After the rousing success that was The Mummy a sequel was inevitable. Fast tracked by Universal, The Mummy Returns was quickly conceived and cast, reuniting our heroes (and villains) from the first movie and mixing in a bit of fat and history into the film. On top of the new plot points, new characters introduced such as the son of Rock and Evelyn as well as the new mystical and historical character, The Scorpion King, who received his own spin-off prequel which released a short year after The Mummy Returns smashed onto screens. While it didn’t receive as strong reviews as its predecessor, fans still found The Mummy Returns a fun romp, even if it did have its fair share of quirks.
Picking up nine years from the last time we saw O’Connell and the Carnahan’s, we quickly learn that after falling in love during their first adventure together, Rick and Evie married and had a son of their own, named Alex. Within no time at all, Alex is causing trouble for his parents while they’re in ruins excavating priceless and long lost artifacts. After returning from a fruitful venture, Alex begins to play with the Scorpion King bracelet, which, upon being put on, shows him the way to a series of locations that would lead to the resurrection of the Scorpion King. After Imhotep is resurrected, accompanied by a reincarnated Anck Su Namun, to fight the Scorpion King, they learn about Alex O’Connell’s new artifact and steal him for themselves.
Like The Mummy, I went into The Mummy Returns with a happy spirit. It’d been so long since I’ve seen them and I was eagerly awaiting seeing them again, not only for the first time in a long time but to also experience them in high-definition. While The Mummy Returns didn’t disappoint in the video and audio department, I was absolutely astonished at how downright boring and repetitious The Mummy Returns turned out to be. At first I thought it was a slow start, but even by the adventurous final act, I wondered how I enjoyed this film as a kid. It was downright boring.
While The Mummy Returns has the same characters and dialogue type as the first film, the sequel attempts to pack in too much “history” into the film, thus sucking time down for plot exposition and to fill us in on elements that we may not necessarily care about. Rick suddenly has a tattoo that means he’s some ancient protector and Ardeth Bay didn’t notice this in the first film? I don’t buy it. That’s just a bit too convenient and when mixed with Evie’s apparent new ancestry and the random flashbacks she’s suddenly having because of it just came across way too contrived. Rick’s tattoo I could have swallowed if the entire story didn’t wrap around Evie. Too much faith had to be placed in the hands of the audience and I just couldn’t swallow all of it that they were shoving into my grasp.
So with those two negatives aside, how was the rest of the film? Well I’m not done nitpicking yet. Another issue with the film is the son of Rick and Evie. You may say “Oh great, you just don’t like it when main characters have a child and that child is incorporated into the story!” Well, that’s true. But that’s not my issue here; I can easily look past that contrived plot point (the entire animated The Mummy series was based around Alex, I got used to him). The issue in the film is that despite being the parents of Alex and fawning over him when they reunite with him and whatnot, I honestly and truly don’t believe that they’re the parents of Alex. They act stiff and awkward around him, more as a friend or baby sitters than actual parents. Fraser does a better job than Weisz…which actually another issue I have with the film.
Weisz’s role in the film was front and center and was greatly expanded upon her character from the first film. Not a huge deal, that’s fine, but she didn’t seem to be able to carry the torch. Her mannerisms were different and she didn’t feel like the same character from the first film. Maybe it was her new dreams and her learning of “her” past, but her newfound independence just didn’t sit right. Perhaps if she’d shown signs of change by the end of the first film, where she was a slightly shy and professional librarian…this second film was like her entire character changed. It’ll be interesting to see how Maria Bello handles the Evie character in Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
So am I done complaining? Well I could rant about The Rock, but I’ll save that for The Scorpion King review. The rest of The Mummy Returns was just a boring and uneventful fair and seemed like something was rushed (it was) and not entirely fleshed out. What The Mummy lacked in story it made up for in action; what The Mummy Returns lacked in story it attempted to cover up with more exposition. What writer/director Sommers didn’t seem to realize was that it wasn’t the story that people really cared about with The Mummy; it was the entertaining characters and fun action that kept audiences glued to their seat. When you start trying to throw in too much stuff like fate and destiny so haphazardly without laying seeds in the previous film, it just creates an immediate disconnect.
So with The Mummy Returns we get a weak sequel to a fantastic film. Is The Mummy Returns still worth watching? If you liked the first film, then definitely, yes, this comes Recommended. There is so much that could have been handled better, but when you get the bickering and camaraderie between Fraser, Fehr and Hannah going, the film becomes a lot more entertaining. Plus the final act was cool to watch, even if the CGI Scorpion King looked incredibly strange.
Much about the presentation of The Mummy Returns is similar to The Mummy: a reflective foil slipcover slides over a standard Blu-ray case with another reflective foil insert underneath. Inside the packaging is the disc itself with its own shiny reflective disc art and an insert for other Universal Blu-ray’s coming out. There’s also a ticket (or rather a code for a ticket) to the next The Mummy movie, so if you purchase this you get a free ride to the next one. Not a bad deal. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and utilize a “blade” system similar to that of the XBOX LIVE service.
Since this film is a few years newer the transfer is, of course, a bit more solid and clearly defined. There’s plenty of detail to be found in the video and, in particular, I found the Pygmy sequence to be a great use of both the video and audio portions of the disc. The black levels were nice and rich and stood out well against the slight illumination of the forest leaves and trees. The audio mix, a 5.1 DTS HD MA track, also gets great surround usage here, with plenty of chatter in the speakers as the Pygmy’s fly around and attack people. The day time sequences also look wonderful and even the CGI in this film, aside from the horrendous Scorpion King, looks nice on this 1080p VC-1 transfer.
Moving onto the extras for the disc we get the host of extras from the DVD edition but also some Blu-ray exclusive extras as well. “U-Control” plays special features while you’re watching the movie via the picture-in-picture mode. I’m not totally sure what, if anything, was new for these picture-in-picture segments or why anyone would want their film repeatedly interrupted by the extras, but I guess someone might want to check it out. I will say I was pleasantly surprised how well this worked, although it was a bit confusing to get set up at first. This is clearly a format for the tech savvy, as I can’t imagine trying to explain this U Control system to my parents. They’re still struggling with DVD menus.
Next we start out with a commentary with director/writer Stephen Sommers and Executive Producer/Editor Bob Ducsay who provide a solid and entertaining track. Sommers goes through similar paces as The Mummy’s commentary, so if you listened to that one you’ll know what to expect here. Sommers and Ducsay have plenty of humorous anecdotes about the production of the film, so there’s no short of entertainment to gleam from this track. If only the same could be said for the film.
The majority of the extras are either repeated from The Mummy: Deluxe Edition release (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Sneak Peek (3:01), “Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy” (8:07)) or are repeated from the previous DVD release (Outtakes (6:07), “Visual and Special Effects Formation” , four total, “Spotlight on Location: The Making of The Mummy Returns” (20:03), “Storyboard to Final Film Comparison”, three different sequences, Live – “Forver May Not Be Long Enough” music video (4:33)). The making-of is your usual fair with cast and crew interviews, with the visual and storyboard comparisons bridging sequences from the film to the finalized versions.
Exclusive to this release is “An Army to Rule the World: Part 2” (5:59) is a “sequel” to the extra of the same name from The Mummy, but it’s an odd thing to sequel as it’s just discussion of the SF/X in the film. “An Exclusive Conversation with The Rock” (3:42), which, despite being conducted around the time of The Mummy Returns, is included here for the first time as well. It’s odd to see Dwayne Johnson play the interview so straight and hardcore; he’s a much goofier guy now.
That wraps up this edition of The Mummy Returns and while most of the extras are simple rehashes, they’re all fairly entertaining in their own way. This is definitely a weaker effort than The Mummy, in several ways, but it’s still worth checking out if you like mindless popcorn flicks. Recommended.
The Mummy Returns: Deluxe Edition is now available on DVD and arrives on Blu-ray on July 22nd.