Film Review: Tom Cruise in ‘The Mummy’

The Mummy
Courtesy of Universal

Tom Cruise fights an Egyptian demon, which takes up residence inside him, in a monster reboot that's too busy to be much fun.

No one over the age of 10 ever confused them with good movies, but the “Mummy” franchise that kicked off in 1999 had a joyously sinister and farfetched eye-candy pizzazz. Basically, these were movies that pelted you with CGI — scuttling scarabs, swarms of skeletons in moldy rags — and mixed the cheesy/awesome visual onslaught with a handful of actors (Brendan Fraser, Dwayne Johnson) who seemed just as lightweight at the FX. So “The Mummy,” starring Tom Cruise, raises a key aesthetic question: How, exactly, do you reboot empty-calorie creature-feature superficiality?

The new “Mummy,” you may be surprised to hear, doesn’t have a whole lot of show-stopping visual flimflam up its sleeve. Instead, it’s built around a chancy big trick. I’ll herald this with a major spoiler alert (if you don’t want to know what happens in “The Mummy,” please stop reading), though it’s really the essential premise of the movie. Cruise, who is cast as Nick Morton, a freelance raider of artifacts he sells on the black market, isn’t just fighting evil — his character gets inhabited by evil. He is taken over by the spirit of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an ancient Egyptian princess who murdered her father, the Pharaoh, and his infant son, all so that she could lay claim to the throne. For her crime, she was mummified and buried alive. (Yes, she’s pissed off.)

The way her spirit merges with Nick’s remains a little vague, since it’s not as if Cruise turns into a frothing bad guy. He deals with the fact that he’s got evil inside him by treating it in a highly practical and energized fashion — as a problem to be solved. He’s Tom Cruise, dammit, and he’s not just going to stand by! He’s going to attack the issue. He’s going to fight it, debate it, stare it down, put it in its place, kick its ass, out-think it and out-run it, out-punch it and out-underwater-swim it.

All of which turns out to be a lot less fun than the stupid zappy “Mummy” movies of the ’00s. It’s not as if this one is all that smart, what with a plot that somehow squashes together the First Dynasty of Egypt, the Crusades, and the looting of Iraqi antiquities. Yet it does seem to be trying for something, and so, if you’re a Cruise fan (as I very much am), you roll with it. The flashes of Egyptian backstory are photographed (by Ben Seresin) with a yummy desert glow, and the Algerian actress Sofia Boutella, in black bangs and vertical rows of tattooed facial hieroglyphs, makes Ahmanet exotic in all the right ways, like something out of a Rihanna video. Then she shows up in contemporary London, along with Nick and Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), the comely archeologist who Nick slept with and whose life he saved. Ahmanet is now a mottled, gray-skinned mummy who gains energy by putting civilians in a lip-lock and literally sucking the life out of them, which reduces them to skeletal zombies who exist to do her bidding.

It’s here that you begin to divine the film’s basic strategy: It will grab ideas, motifs, and effects from almost any genre and jam them together, palming off its grab-bag quality as “originality.” Scene for scene, “The Mummy” has been competently staged by director Alex Kurtzman, who has one previous feature to his credit (the minor 2012 Chris Pine heart-tugger “People Like Us”) and has never made a special-effects film before. He knows how to visualize a spectacular plane crash, or how to play up the Dagger of Set — a mystical weapon of death that needs a giant ruby to complete it — so that it doesn’t seem as chintzy as something out of a “National Treasure” movie (which is basically what it is). Yet competence isn’t the same thing as style or vision. “The Mummy” is a literal-minded, bumptious monster mash of a movie. It keeps throwing things at you, and the more you learn about the ersatz intricacy of its “universe,” the less compelling it becomes.

Russell Crowe, cultivating an air of pompous malevolence, shows up in the opening scene, but it isn’t until later that we learn he’s playing Dr. Henry Jekyll — yes, that Henry Jekyll. Jekyll, it turns out, has to keep injecting his damaged hand with a regimen of drugs to avoid turning into Mr. Hyde, but watching all this the audience may be thinking: Whose bright idea was it to mix “The Mummy” with an entirely different formative horror story, as if the two could be cross-bred like some Famous Monsters of Filmland version of the Justice League?

The answer wouldn’t matter if “The Mummy” had the courage of its convictions…or the fun of its nonsense. But it falls right into a nether zone in between. The problem at its heart is that the reality of what the movie is — a Tom Cruise vehicle — is at war with the material. The actor, at 54, is still playing that old Cruise trope, the selfish cocky semi-scoundrel who has to grow up. Will Nick give in to Ahmanet, the malevolent temptress in her Bettie Page Egyptian hair? Or will he stay true to Jenny, the brainy angel of light? The trouble is that Cruise, at least in a high-powered potboiler like this one, is so devoted to maintaining his image as a clear and wholesome hero that his flirtation with the dark side is almost entirely theoretical. As Universal’s new “Dark Universe” (of which “The Mummy” is the first installment) unfolds, I wouldn’t hold my breath over which side is going to win, or how many more films it will take to play that out. It’s not just that there isn’t enough at stake (though there isn’t). It’s that the movie doesn’t seem to know how little at stake there is.

Film Review: Tom Cruise in 'The Mummy'

Reviewed at Regal E-Walk, New York, June 6, 2017. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 107 MIN.

Production

A Universal Pictures release of a Dark Universe, Perfect World Pictures in association with Secret Hideout, Conspiracy Factory, Sean Daniel Company production. Producers: Alex Kurtzman, Chris Morgan, Sean Daniel, Sarah Bradshaw. Executive producers: Jeb Brody, Robert Orci.

Crew

Director: Alex Kurtzman. Screenplay: David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman. Camera (color, widescreen): Ben Seresin. Editors: Gina Hirsch, Paul Hirsch, Andrew Mondshein.

With

Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance, Marwan Kenzari, Simon Atherton, Stephen Thompson.

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  1. woody says:

    Id love to suck out Sophia’s armpits.

  2. Jason says:

    Tom Cruise??? Really?? What a disaster!!! His attempts at being the funny, freeloading, all around fun guy turned out to be my last attempt at watching anything else with Cruise in it. The mummy franchise had great potential but was ruined by actors in their fifties and an overstuffed script with no substance. The director, casting director, and studio all made huge mistakes with their pics. Hope they don’t try to continue this horrible attempt to Resurrect The Mummy franchise!! There are plenty of actors in their 30s, 40s and 50s that could have done a great job! Again Tom Cruise???

  3. Jason says:

    Tom Cruise??? Really?? What a disaster!!! His attempts at being the funny, freeloading, all around fun guy turned out to be my last attempt at watching anything else with Cruise in it. The mummy franchise had great potential but was ruined by actors in their fifties and an overstuffed script with no substance. The director, casting director, and studio all made huge mistakes with their pics. Hope they don’t try to continue this horrible attempt to Resurrect The Mummy franchise!! There are plenty of actors in their 30s, 40s and 50s that could have done a great job! Again Tom Cruise???

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  5. Ms. Theresa Hoelscher says:

    Owen, your love-affair with your trusty thesaurus is obvious. Your review contains a large collection of words that hold no actual information. I will purchase a ticket for this movie merely to spite you, you loquacious bastard.

    • A reviewer with descriptive word power is a welcome thing. With only Japan as the one big market release not yet done, the movie needs huge legs in this weekend in China and a few other countries to get to economic sense. It may do $400 million globally but compared to the Brendan Fraser movies (allowing for inflation), it looks a disappointment but not a total disaster.
      I can see the Brendan Fraser movies (at least the first two) playing on TV in 10 years time because they are child friendly. Nearer to Roger Moore 007 James Bond.
      If Cruise had aimed for this market, then he could be getting 007 and Mission Impossible numbers. Hiis first Mission Impossible is regularly on TV and still selling DVDs over 20 years after he made them. Child friendly.
      Universal might rethink and go for The Light Universe.

    • tjchurch2001 says:

      Fine… But then please come back & edit your comment when you know what I learned for free: Movies (be they “Mummy” or “Mission”) that led Tom lead both on-camera & off hold no actual entertainment.

  6. Ray says:

    I thought the flick was entertaining. I would give it a b minus.
    It tried to be indiana jones and should have leaned more into the horror genre.
    The airplane and body bag scenes stood out.
    I think folks have been trying to knock cruise off his perch for a while. Guy is probably one of the greatest movie stars. Domestically this will drag, but it will hit over 500m worldwide.

    • If they had stuck to The Mummy and The Mummy Returns Indiana Jones style Brendan Fraser screenplays then it would have taken $800 million to $1.1 billion worldwide and then played and played and played on DVD, VOD and free to air TV. These were are still are massively profitable movies.
      Tom Cruise has had his biggest hits with Mission Impossible and would have aced it.

  7. Holypat777 says:

    You’d have to drag me into a theatre with chains hooked to my eyes.

  8. Bill B. says:

    No thanks. I wonder if he will ever again attempt to do something besides sequels, remakes and franchises. At one time I thought he was an actor. Instead he’s now just a weirdo cashing in. Next up: A sequel to Top Gun. I guess I can stop wondering.

  9. Chuckster says:

    Owen, FYI, spoiler alerts don’t work when the caption under the photo at the top of the article is a spoiler.

  10. Brendan Fraser who was superb in the first two Indiana Jones ‘Mummy’ movies (as opposed to the demonic horror which started to trickle in with the third one and has now destroyed the market with the Tom Cruise misguided failure) should now look to play juicy bad guys in the Alan Rickman or 007 Goldfinger, Man with The Golden Gun vogue. He likes character acting and can bring the box office charismatic joy to the antagonist.

    • tjchurch2001 says:

      I see myself joyful at the idea of him playing the villain… Would have been a good idea for the next “Mission” after the last one had a group trying to destroy the name of his team (with Renner taking over the good guys, the way he had for the “Bourne” series & after becoming an “Avenger”).

  11. Patrick Murphy says:

    This is so disappointing. The original Universal monster series had heart, the film’s built around story and character. It seems that the “powers that be” at Universa don’t get what made the classics tick. They don’t get what makes a good horror film tick. The latest Mummy movie isn’t a movie at all. It’s a product like floor wax or toothpaste. What a shame. What a bitter disappointment for fans of horror films and of the original Universal mummy movies.

    • tjchurch2001 says:

      It’s a mistake to try to recapture anything of the classics (especially with current ticket prices) when you have better-quality film, CGI, etc.

      That said, I don’t know what (if anything) makes any of them tick, but making Tom the lead should tick fans off… & off the roads that lead to the multiplex!

  12. Paul says:

    As a huge fan of the 1930’s originals that these films very very loosely connected to I have zero interest in this as a horror movie. It is a Tom Cruise Vs Evil movie (a third Jack Reacher film for all the rest matters). As little as the 90’s Frasier had to do with Karloff, it at least kept the name of the mummy, Im-Ho-Tep, from the original. The rest was Indian Jones and the Giant Sand Monster. I mean here they could have at least named the woman\princess mummy Anks-An-Ammon!

  13. Blue says:

    I quite liked Fraser’s “Mummy,” though it was mis-marketed as a horror movie. It was much better as an action-adventure with some great comedy from the Bennie character and good stuff from Evie and her brother.

    This is another attempt to create an MCU-style franchise, and some of the MCU is beginning to misfire.

  14. tjchurch2001 says:

    A question I see as bigger than the one that ends your paragraph: Why reboot this movie/franchise now? Or any action-film group with Tom Cruise at the lead? (His body is inhabited by evil in truth, or he’d have let Jeremy Renner lead the last few “Mission” films.)… Especially when you can find links to articles regarding why people/studios won’t cast Brendan Fraser (the original lead) anymore.

  15. Brett Newton says:

    The trailers were laughable, the concepts and planned spinoffs ridiculous and tired. Wonder Woman is going to kick its tired ass domestically. Overseas it will do somewhat better but overall, who cares? LOL

  16. Mike says:

    All I can say is this. If you don’t have some wizened crone, like Eduardo Cianelli or George Zucco intoning “Three tanna leaves gives him life, nine leaves gives him mobility, but if Kharis should ever come upon more than nine leaves, he would become an inhuman monster, that would kill, and Kill, and KILL AGAIN!” then you’ve missed the point Hollywood.

    The words, and the ideas, had to carry those original Universal movies of the thirties and forties, not multizillion dollar technobabble and technology, cartoon digitization, and blatant T and A nonsense.

  17. Kenneth Baker says:

    League of Extraordinary Gentleman did the monster mashup in a way. I’m one of 5 people on Earth who enjoyed it, but it was a fun movie. Why not redo the Mummy as a true horror movie, like the 1930’s original? James Wan and Blumhouse seem to be making boatloads of cash with each release they do. Conjuring was PG, almost no CGI, and made $200 million. Go for broke, make it R rated, have the mummy be really gross and terrifying and leave you wondering what its intentions are. It Comes At Night looks a scarier than this.

  18. Gert Finkelhoffer says:

    “devoted to maintaining his image as a clear and wholesome hero”

    Don’t you mean clean and wholesome? Remember Mr. Gleiberman proofreading is your friend.

    • Good question (and I appreciate the proof-reading eye), but yes, I actually did mean “clear.”

      • bratface23 says:

        I see what you did there Mr. Gleiberman. Pretty slick. Coincidentally I am currently watching an old Law & Order episode that is about ‘Systemotics’! Spooky?

  19. WordsOfWisdom says:

    This looks awful

  20. bobbo says:

    Uh, before posting online, please have someone read your article for grammatical errors and just plain wrong word usage.

  21. George St. Vankleek says:

    is this the same reviewer that wrote the sexist Wonder Woman review then wrote that people didn’t read it correctly?

  22. chapmangirl says:

    There’s a little show called Penny Dreadful that mixed many of the monsters successfully, in the same space. This isn’t a new idea.

  23. Janet Welsch says:

    DEFINITELY going to see this film.

  24. Nanny Mo says:

    Tom’s starting to show his age. It will be fascinating to see if he can “Sean Connery” or “Michael Cain” well. Tom’s talented but will he age well and play grandpa #4 well? We will just have to wait and see.

    • Having had huge success with ‘The Firm’ he should make John Grisham’s ‘The Partner’.

    • He should study carefully the movies which Sinatra made in the 1960s, the Humphrey Bogart gumshoe movies, the Robert Di Niro movie Ronin, the Paul Newman movies such as ‘The Prize’, ‘The Sting’, ‘Towering Inferno’, the Clint Eastwood movies ‘Firefox’ and ‘The Eiger Sanction’ and the Liam Neeson movies of the last 10 years. He should especially look at the Frederick Forsyth novels ‘Day of The Jackal’ and ‘The Odessa File’ as well as the absolute must of Jefferey Archer’s ‘A Matter of Honour’.

  25. Al Wren says:

    I am bothered my taxes support part of Mr. Cruises lavish life style through scientology.
    Have you seen what they give him?
    YUCK

  26. Salman Khan says:

    I liked the overall trailer of the movie. I love all the Tom Cruise movies as i will also love it. The movie will be a box office hit.

  27. Bob says:

    Fraser and Weisz had looks and charm to spare. Cruise looks mummified with botox and colored hair. Wallis is just an excruciating blank. This movie was made for bad/corporate reasons. It’s going to end up driving another nail in the movie business coffin. Congrats.

  28. Kajol says:

    Why is Cruise only paired with women in their 30s? Ugh!

    • LOL says:

      George Clooney is doing it for real.

      • You are so right. Movies like this need babes in their early 20s to late twenties. Tom needs a younger hotter babe as well as a really much lighter funnier script such as the Brendan Fraser Mummy 1999, Indiana Jones, Mission Impossible 4 or Roger Moore James Bond.

  29. Geor says:

    Whose idea was it to combine different creatures to create a shared universe? Well, anyone who saw the old Universal monster films from the 1930s or 1940s. They did that then. Also, anyone who has seen any Marvel films from the last ten years, including “Avengers” (currently one of the five top grossing films of all time). It doesn’t seem like such a crazy idea to me.

  30. cadavra says:

    Please stop referring to the Fraser pictures as “the originals.” That term belongs to the Karloff classic and the 1940s follow-ups. Those movies were–and remain–a lot more entertaining…and a lot shorter.

    • Nick says:

      Those aren’t the “originals.” The originals were The Mummy from 1911 and The Eyes Of The Mummy from 1918. Both far better than the karloff cheapie.

    • Nanny Mo says:

      Very true! I remember them and they still hold up pretty well. Worth watching if you never had.

  31. Cruise could also remake ‘The French Connection’, ‘French Connection 2’, ‘The Seven Ups’, or watch and learn from the British 1970s TV series ‘The Sandbaggers’, ‘Secret Army’ and ‘Colditz’. Ready made great material which with modern film making technology would rock and roll. Of course a remake of ‘The Great Escape’ or ‘Von Ryan’s Express’ would be fantastic. They were extremely profitable.

  32. Bad move. Bad movie. Bad business. The Mummy movies from 1999 made superb profits. The technology has moved on. 18 years after the first one there is a complete new generation who did not see them on the big screen nor DVD. Perfect time for a straightforward retelling with little in the way of rethinking the plot. New faces. Keep it light not dark.
    You might get the 1999 audience as well as the fresh audience to go pay and see it. Maybe parents going with their children.
    As it is making the movies darker has limited the audience appeal.
    Tom Cruise would be wise to see what he does really really well. Mission Impossible. The Cold War movies of the 50s, 60s, 70s with big budget and CGI can give him hit after hit. The Cold War movies are back. The Bourne series from 2002 was an adaption of a straight Cold War spy novel and a 1980s TV series with Richard Chamberlain.
    Cruise might see if Yul Bryner’s ‘The Double Man’ gives him the acting twist he seeks inside a great spy thriller.
    He could remake ‘The Quiller Memorandum’.
    ‘The Venetian Affair’, ‘Topaz’, ‘The Prize’, ‘Topaz’, ‘Night Flight From Moscow’, and many others.
    He could remake an updated ‘Firefox’. Or an updated ‘Odessa File’, ‘Day of The Jackal’, ‘The Fourth Protocol’, or unmade Frederick Forsyth novels such as ‘Fist of God’, ‘Icon’, ‘Veteran’, ‘The Avenger’, ‘The Afghan’, ‘The Kill List’.
    He certainly could remake ‘Where Eagles Dare’, ‘Ice Station Zebra’ , ‘Puppet on a Chain’ and other Alistair McLean material.
    But he should right now be making Jeffery Archer’s ‘A Matter of Honour’.
    He could also make ‘The Partner’ by John Grisham.
    Hopefully the Mummy will not finish his box office clout.

  33. Frank says:

    For anyone reading this “review” who hasn’t seen the original first two Mummy movies with Brandon F. Please don’t listen to the author of this mess.
    Those two movies may have been a bit of a step down from Indiana Jones but on their own they hold up very well. Indiana Jones movies, like the first two mummy movies are meant to hearken back to the old serial movie reels of yore. They both require the viewer to suspend disbelief and to have fun.
    Those mummy movies are fun and they are not stupid or puerile. They draw you in and make you like the characters even the bad guys.

    I fail to see anything wrong with them at all. If you have to be 10 to “confuse” them for good movies then the author must be 1000 years old. Maybe Owen here is a mummy himself, that would explain a lot. In fact, those movies made Brandon F. a huge star and frankly I miss him. Unlike Indiana Jones, Brandon made his character able to relate to and likable.

    The original Mummy movies, as the monkey that wrote this said, “had the courage of its convictions…or the fun of its nonsense” They were very much worth watching and enjoying.

    Don’t listen to this jaded and miserable review. As for the new Mummy, Tom Cruise? No thanks, he scares me more than any back from the dead pharaoh ever could.

    • Paula Stiles says:

      I agree. There’s nothing wrong with meat and potatoes when done well–and it’s not very easy to do that well. The original Universal films were good (the first was the best), but so were the Brendan Fraser/Rachel Weisz versions (well…the first two, anyway). They did the job of entertaining the audience thoroughly. Surely, with so many flops of late, the reviewer would have noticed this job is not an easy one to accomplish, no matter how much money you throw at it.

      • tjchurch2001 says:

        I like a few of Brendan’s films (the first “George of Jungle” springs to mind). However, I only saw bits of the first “Mummy” film (@ a Halloween party years later), & found even those bits hard to stomach. That said, I saw “Returns” & the first “Scorpion King” (I was a wrestling fan), & enjoyed those.

        Likewise, I have seen every “Mission” film thus far, & still have no idea why anyone would redo Brendan’s first of the films (or even a newer version with mentions/appearances of other movie monsters, as I have read discussed to ready for future films), nor why anyone would cast Tom in the lead! It appears to me as though they are trying to make someone into an off-camera hero by proving they can overcome this mountainous pile of mistakes!

    • David says:

      I don’t think he’s saying what you think he’s saying.

      • You are correct. The first two Mummy movies in 1999 and 2001 were magnificent joyful entertainment. You describe the intention of the movie maker and target audience superbly. It is self-evident from the trailors that this tone and this audience is not what the darker nastier more evil Cruise reboots are chasing. Cruise is not a horror movie box office draw.
        If Cruise fears his age requires a new edge and a material tweak, then he would be better trying to do updated Humphrey Bogart film noir or more light hearted Frank Sinatra Tony Rome material.
        The Brendan Fraser material was very profitable on cinema, DVD and stands up to repeated rewatching.

  34. the original mummy with boris karloff was a great horror movie. nothing they do with cgi can match that.

  35. tripledipper says:

    It’s allabout the script, the story. Sure, there are many many more elements but if that fails the rest does not matter. You can’t make a bad script good. You’d think they’d figure that out by now.

  36. Daniel says:

    The movie looks terrible so it’s no surprise that it’s getting terrible reviews.

  37. DandyDude says:

    The problem is … they give us forgettable, hyped up, bubble gum action flicks instead of horror. Imagine a remake more like the Karloff original–they could really make that spooky.

    Still, the actress, Sofia Boutella, is stunning, and from the trailers, seems like she does a great job.

  38. Cyril Julien says:

    This review is a prime example of a reviewer who do zero homework and knows squat about the movie he just watched. Has he even watched any of the Universal classic monster movies from the 1930’s and how they merged the Woodman, Dracula and Frankenstein film sequels to create the first ever film universe? If he did even a remote bit of homework then he’d be aware that this is the first in the rebooting of that, not the 1990’s Mummy films. Universal are bringing all their classic monsters together in a series of connected stories and that’s why Dr Jekyll is in this movie. Most Ill informed review I’ve read this year, next time get a glue before you start exposing yourself for how little you actually know or understand about film studio projects. The average fanboy could have clued you up in 5 minutes.

    • David says:

      Are you 14? Gleiberman’s been at this longer than you’ve been alive. I love it when commenters think a critic should do research before reviewing a movie. If the movie is good, it gets a good review. If it sucks it gets a bad review. No amount of ‘homework’ is going to change that. I’m pretty sure he’s seen all the old monster movies and I’m also pretty sure he was comparing this to the Fraser ones because those at least knew they were mindless. You really sound like a snivelling child.

    • DandyDude says:

      I just wish they’d give us horror, and not “spiderman in a cape with fangs”, which is probably what the Dracula one will be like.

      • TV Viewer says:

        More like ‘Batman with fangs’ than Spiderman, unless he eats flies in addition to drinking blood.

  39. jd says:

    Quite surprised that Cruise agreed to star in this. He has two successful franchises, Mission Impossible and Jack Reacher and outside of these, he is better when he makes original type action movies like Edge of Tomorrow. He needs to get back to making more non blockbuster type movies like Magnolia and Collateral which thankfully he is with American Made. I’ll probably still watch this but quite surprised he agreed to be in it.

    • Nas says:

      Tom Cruise looks horribly miscast. Very odd choice to star in this movie.

    • Jonathan Thomas says:

      Cruise as Jack Reacher was an absolute disaster to anyone who’s read Child’s books. Cruise is nothing like the Reacher in the books – NOTHING. From the ‘pretty-boy’ looks to the 9 inches lack of height, Cruise didn’t resemble Jack Reacher in the slightest. No fan of the books will go see the film.

    • Ethan says:

      Doesn’t seem like the non blockbusters interest him very much anymore. I mean, Collateral was still kinda a blockbuster and even that was 13 years ago

  40. stevenkovacs says:

    I’ll be seeing it only because Tom Cruise is in it. His commitment to the material is palpable and appreciated!

  41. “Cruise is so devoted to maintaining his image as a clear and wholesome hero”

    his best work is when he plays flawed people Rain Man, Magnolia, Collateral

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