THE MUMMY RETURNS
Director: Stephen Sommers
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, The Rock, Oded Fehr
MPAA Rating: (for adventure and action violence)
Running Time: 2:01
Release Date: 5/4/01
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Review by Mark Dujsik
The charm of the first Mummy film was that it took nothing seriously. Itís plot was this simple: a priest loved the wife of the pharaoh and was buried alive only to be brought back to life in the 20s. He needed to be stopped before he could take over the world, or something like that. The problem with The Mummy Returns is that it tries to qualify the need for a sequel with an extraordinarily unnecessary amount of plot.
There is so much going on here, itís impossible to get caught up in the fun of its action and adventure. The first thirty minutes contain a huge war of global domination, the flooding of a temple with water from the Nile (does it completely drain the river?), the digging up of the mummy from the original, an attack on the heroesí house, and a kidnapping. This may seem like the start of a great time at the movies, but unfortunately, the next forty or so minutes is filled with flashback that give new information to the opening sequence of the original, following kidnappers (not the one I first mentioned, but a second), and many attempts to explain the reason for why the movie exists.
The movie kicks off with the story of the Scorpion King (WWFís The Rock), who is attempting to conquer the world. After his army is defeated, he makes a pact with the god Anubis to spare his life if he gives him his soul. The god grants his prayer and soon the Scorpion King and the soldiers of Anubis have battled far and wide, and then for some reason, they all disappear. The Rock disappears from this point on also; his next appearance is in CGI form.
Well, the heroes of the first movie, Rick OíConnell (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn Carnahan O'Connell (Rachel Weisz) (they are married now, of course), happen upon the bracelet of the Scorpion King. The bracelet seems quite popular because a trio of thieves try to steal it from them, until the Nile floods the temple, of course. They escape the temple with the help of their son, Alex (Freddie Boath). Next, we see a group of people digging up Im-Ho-Tep (Arnold Vosloo), the mummy. Why would anyone dig this monster up again? Well, the movie attempts to explain: You see, the Scorpion King will be resurrected and try to conquer the world, and Im-Ho-Tep may be the only one to stop him. So, does that make him a good guy? No. That would be too simple. Apparently, if Im-Ho-Tep defeats the Scorpion King, he will gain control of the army, and then he can conquer the world. It seems like a lose-lose situation for the world, doesnít it? One may ask, why resurrect the Scorpion King to begin with? Well, apparently the only answer is that without him, thereís no sequel.
Now, I am willing to discard this implausibility, but unfortunately the movie seems to be trying to convince itself that there is a reason for its existence. Hence, we have the forty or so minutes of exposition in the middle of the story. It gets quite boring during this strand, and the new information leads to some interesting questions about reincarnation. The mummyís lover has been reincarnated but "in body only." The soul comes later. Iím sorry, but doesnít reincarnation mean that the soul of one individual occupies another body at a later time? The movie doesnít think so, because there are two characters who share this metaphysical paradox.
The movie does do some things well. The action and fight scenes near the end are well-choreographed, and certain other action set pieces are effective. I liked the energy of the first thirty minutes, even though there was a lot going on. I enjoyed the chase on the double-decker bus. Even though the scene involving vicious pygmy-like creature is straight out of The Lost World, it still is effective. The humor in these scenes is definitely reminiscent of the first movie, and, like the first movie, it works at times.
Similarly, the special effects are hit and miss. Some of them are impressive (the dog-headed army at the end and the pygmy creatures come to mind); some of them are adequate (the new incarnation of the Scorpion King and the giant tidal wave); some are just plain cheesy (the dog-headed armyís attacks in the opening, the bugs, and a view of the underworld). While some of the special effects in the original were cheap, it added to the campy fun. Here it seems odd considering an obviously bigger budget, and it definitely distracts from what should have been some of the movieís more exciting parts.
What can I say about The Mummy Returns? It has some moments that work in the same way as the first movie, but the awkward need to explain itself ruins the appeal and fun that The Mummy had. I must give it credit for coming up with a slightly less obvious title than The Mummy 2óbut not too much.
Note: Iíve known that special-effects artists have a strange sense of humor and like to put little in-jokes into their work. Well, I finally caught one of their jokes, and it is a very funny reference to Dr. Strangelove. If you would like to try to find it on your own, stop reading now. At the end of the pygmy attack, some of them cross a log over a chasm and are blown up by a stick of dynamite. As they fall to their deaths, one of the pygmies copies Slim Pickensí infamous ride on the A-bomb. It was subtle, but I noticed it. I would like to thank whoever did this and let you know it did not go unnoticed.
Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.