THE MUMMY RETURNS (DELUXE EDITION)
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
The O'Connell's are back, when they are called on by their Medji friend Ardeth Bey to stop the evil Mummy Imhotep once again. This time, the high priest has their 10 year old son Alex, and is using him to find the resting place of the Scorpion King, who's Anubis Army can be used to conquer the known world. Aided by an army of desert warriors and a cheeky Brit with a dirigible, can the stop not only Imhotep but a legion of dog soldiers, an oasis full of pygmy mummy headhunters and the terrible Scorpion King himself?
Is it good movie?
Well ten years have passed in movie land (while only two years have passed in real world time, what is this now, a bloody soap opera!), and the effects laden, popcorn and nacho cheese dipped summer fun machine is back. Was this movie really worth another trip to the Universal cinematic well? Is there actually any shred of a decent story beneath all of these stunts and thousands of CGI effects? Can Oded Fehr be any cooler?
Well I don't know about story, but this sequel to the 1999 box office smash remake certainly is a fun movie. It's dumb fun, but it is fun nonetheless. Honestly, the first time I saw this movie, I was so stricken retarded by the absolute onslaught of visual f*ckery on display here, that I had a blast. I didn't even notice the rehash of the story from the first movie, nor did I mind the lame pygmy mummies or the piss poor ILM job they did turning The Rock into a giant scorpion man. The story is pretty thin, the kid is annoying, the plot is contrived and the entire ordeal is sort of anti-climactic. So why do I like this movie? From everything I said it should have been a steaming poo poo platter destined to die an inglorious death in the depths of bad film hell, much like the later prequel The Scorpion King did!
Well, tfor the most part the effects are impressive. I seriously dug the Anubis Dog Army, and the action sequences are well done and nicely framed in gorgeous wide shots. I hate tight and choppy fight scenes, and the ones in this movie are killer to say the least. While the Rock is not exactly an A-List actor here, he does alright, but it's the chemistry again between Fraser and Weisz that drives this movie. As well, Arnold Vosloo is great with what he is given, which is a more sympathetic role that even shows a little character development. But the show stopper again for me was Oded Fehr, and him leading an army of Medji against the Anubis Army was the highlight of the flick for me. It was a wicked battle in the middle of a bland story. So much of the movie was just fluff and mostly a rehash of the first one anyway, that I wasn't too enthralled with it story wise. But the visuals are what I love about this movie, hands down. A lot of people like to shit all over this movie, citing the vapid story or tired creature effects as examples of being a loud, brash and senseless popcorn blockbuster, but I like it because of the same reasons I like a lot of movies out there: I can tune out and just enjoy the hell out of it. It's not very filling, but this popcorn tastes damn good, man!
But aside from my obvious enjoyment of the movie, there really were a lot of problems with it. Fun or no, I think some balls were dropped when, if infused with a deep and more fleshed out mummy story, this could have been something more than a silly effects extravaganza with ewoks....sorry, with pygmy mummies and big scorpion monsters that, despite the attention to detail that went into them, looked as fake San Fernando DD's. Sad, because this really isn't a great testament to the amazingly deep legacy of Universal horror. Sure, it's a good time, but really it's just another blockbuster, and a prime example of style over substance.
I still dig it though. Call me crazy.
Video / Audio
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen - 2.35:1.
Audio: English, Spanish and French (Dolby Digital 5.1) with subtitles in English, Spanish and French.
On Disc One we have:
Audio Commentary with director/writer Stephen Sommers and executive producer/editor Bob Ducsay. It's entertaining enough, in a generic sort of way, but like most of the features from this and its predecessor, they focus more on the effects than on the actual story and acting and such.
Outtakes (6:00): It's the usual stuff, but it is kind of fun because the actors are funny in their own rights.
And on Disc Two:
An Army to Rule the World Part 2 (6:00): A short look at the painstaking detail the artists went into to create the digital armies for the movie. Dig those dog soldiers, man.
Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy (8:08): A short history lesson on Universal mummy movies, recycled from previous releases and from both the Legacy version of the Karloff The Mummy, and the deluxe edition of the 1999 remake.
Storyboard to Final Film Comparison: An almost eight minute look at the evolution of some key scenes from the movie. Only of interest if you like this shit.
Visual and Special Effects Formation (20:00): These are divided into four segments: Imhotep Returns, Pygmy Mummies Attack, Anubis Warriors Rising, and Scorpion King Revealed. While I enjoyed it more than some of the other features, it would have been better as a straigh 20 minute featurette, and not as 20 seperate little glimpses. Tedious, but mildly entertaining.
Spotlight On Location (20:00): It's the usual 20 minute commercial featuring smiling heads, back slapping and "oh this movie will blow you away" testimonials. We've seen it a thousand times, and this just rehashes almost everything said previously in the other features.
Egyptology 201: An historical look into the real story behind the popcorn madness, divided into the sections "An In-depth Look At Mummification," "The Most Famous Mummy: King Tut," "Animals Of Ancient Egypt," "Myths & Magic Of Ancient Egypt," and "The Scorpion King: Myth Or Reality?". Fun, and one of my favourite kind of features.
Music Video: This is for Live's "Forever May Not Be Long Enough" music video, which is a little overrought and goofy, even if you like the band. It's capped off by an ad for the soundtrack.
An Exclusive Interview With The Rock (3.43): This was made back in the days when Dwayne was still referring to himself in the third person as the Rock, and using his over the top wrestling persona. Trite and unconvincing, especially when they get into it about his acting "talent", which as far as I can see really didn't develop until well after this movie.
Finally, there is the trailer for the film, the same 3 minute commercial for the third Mummy movie, Tomb Of The Dragon Emporer, and a free movie ticket for said sequel, which looks to only be good in the United States (BOO!). As well, the much touted Digital Copy of the film included didn't work for me or my machine, maybe because I don't use Windows. Oh well.
Short on actual substance but heavy on the empty CGI calories, I still love watching The Mummy Returns for the fun of it. It's not great cinema for many reasons, but it's not a steaming pile of camel shit either. This new DVD release, with recycled and newer features, is worth it if you're a fan and you don't already own a copy of the flick. But the downward spiral of decent storytelling that the Universal monsters have become in the hands of Stephen Sommers(Van Helsing anyone) doesn;t bode well for the third mummy flick, even with a new director. Even the inclusion of the great Jet Li can't make up for the lack of Rachel Weisz, or for the shift from Egyptian mythological hijinks. But for sheer and utter entertainment, without all the complications of deeper thought, this movie and it's predecessor are better than most.