Within the last three years of the 1950s, Hammer Films had reshaped the Universal Classic monsters canon with The Curse of Frankenstein, Draculaand The Revenge of Frankenstein, bringing into full glorious and gory colour for a then, modern audience, With it, Hammer would also unite one of celluloid history’s greatest co-stars in the horror genre in Peter Cushing and Sir Christopher Lee. Before the turn of the decade, the British production house would turn their attention to yet another Universal offering, The Mummy, and keep that winning formula of Cushing, Lee and film director Terence Fisher. Cushing played the dashing hero, and Lee subjected to the ‘monster’ character and hidden behind full make up for the last time with Hammer. It was a tortuous and gruelling affair for its two leads, and would lead Cushing to the hospital following a scene gone awry. Cushing would also become more bold in his acting choices and in cementing his character traits on screen and guiding his director in some of teh action sequences.
The familiar tale of the mummified High Priest Kharis (Lee) resurrected under the power of Mehemet Bey (George Pastell) to seek revenge for disturbing Princess Ananka’s tomb, is given the Hammer treatment. Here Cushing plays the part of John Banning, one of the doomed expedition crew. His father, Stephen (Felix Aylmer) has been driven mad and escorted to the asylum with his prophecies of the forthcoming mummy. Initially scoffed at and ridiculed, the subject takes a dark and sour turn when Stephen is killed by Kharis’ bandaged hands.
Kharis would also be moved by his lost love, Ananka, whose appearance is uncannily similar to John Banning’s wife, (Yvonne Furneaux) and thus brings about our damsel in distress theme.
Upon its cinematic release, the name Hammer was starting to cause quite a stir among moviegoers, and The Mummy became a big success for the company. It even surpassed its successors in the box office and in some ways is a more solid feature in its narrative, and effects. Despite the climatic ending where Kharis played by go to stuntman Eddie Powell sinking into the depths of the quagmire, the British Film company was rising to new heights. And it was all in the name of horror.
Despite some reluctance from the stars, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s light was starting to wane in the public eye, and along with their contract through Universal were tied to another outing; one that would preserve their initial encounter with the Production house’ monsters into the National Film Registry for its historical significance. That film would be…
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
Here would mark a turning point for Universal, who had made a great deal of success through the 1930s for their Gothic line of Universal films. This notable change would occur at a time when the inkwell was running dry, and the Production house would be looking for alternate ways to capitalise on their winning formula by subverting the genre from horror to comedy. This transposition would not be treated in kind, especially from Lon Chaney Jr, who would proclaim “Abbott and Costello ruined the horror films: they made buffoons out of the monsters…” His words would hold deeper meaning for the future of Universal’s horror genre, which by the end of the 50s would be all but non-existent. Despite this and during the time of its release, the film would go on to be one of the most successful of the Frankenstein franchise.
In Meet Frankenstein, the comedy duo would be pitted against The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr), Dracula (Bela Lugosi – who would actually speak favourably of the depiction of his most known character), and The Monster (Glenn Strange) to keep alive the buzz generated from their monster universe. It even boasts a cameo from The Invisible Man in the film’s climax, voiced by Vincent Price.
A lot of the movie revolves around pantomime tricks and scares but brought to life by the comic timing of Costello who falls prey to the “cry wolf” syndrome, despite his cries being genuine, combined with Abbott’s straight man routine. Despite my ambivalence towards the movie, as in heart I echoed Chaney Jr’s sentiments, the film would still holds a strong position. The looks to camera breaking the fourth wall was a joy to watch, and the formula would generate s further four movies for Abbott and Costello in the Universal Monsters universe. The first of these would be…
Abbott and Costello Meet The Killer, Boris Karloff (1949)
Rounding out the 40s, Boris Karloff was the only notable star absent from the previous movie, although he was paid to promote it, and was also reluctant to watch it. Karloff was hired only five days before shooting began, the role originally a female called Madame Switzer, and would play that of a swami with mysterious intent. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, a whodunnit where Costello’s bellboy Freddie becomes the prime suspect in a murder. And when the body count starts to pile up, he can’t seem to get rid of the corpses to clear his name. This would lead to a hilarious scene where Costello and Abbott (supporting him to prove his innocence as detective Casey) play a game of cards with some of the cadavers.
Lenore Aubert is also brought in to support, as the femme fatale Angela Gordon. This continues a theme from Meet Frankenstein where the female costar attempts to seduce Costello, much to Abbott’s chagrin.
Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man (1951)
Having dangled the imperceptible carrot in Meet Frankenstein it was inevitable that Abbott and Costello would come face to face with the Invisible Man. This time our anti-hero is played by Athur Franz as Tommy Nelson, a boxer who is framed for the murder of his manager after refusing to throw a fight. Out to prove his innocence, Tommy steals the invisible formula from scientist Dr. Gray (Gavin Muir) who warns him of the dangers of the serum and the effects that brought about the ruin of Jack Griffin.
Abbott and Costello enter the scene as private detectives by Tommy during the investigation and become embroiled in the mystery leading Costello’s Lou Francis to go undercover as an underdog in the boxing scene aided by the invisible Tommy to help him win the fights.
Sandwiched between this feature and the next Universal confrontation would be Abbott and Costello Go To Mars, another indication of Universal’s departure from the horror scene and into the world of science fiction, which would be in tune with the popular zeitgeist of the time.
Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953)
Abbott and Costello’s fourth outing in the Universal Monster scene drawing inspiration from the Robert Louis Stevenson novel and are cast as American detectives in Edwardian London following the pursuit of some murders that have taken place, allegedly by Dr. Jekyll, played by Boris Karloff. The Hyde counterpart would be portrayed by stuntman Eddie Parker.
Interestingly, there would be no transformation scenes, instead depicting both Jekyll and Hyde individually, and fuelling the idea that there is no good at all in Dr. Jekyll, who yearns for the misdeeds performed by his alter-ego.
The film itself would also show the cracks beginning to form in Universal’s marriage with the comic duo, with signs that the humour was running dry, resorting to slapstick performances. There would however, be one more feature before Abbott and Costello would bow out of the comedy / horror scene…
Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy (1955)
28 movies into their working partnership for Universal-International, Abbott and Costello would play against the last of the production house monster’s, the mummified Klaris (Eddie Parker). The comedy duo find themselves in the midst of an archaeological feud between Semu (Richard Deacon) and Madame Rontru (Marie Windsor) for the treasures of Princess Ara and control over Klaris.
Abbott and Costello would continue their usual comedy schtick but here it sits well as they bumble around Cairo. It is somewhat fitting that they could lay their comedy horror routine to rest amongst the Egyptian tombs. Their routine by this time is becoming stale and trying. They would eventually part ways in 1957 albeit amicably.
October would prove to be a prolific time for Hammer Film Productions as far as output goes as they looked at ways to reinvent themselves and draw in a younger generation of audience. The month had already seen the release of double feature Twins of Evil and Hands of the Ripper and for their third release the British film company would look again to the movies that shaped them, inspired by the Universal horror films that were so successful in the 1930s.
In spite of three previous films released based on The Mummy, Hammer would once again look to the source for creativity in Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of the Seven Stars shaped for a modern audience courtesy of screenwriter Christopher Wicking (Scream and Scream Again).
The film itself would be seeped in tragedy with its initial star Peter Cushing stepping aside to play the role of Julian Fuchs (replaced by Andrew Keir) after one day of filming to be by his wife’s side, following her diagnosis with emphysema. Furthermore, the film’s director Seth Holt (Taste of Fear, The Nanny) suffered a heart attack five weeks into the shoot and producer Michael Carrerras would step in to complete the shoot.
Despite all this, there is a visual style to the narrative that is in keeping with the direction that Hammer was hoping to achieve which stands up. Despite its obvious deviations from Stoker’s novel, there is a level of tension that is successfully established with the dispatch of the archaeological team (consisting of great actors in James Villiers and Aubrey Morris) who unearthed the tomb of evil Egyptian queen,Tera (Valerie Leon).
Throw in the added component that Julian Fuchs’ daughter Margaret bears a striking resemblance to the villainess, then we’re presented with a body possession flick into the equation too. Coupled with an ambiguous ending that leads us to question which personality survived as the closing credits roll
There may be questions around a potential curse surrounding the films’ production which clouded peoples’ perceptions. There are also glaringly obvious misbeats in the muddled storyline strung together by Carreras in an attempt to fill in the blanks not yet captured in the films shoot, but for me Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb climbsabove Hammer’s previous two Mummy outings for its bold and and visual approach to an age-old tale.
For what would be the final instalment of The Mummy franchise for Universal Picture and its fourth outing for the shambling mummified corpse of Kharis, I’m surprised and delighted to say that it took an upward trajectory on the satisfaction front, especially following The Mummy’s Ghost, which personally was a huge disappointment.een completely blown free
Don’t get me wrong, the cobwebs haven’t blown away completely and The Mummy’s Curse has more than its fair share of creeks in the plotline, namely the obscure choice to move the location to New England because of its vast swampland. It also suffers from a strange and curiously long flashback sequence using stock footage which feels out of place in the film series.
Lon Chaney Jr returns for the third time as the titular menace and the storyline actually ties neatly onto the ending of its predecessor
The film begins as a company is draining the swamps and along the way one of the workmen turns up murdered and reports of Kharis resurrected and on the rampage soon spreads like wildfire.
From here on in there are the usual tropes expected from the now well-trodden franchise. There’s the disciple of the Arkam sect, Princess Ananka transformed (this time played by Virginia Christie) the central target for Kharis’ drive, and the scientific, archaeologist hero at the centre of the fold.
There are some key significant moments that lift this a little from the quagmire, namely the initial rise of Ananka from the swampy bogs, lifting her hand out from its depths with an image that has now been so often reproduced. Also, Martin Kosleck’s (The Frozen Ghost ) performance of Ragheb, the backstabbing, lustful protege from the Arkam sect.
The central theme that seems to run through the story is one of wrong-doing, mistrust and broken allegiances that literally bring the house down at the end of the film.
There is some familiarity about it all which brings some warmth to the genre, and although it doesn’t offer too much new, The Mummy’s Curse does manage to entertain enough to keep the viewer a little interested in how it will all come to a head in the conclusion.
The Mummy’s Ghost would be the second of three sequels to Universal’sThe Mummy, following The Mummy’s Tomb and would also see Lon Chaney Jr step into the shuffling bandaged corpse of Kharis.
Unfortunately The Mummy’s Ghost is by far the weakest of the franchise so far, which for me comes down to lazy writing. It feels as though the creative department were happy to rest on their laurels and aim for more of the same in the franchise.
In doing so, it fails to stimulate and to say that it runs through the numbers in the process would be a misjudgement, as there are a lot of numbers that Universal are happy to skip past to deliver the basics in horror for the time of its initial release.
Once again we are greeted with a high priest handing down the duties to a younger member of the fold, Yousef Bey played by a suitably hammy John Carradine (House of Dracula). Kharis is still transfixed by the lure of tana leaves and tramps around for his latest fix while Bey tries to stick to his mission in finding the body of Ananka and return her to her resting place in Egypt.
Ananka however has transformed her soul into the body of another, Amina (Ramsay Ames), which puts a spanner in the works.
Time has not been kind in the passing years, and this feature feels stale as a result and if it weren’t part of a franchise would have been served better entombed in the past.
It’s one saving grace that allows it to stand out happens to be shrouded in its bitter end, with Kharis carrying an unconscious Amina into the swamp, where they can be reunited in the afterlife. This is delightfully offbeat considering its age, and I can only wonder how this came across to the audience of the time. It may have had a more profound impact if more care and dedication were taken into building up a more imaginative narrative to steer away from the now tired formula.
A fair amount of The Mummy’s Hand lifts footage from its predecessor in its exposition as a dying High Priest recounts the tale of Kharis and his beloved Princess Ananka to his protege, Andoheb. Importantly comes the warning that if things prove dire, a vial from tana leaves can be used to restore movement to the monster.
Enter archaeologist Steve Banning (Dick Ford) and his sidekick Babe Jensen (Wallace Ford), a foreshadow of Universal’s direction towards the end of the decade and their collaboration with comedians Abbott and Costello, such is the comic banter between the two protagonists.
Banning believes that he has found an ancient Egyptian artefact leading to the last resting place of Princess Ananka, so with the help of the Museum specialist, Dr. Petrie, they seek confirmation from the local Professor of its authenticity. Unfortunately, said Professor is none other than Andoheb, who spies a threat from the intrepid trio and quickly tries to put them off the scent and keep the location hidden. Banning however is intent on proving that he is right and finds financial backing in magician, The Great Solvani, who comes accompanied by his daughter Marta (Peggy Moran). Marta brings the feisty female characters synonymous with the films at the time serving both strong-headed, moralistic views that challenge the main (male lead) and ultimately the love interest.
Once the expedition is underway, we fall into typical territory as an embittered Andoheb is hellbent on protecting the tomb and resurrects Kharis (played this time by Tom Tyler, picking up the baton from Boris Karloff) in the process. From here, we see the bandaged menace wreaks havoc on the members of the quest, striking down and killing those who stand in his way. A few familiar traits appear, which at the time would have felt original but now have become commonplace, for example the monster falling for the token female which requires the lead protagonist to save her from certain doom.
Kharis would appear a further four times throughout the 40s, three of those times with Lon Chaney Jr in the role, proving that there was a valid interest in the tale of hidden treasures and unrequited love, and although it became fairly formulaic towards the end, the humour embedded throughout the venture actually makes this instalment an enjoyable, still to this day.
Taking place within the universe of The Conjuring, The Curse of the Weeping Woman (or The Curse of La Llorona internationally) is the first feature
length work from director Michael Chaves. With strong casting choices
throughout, what would be an otherwise typical film for the genre was
transformed into a well-balanced, well-paced and thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Based upon the Mexican folk story ‘La
Llorona’, or The Weeping Woman, who drowned her two sons in an act of revenge
when jilted by her husband for a younger bride, La Llorona (Marisol Ramirez)
was cursed to roam the Earth searching for children to replace those she lost.
It is said that there is no escape from her once you hear her weeping and feel
her tears against your skin.
Thus we find Anna (Linda Cardellini), a
case worker and single mother to two children following the death of her
husband, when Patricia (played by Patricia Velasquez who was Anck-Su-Namun in The Mummy Franchise… The Brendan Fraser Mummy Franchise… The good one) curses
Cardellini’s children to be the next in La Llorona’s sights, leading her kids
to get the fright of their short lives in a great little car sequence. Strong
performances by Chris (Roman Christou) and his sister Sam (Jaynee-Lynne
Kinchen) who deliver noteworthy scenes throughout the film.
Many innovative effects make an appearance
with a fun sequence near the pool involving an umbrella, using simple masking
techniques that would make Georges Méliès proud, but in the critical eye of our
4k resolution era may come off a little cheesy, yet I find myself applauding
the filmmakers for allowing creative risks to be taken. Another moment that
stays with you is an eerie bathroom scene will see you bathing using the buddy
The pace of the film takes a turn when Anna
seeks out the assistance of former priest Rafael Olvera (Raymond Cruz) who
completely steals the show with his dry wit and deadpan delivery that make you
want to come back for more.
With cinematography by Hollywood royalty Michael
Burgess and James Wan in the producer’s seat you know you’re in for a good
time. Paying homage to recurring themes within the universe to connect stories
in a way that can only advance its reach while at the same time terrifying
Not quite scary enough to provoke cardiac
arrest but enjoyable, particularly with a deadpan dose of Raymond Cruz.
Surgeon Richard Lovegrove & Anesthesiologist Kelsi Williams
AT FIRST WHEN Universal first posed the concept of a shared Universe, now known as the Dark Universe, in order to release a string of movies that would link all their classic monsters together, I wanted to say that it was a bold approach, but it’s not exactly new.
As a fellow horror enthusiast pointed out on a social thread, Universal were the originators of the crossover worlds with the likes of House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula.
They were though, wanting to relaunch this product into a modern world for a contemporary audience, but there are a few things that prove as an obstacle to completing their vision.
And with these obstacles, Universal find themselves navigating a minefield of troubles which leads the picture to snag on every component along the way and unravel before our very eyes.
So let’s take a look at these obstacles, starting with the elephant in the room, otherwise known as…
I’ve been reading a lot about this in the past few days and something that strikes me a little is that people are very quick to point their fingers at Mr. Cruise, citing too much involvement and interference on his part.
But here’s the thing, whether or not this is true, the buck has to stop with Universal and their director.
They decided to cast Cruise in this vehicle and with that you have to expect him to bring some weight and opinion to the piece.
He is known for getting hands on with every project that he takes on, including all the stunts that he performs himself.
So why so surprised when this turns into a Tom Cruise project?
Director Alex Kurtzman may have handled big picture projects as a writer, but prior to The Mummy, he has handled only one other feature at the helm, People Like Us.
So was this a case that veteran actor, Cruise took advantage of this and began to steer said film instead?
Perhaps more questionable is that the script itself is so disjointed and incoherent that you wonder how someone like Kurtzman, (who also wrote this movie) with the vast amount of writing credits to his name managed to make such a botch job of it.
Which comes to the second point.
Lack of character.
Sure enough we are presented with a back story to Princess Ahmanet, but at no stage do we engage with her or identify with her plight.
This basically means that her level of menace is weakened and the fear element is lost – the anchor of the PG-13 rating on it and like the Mummy, the film spends most of the time restrained and unable to break free.
By the time that she does, it’s all too little too late.
I really had high hopes for the female Mummy component and seriously wanted her to kick arse, but when it did happen, it was fleeting and reduced to a whimper.
The supposed transformation of Russell Crowe
So restricted were the creative team behind The Mummy that even Russell Crowe was reduced to a feeble example of Mr Hyde.
On paper, this casting sounded perfect as we have seen portray some notably dark characters on screen before.
Instead we’re present with a gruff version of himself with yellowy eyes.
Sure, I get that they may have wanted to go with a more subtle approach, but why do this if the whole point is to let the monsters loose?
“You can be my wing-zombie anytime.”
While it was good to see Nick Morton (Cruise) spa with his buddy Vail at the beginning of the movie, which highlighted his recklessness, and I know I might be sounding fickle here, but it kind of got my goat, when they started riffing off An American Werewolf In London and have Vail come back as a zombie-buddy.
Even more so in the films climax, when they walk off into the sunset, ready for their next adventure.
The question is, will there another adventure?
Going off the poor box office receipts, you’d be forgiven to think that Universal would scrap their plans, but my overall feeling is that they’ll give it another push to win over their audience, which means there would be a lot riding on their next feature Bride of Frankenstein in order for them to see any payoff.
If the dominoes are now set in place for the crossover stories to take hold, then maybe, just maybe the producers will be free to flex their writing muscles and let the narrative go into some bold, new territory.
Ironically for their Dark universe to truly see any reward, Universal need to consider living up to the brand they’ve living by and take it darker.
As such, The Mummy was a mess that was placed too far into the light feel-good category for it to have the impact that horror fans were craving for.
BACK IN 1999, Universal looked to resurrect The Mummy franchise with a fresh, new approach.
The last time the bandaged fiend had graced the screens for the picture company, was in 1955 accompanied by comedy icons Abbott and Costello.
Apparently the original premise for this remake had British horror/filmmaker Clive Barker at the helm with the offering of a much darker route that was sexually charged and filled with mysticism.
One can only wonder at the concept of Imhotep taking on the Hell Priest, Pinhead.
As it was, Universal decided on a different approach when hiring Stephen Sommers and for the next 10 years, a second wave of Mummy movies was formed.
THE MUMMY (1999)
Prior to stepping on board to write and direct the feature, Sommers had four movies under his belt with Catch Me If You Can, The Adventures of Huck Finn, The Jungle Book, and Deep Rising.
So enough charge to take the lead in a bold, new direction, one that was in complete contrast to Barker’s vision, dialing down the horror and injecting more action, special fx, and comedy.
The result saw an Indiana Jones style romp through Egypt, as the rogue-ish Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser), (who accidentally discovers the city of the dead, where the High Priest, Imhotep rests) teams up with the bookish Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) and her bumbling buffoon of a brother, aptly played by John Hannah.
The trio head back to the city, despite being warned by an Egyptian warrior, Ardeth Bey not to intervene, to discover the Book of the Living.
As they discover the statue of Anubis, deep within the tomb, they also encounter the remains of Imhotep.
Meanwhile, their counterparts, a group of Americans led by the cowardly Beni discover the Book of the Dead among some jars, which carry the preserved organs o Anch-su-Namun, mistress of Pharaoh Seti I, and lover to the afore-mentioned Imhotep.
When Evelyn reads a page from the Book of the Dead, she unwittingly awakens the High Priest, who casts the 10 plagues back to Egypt.
One by one, the Americans are dispatched with great fashion, heightening the scare partially through darkened alleys, and all-out assault on the victims.
It is down to our trio of archaeologists to put an end to Imhotep’s reign of terror and entomb him once more.
It may be nearly twenty years on since it’s release now, but I think that it’s fair to say that The Mummy still stands the test of time, partly due to the great mix of comedy and action on display, plus the chemistry between Fraser and Weisz on screen is enjoyable to watch.
Credit should also be cast towards Arnold Vosloo, who portrays Imhotep with enough menace to make it the fear placed on our protagonists seem genuine and his performance has come close in signature to his predecessor Boris Karloff some 67 years prior.
The Mummy proved to be a perfect mix to entertain and generated a generous draw at the box office, which could only mean one thing. A sequel would be a certainty.
THE MUMMY RETURNS (2001)
The inevitably would occur a couple of years later and would see the return of O’Connell, Evelyn, (now married), Jonathan, Ardeth Bey and as the title suggests, the return of Imhotep.
The original players would come back to resurrect their roles and to ignite that much-loved chemistry once more for the silver screen.
Joining them in this movie is Alex O’Connell, the son of Rick and Evie, and the instigator of Imhotep’s rise from the grave.
With Alex’s life on the line, our intrepid heroes must try to save him within seven days, thus providing a tension of sorts to the mix.
Added to this is the unerring threat of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as The Scorpion King, who vowed to give Anubis his soul for the power to defeat his enemies. Here is a hint of an inevitable showdown with two foes on the horizon.
Along the way, Evelyn is captured by the reincarnated Anck-su-namun, who is eventually released but not without discovering that she lived a previous life as the Princess Neferiti. Go figure – let’s just crowbar that subplot in there.
There’s more drama in the mix as Alex is kidnapped too, then Evelyn is killed, only to be resurrected when Jonathon and Alex recite from the Book of the Dead.
The final showdown sees our heroes triumph over evil, of course, and riding off into the sunset, but the paying audience couldn’t help but feel slightly cheated by the special fx overriding care towards the character and plot, and because of this, some of the magic wasn’t carried across from its predecessor.
That didn’t deter our filmmakers from a third installment though, but first…
A VAN HELSING HIATUS – VAN HELSING (2004)
The last attempt that Universal took to amalgamate their Monsters universe would arrive in 2004, and would once again see Sommers at the helm to deliver the success received at box office with his previous two outings.
However, any harsh criticism that The Mummy Returns received seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as the same mistakes were repeated and furthermore, delved deeper still in the dire and diabolical.
Sommers goes hell-bent to deliver a CGI in fuelled overload with little or no care factor for the characters involved.
The result is that despite the desire to thrust the ”Monsters’ front and centre in an adrenaline, action-packed thrill-ride, there is no audience connection to said creatures and the desired impact leaves us wanting.
The usual ticks are there, with the distraught Frankenstein’s at the loss of his father who not only carries more compassion than the entire cast combined, but also the key to life – one that the melodramatic Dracula (and all-out bad-guy in this movie) played by Richard Roxburgh.
In fact the whole movie screams at high volume and extreme velocity that there’s no time to stop and think, but this is perhaps the director’s ruse all along – a vein attempt to hide that there is no substance or heart to the film at all.
As much as they try to inject some humour into the mix, with David Wenham’s friar, Carl, it’s not enough to elevate Van Helsing.
It’s saving grace if we can call it that comes in the form of the film’s leads, Kate Beckinsale as Anna Velarious (hot off the back of Underworld) delivering attitude aplenty, and Hugh Jackman as the titular character, dialling his Wolverine shtick up to 10.
Ultimately though, Van Helsing was a doomed experiment that falls short of Universal expectations and with it, the audience satisfaction.
THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR (2008)
The final effort during this era would come to an end in 2008, which says a lot about how the movie was received.
However, there was a lot going for the final act in the trilogy that shouldn’t be so easily scoffed at.
But let’s look at these pros and cons with a little bit of further dissection.
Firstly, out of the picture goes Stephen Sommers, which may actually be a good thing when you scrutinise his last couple of efforts.
Sommers has since gone on to what exactly? Directing the start of another franchise with GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra before disappearing into Egyptian dust.
In his place steps Rob Cohen, who had overseen action fare with Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Daylight, The Fast and the Furious, and XXX.
Also out was Rachel Weisz, for supposedly ‘citing problems with the script’ and to look after her newborn son.
This already sparked debate, as part of the appeal of the original movies was the chemistry between the leads.
The role of Evelyn O’Connell went to Maria Bello, who as fine an actress she is, couldn’t capture Weisz’ magic on-screen.
The script-writers do go some way to replicate this obvious change in dynamic by having Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser who does return) and Evie bored with the lack of adventure in their lives, but the damage is already done.
The leads are left to claw their way out of an impossible sandstorm of dialogue to try find that gem or sparkle between them.
The last of the returnees is John Hannah as Jonathon, but despite he’s spot on comic ability struggles to haul the deadweight of a script to life.
The injection of youth to the fore rests solely on the shoulders of a now grown up Alex O’Connell played by Luke Ford an actor schooled on the Meisner technique (a form of Method acting) in which you can’t fault him on his approach to authenticate his character, but once again the humour is missing which you could look to the script for its fault here.
Ford is believable enough, and is able to pull off the action-based moves with ease, but his character simply isn’t engaging enough.
The strengths though do reside with the Eastern contingency of the movie.
The choice to move away from Egypt and set up in China was bold, but the right one.
The franchise could have been in danger of stagnating, and this choice allowed for fresh new life to enter the fold.
Likewise the performances from Jet Li as Emperor Han aka The Dragon Emperor helped to lift the action from page to screen
As does Michelle Yeoh as Zi Yuan who performs with such gravitas that she puts the other actors to shame, such is the strength of her delivery.
It’s hard though to look beyond the faults though.
Despite the cast and crews best efforts, the audience is left with feeling like they’ve just witnessed the story as a square peg being rammed into a round hole.
A shame, as the ideas were there, but with too many of the original players falling by the wayside, the whole notion of recreating the magic.
Despite talks of a fourth instalment and Luke Ford attached to another 3 movies in the cabin, the truth was written in the sand with the poor box office return.
– Paul Farrell
Release Date:7 Sep The story of a group of kids who take on a killer clown entity only to face their demons once more in adulthood. Prediction:It’s the Stephen King tale that confirmed my love for his work and as much as people praised the mini-series, in particular that of Tim Curry’s performance, (of which I concur) there was a slight lacking in the fear factor that the entity creates that is captured in the book. If they can do that then they’ve hit a winner in my book.
Release Date:8 Jun As Universal Pictures look to resurrect their horror movie franchise, they turn to the familiar tale of the Mummy. In this instance keeping the action adventure feel but dialling it up to 11+ and casting Tom Cruise in the lead. Prediction:Someone described this online as Mission Impossible with a supernatural twist which I feel is an adequate description. This movie will probably be a case of all style and no substance, but will be a hit regardless.
Release Date:17 Feb A pandemic outbreak in the form of a mutated version of rabies turns humans into a new species called ‘the infected’. Stars Doctor Who’s Matt Smith and Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer, this definitely has a British vibe and will tread that line of drama and realism with adequate aplomb. Prediction: Better than your average movie and could be a surprise hit as a result.
Release Date:10 Mar The French film and television industry are starting to generate some deliciously disturbing stories of late and Raw is the latest to fall into that mix. Following the story of a vegetarian who takes part in an initiation ritual that leads her to becoming a cannibal. Prediction:Believe them or not but there have been reports of medial services being called out to attend to audience members fainting over the graphic nature involved. This merely piques my interest further and leads me to believe that this could be the sleeper hit of the year.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Release Date: 26 Jan Alice and friends must team up one last time against the evil Umbrella organisation and save humankind. Prediction:There are fans of the series who will love this film and the makers will give them all they what they expect and more. For other mortals, this will be yet another exercise for Paul WS Anderson to delve into the franchise that he has dedicated most of his career to by taking one last bow.
Release Date:23 Feb It’s starting to feel like the year of the franchises and there’s a couple more to come yet. The American version of the J Horror success gets its third outing. Set 13 years after the last movie, but the twist this time is the discovery of a movie within the movie of the cursed videotape. Prediction:More of the same with nothing new on the table will make this a tired exploration of a tried and tested genre.
Release Date:27 Oct Another film franchise set to return with its traditional Friday before Halloween. Prediction:Most people will want the gore factor heightened and the traps to be extravagant and near on impossible to escape. With the Sperig brothers at the helm, I feel that this could a triumphant return for Billy The Puppet.
Release Date:26 Jan An American psychological horror thriller film from M. Night Shyamalan. His last film The Visit showed signs of his former glory but can the story of three girls being kidnapped by a guy with multiple personalities continue his upward trajectory?Prediction:Shyamalan may only be saved by James McAvoy’s performance. That’s a lot of pressure resting on his shoulders.
Release Date:14 Oct All is not as it seems behind the walls of a prestigious Dance Academy in Berlin. What lies behind the grisly murders? Prediction:What can I say about this remake? It’s hard to shake the attachment I have for the original, which is one of my favourite horror movies ever. But IF I were to remove my snob hat for a moment, the leafs hold a lot of potential, with Chloe Grace Moretz, Dakota Johnson, and Tilda Swinton. Let’s pause judgement and say that this could prove to be one of the surprises of the year.
World War Z 2
Release Date:8 Jun The Zombie outbreak that was based on a pretty good novel only to disappoint with its massive snooze fest of a film. But it managed to gain a wide release and success which only means one thing. A sequel. Prediction: Despite Brad Pitt apparently coming back and the promise of a whole new direction, I can’t help but feel that this movie is going to be yet another let down.