In the production notes for "The Mummy Returns", writer-director Stephen
Sommers is quoted as saying: "By the time we had finished making 'The Mummy', we had all these ideas for a sequel that would tell the story with a much larger canvas and feature the next generation of special effects. I wanted to bring back a lot of the same characters in an entirely new adventure without relying on old tricks. I really wanted to outdo myself."
It may be hard to believe, but Sommers definitely has. Not only is "The Mummy Returns" bigger in scope than the fun-filled original, but it is better in every way imaginable.
The breakneck storyline rockets us through a myriad
of time periods and settings, and by the time we have traveled from
the shifting sands of Egypt to the winding streets of London, we
truly feel as if we have been on an epic adventure.
The grotesque gallery of monstrosities conjured up by Academy Award-winner John Berton and his crew in the labs of Industrial Light And Magic
has also been enhanced. Whereas in the first installment there were
bothersome bugs, ancient corpses, and The Mummy himself to challenge
our heroes, in the sequel there are more of the same plus wickedly evil pygmies, mummies who scamper along like spiders, fearsome jackal-like warriors, and the centerpiece of the sequel, The Scorpion King.
"The Mummy Returns" takes place eight years after freelance mercenary Rick
O'Connell (Brendan Fraser), Egyptologist Evelyn 'Evie' Carnahan (Rachel
Weisz), and her brother Jonathan (John Hannah) stopped the all-powerful
Mummy (Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep) from taking over the world. Rick and
Evelyn have since gotten hitched and now have a son named Alex
(nine-year-old newcomer Freddie Boath).
Alex embodies the best of mom and pop. He has his mother's smarts and his dad's sense of adventure. Of course, the little ankle-biter is prone to getting into trouble, and does when he tries on the Scorpion King's gauntlet, a mystical item sought after by the resurrected Mummy.
Old rag-face and The Scorpion King are destined to duke it out for supremacy, and the gauntlet could tip the scales in Imhotep's favour, since anyone possessing it has the power to control a supernatural army of Anubis's creation. Mom, dad and their friends race against the sands of time to save Alex, foil the Mummy's scheme to gain immortality, and send The Scorpion King back from whence he came. Talk about a busy day at the office.
Unlike, say, a dizzying Michael Bay-Jerry Bruckheimer production, which throws so much at us that don't have space to breath or make sense of it all, writer-director Sommers has achieved a perfect balance with "The
Mummy Returns". He neatly juggles the multitude of characters, plots,
and settings without muddling up the works or overloading his audience with
tumultuous effects and stunts. Though there are plenty of those to be had.
Sommers is a conservative filmmaker who wastes little screen time. He's got
a lot of ideas to pack into the film, and he does it well. It's one
harrowing predicament after another, culminating in a finale that features
not one, not two, but three major battles occurring simultaneously.
The lone disappointment is The Scorpion King. For the first five minutes or so of the film, he appears in human form and is played by World Wrestling Federation superstar The Rock (Dwayne Johnson). Then we don't see The Scorpion King again until the very end, and when we do he is a computer-generated half-man, half-scorpion creature.
It's peculiar that, even though The Scorpion King is slated to star in his
own feature film in the near future, The Rock is given so little screen time and during it doesn't even utter a word of English. All that we know
about him is what others dig up throughout the course of the story and what
the narrator tells us as he describes the noble warrior selling his soul to
Anubis, an Egyptian god of the dead.
The final transformation of The Scorpion King is also poorly done. While
the scorpion body is a sight to behold, The Rock's computerized head looks
as if it were made out of play-dough rather than the flesh and bone it is
supposed to be. It's back to the drawing board for The Scorpion King, it
Still, if you got a kick out of Sommers' original take on Karl Freund's 1932 horror classic, you're gonna get wrapped up in this rollicking sequel.
This is a movie year that has hobbled out of the starting gate. "The Mummy Returns" will surely be the film that gives the box office the boost it needs.
The Powell Factor
An ineffective Scorpion King + more bugs than you can shake a can of Raid
at + one double-decker bus chase scene + Brendan Fraser for saying ..."Oh, I
hate mummies" + two huge field battles + Rachel Weisz cracking skulls
+ Freddie Boath for saying to The Mummy ... "My dad's gonna kick your ass!"
+ one flood trap + attack of the pygmies + The Mummy's tidal wave + Brendan
Fraser for saying ..."It's not easy being a dad" + one hand gets chewed up
- The Rock's cameo appearance + one hell hole + Brendan Fraser for saying
to The Scorpion King ..."Go to hell, and take your friends with you" + John
Hannah's comic relief + Anubis's army from hell = A rare find.
(More on: The Mummy Returns).
(This film is rated PG)
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