- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 14, 2017

Tom Cruise attempted to bring a legendary monster back to cinematic glory earlier this year in the critically lambasted The Mummy (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 110 minutes, 2.40:1 aspect ratio, $44.98), now unwrapped for home theaters in the ultra high-definition format.

Sgt. Nick Morton (Mr. Cruise) and Cpl. Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) act as “liberators” — otherwise known as grave robbers — of precious antiquities during their reconnaissance missions for the U.S. Army in a war-torn Iraq.

An airstrike to save the duo from enemy combatants reveals a tomb and a sarcophagus submerged in mercury.

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Our bumbling raiders, with help from archeologist Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), end up releasing the dangerous, centuries-buried Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). Once restored, she looks for a new soul mate to resurrect the god Set and gets help from a horde of camel spiders, crows, rats and emaciated zombies.

Luckily, what she runs into is a monster-hunting organization named Prodigium, led by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), ready to capture her and send her back to the afterlife.

Despite a few high-energy action scenes, with one taking place aboard an aircraft in zero gravity, the film spends too much time digging itself out of subplots.

Specifically, they are tied to establishing Universal’s Dark Universe monster franchise, a response to Hollywood competitors successful superhero teamed franchises.

Mr. Cruise manages to keep a straight face with a pinch of boyish charm throughout the cursed shenanigans, but he is fighting a losing battle with a haggard story and director Alex Kurtzman’s obsession with scenes featuring visions and flashbacks.

By the way, Universal had a perfectly acceptable, though laughable, monster franchise begun with the Hugh Jackman’s fueled “Van Helsing” back in 2004 — co-starring Dracula, wolfmen and Dr. Frankenstein’s best buddy. However, they never offered a sequel.

Alas, the gold standard for Egyptian horror remains with Boris Karloff’s original version of “The Mummy,” Christopher Lee’s 1959 interpretation, and Brendan Fraser’s frantic journey to find “The Mummy” in 1999.

4K UHD in action: In both ultra high-definition and standard Blu-ray formats, the film is murky, grainy and with visuals often impeded by dust, sand, glass granules, cadaver remnants, and darkness.

The transfer only occasionally shines through high-dynamic range when inspecting Princess Ahmanet’s technique to create newly emaciated ghouls, the frenetic zero-g sequence and admiring a punishing fight scene between Mr. Hyde and Mr. Morton.

I was more impressed by the Dolby Atmos soundtrack that caused the room to shake often, especially during a London sandstorm or whenever Mr. Crowe bellowed his lines.

Even a character dropping an equipment bag on a cavern floor caused a near sonic boom in my room.

Best extras: First, owners get a light and lively commentary track, on both the 4K and Blu-ray discs, with Mr. Kurtzman and cast members Mr. Johnson, Miss Boutella and Miss Wallis.

Bursts of chatting ensue with the actors watching the movie (sans no audio) for the first time, often talking over one another and marveling at how great “The Mummy” looks.

The director keeps the group focused amid the butt-kissing, offers many production nuggets, and hints at why the film may have cost so much.

I honed in on him mentioning the 28 takes of a scene with Morton talking to his sergeant, building an entire village in the middle of a desert, an expensive zero-g environment, and an arduous audience screening process that required reassembling the beginning of the film’s narrative.

All of the other extras reside on the Blu-ray and start with a 21-minute, laugh-loaded discussion between Mr. Cruise and Mr. Kurtzman. Each complements the other while talking about this epic, epic and more epic adventure featuring romance, humor and tributes to the classic monster movies

Now add another seven featurettes (roughly 50 minutes in total) covering the key characters, actors and production with plenty of interviews from crew and cast as well as an avalanche of compliments for Mr. Cruise and congratulations going all around.

Best of that bunch looks at the visual effects of bringing the mummy to life and a segment explaining the real zero-g sequence with words from a pilot and Mr. Cruise as well as looking at shooting aboard the aircraft lovingly nicknamed the “vomit comet” for 64 ride cycles (22 seconds each).

I also appreciated a 4-minute, motion comic covering Princess Ahmanet’s back story and loaded with artist Christopher Shy’s colorful, photo-realistic illustrations.

Suffice it to report, the extras package far outshines a film that amazingly was three years in the making.

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