakened from the dead to kill and destroy modern humankind.

Unfortunately, Ahmanet’s story has to compete with zombies, Jekyll and Hyde, myths drawn from Knights of the Templar, and several steals fromRaiders of the Lost Ark. All that and the sure-fire promise that this is the first installment of a series. Somebody needs to untangle Ahmanet from the rest of the pack, and let her do her mummy thing.

Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews for the Empire-Tribune since 1999.

Rated PG-13 for violence, action and scary images, and for some suggestive content and partial nudity.