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Face-Off: The Mummy vs. The Mummy Returns

Come hither, come hither, enthusiasts of the surreal and profane! If it is thrills and mayhem you seek, then I am happy to welcome you to The Face Off – a trial to the death between two worthy foes. Those who remember last session will recall the titans DEADPOOL and LOGAN squaring off, with the clawed hero standing tall. But that was last time, and we have no time to dwell in the past.

This week we have a dozy for you, as it takes us all the way back to ancient Egypt, and then fast forwards to early 20th century Egypt, which is still super old. Yes, prepare for a duel fit for pharaohs and gods between the adventure juggernauts – THE MUMMY and THE MUMMY RETURNS in honor of the Tom Cruise-led reboot hitting this weekend. Both films were directed by Stephen Sommers and starred a recurring cast including Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Arnold Vosloo and more. Given both movies are virtually identical in the director and cast field (the only difference being some extra characters rounding out RETURNS), we shall instead jump right into the nitty-gritty details, meaning these foes will have to strike each other harder and faster to get the win. Which will succeed? Loser is mummified on the spot.

STORY
Generations after high priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) was mummified for having an affair with the Pharaoh’s mistress, a young egyptologist, Evelyn “Evie” Gardner (Rachel Weisz), enlists the help of dashing adventurer Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) to help lead her to the ancient city of Hamunaptra. However, their quest for knowledge and glory unlocks the monstrous Imhotep, who wants to take over the world with his magic mummy powers out of revenge. An adventure across Egypt ensues, and plenty of mummies are killed in the name of saving the day and remaking a beloved horror classic into an INDIANA JONES-style adventure. That's a good thing, right?
The O'Connells are living a life of tomb raiding, exploring and domestic bliss, but once the story really kicks in it takes similar story elements from the first and goes all crazy with it. This time a resurrected Imhotep says, “[email protected] it, I’ll just use some other guy's army instead,” leading him to hunt for the Bracelet of Anubus which will lead him to the tomb of the Scorpion King (Dwayne "Still at this point 'The Rock'" Johnson). The bracelet finds its way into the hands of the O’Connell’s and onto the wrist of their son, who is then kidnapped. Adventure across Egypt…mummy killings...save the day.
NOTABLE BITS & LINES

Ancient Egypt


Eaten by beetles!

Opening raid on Hamunaptra

Rachel Weisz: Sexy, clusmsy egyptologist

River boat assault.

"Hey, Benny! It looks to me like you're on the wrong side of the river!"

Race to Hamunaptra

Beetle crawls up the body.

It's a Trap!

The Mummy Returns.

Locusts!

Mummy screams, Fraser screams, we all scream.

"This creature is the bringer of death. He will never eat, he will never sleep. He will never stop."

The Mummy's Kiss

Becoming whole again.

Sand Attack!

The Mummy's thugs.

The final fight

Tale of the Scorpion King


Escape from the Tomb

Rumble at O'Connell Manor

The beetles are back!

The Mummy Returns...again

The Mummy's Thugs Return...again!

Magic Balloon Ride

Girl Fight!

Don't Go Getting Chased By Waterfalls

Monkey Mummies!

Goodbye, Rachel Weisz!

Fraser v. The Mummy Round 2

Hello, Rachel Weisz

Mutant CGI Scorpion-Dwayne Johnson

Battle against Anubus' Army

"Go to Hell, and take your friends with you!"

Escape from the Tomb 2
EGYPTIAN ADVENTURE
THE MUMMY feels about as realistic as a movie like this can be, in terms of how an actual archeological adventure involving demon mummies would play out. There’s plenty of riding across the scenic desert, digging for treasure, feuding with other hunters, dealing with passionate locals and travailing through tombs. Much of it feels condensed into one location, but the thrills are still packed on and given a practical feel. The mummy henchmen designs still hold up, which is especially amazing given the movie is almost 20 years old.
One thing THE MUMMY RETURNS certainly does is up the action and adventure. Whereas the first movie seemed to revolve around more intimate locations, the sequel is given much more room to play, and the breadth of the action scenes (particularly when armies are fighting). We see so much more of the landscape and Sommers sure tried his damnedest to kick up the spectacle. Sure, the VFX look like something ripped out of a PS2 game, but who cares? So much of it is so fun you kind of start to buy into the Johnson-Scorpion baby.
CHARACTER DYNAMICS
With THE MUMMY director Stephen Sommers wanted to tell a classic adventure story fit with all the thrills and sweeping romance. At the heart of this are the debonair Rick and the intellectual Evie and their budding romance. A classic "opposites attract" story with Fraser handling the quips and heroism with vigor and Weisz counter-acting with a tenderness and smarts. There's also Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay, the leader of the Madji sworn to protect Hamunaptra. He acts as a different kind of foil for the main heroes, one that illuminates the cultural divide of the people who want to harvest Egypt for it's historical artifacts, and the lifelong residents who want to protect its beauty and majesty (and the evil curses that may or may not be in them). There's some solid characterization in this adventure flick, and it enriches what could've just been a mindless action blockbuster.
Like many sequels, the action may be ramped-up but the characters feel somewhat left out. Fraser and Weisz are still good as Rick and Evie, but neither has the same infectious energy and spirit as they did in the first, spending a lot of time looking sullen over their kidnapped son (something to be sad over, no doubt). As well, there are other characters taking up time, like John Hannah as Evie's brother, and the O'Connell kid (Freddie Boath) who is about as tolerable as any child actor in a blockbuster film. Most of the characters just seem to mesh into the scenario with many of the characteristics that made them interesting in the first film evaporated like the sand.
THE MUMMY
The one recurring element of this movie that feels drastically different in the films is that of the villain, Imhotep. We may not see him for a good chunk of this movie, but when we do his presence is heavy and often horrifying. The CGI holds up somewhat, and his fixation on Evie feels very Dracula-esuqe, with the kiss he gives her - his face still partially mummifed - remaining one of the film's more notable moments. He goes through the transition from gnarly creature to human badass with malice, making him a fun villain to watch.
In the sequel, however, he feels somewhat neutered. He spends more time confessing his love for Meela/ Anck-Su-Namun (Patricia Velasquez) and lifting people up with his telekinetic mummy powers. He just doesn't have the same aggression as he did in the first film. I know it was all probably in the name of exploring a deeper side of the character, but the emo, love-stricken-teen angle is never a good side.
AWARDS, PRAISE & MONEY

Oscars:

    Best Sound (Nominated)

Praise:

Money:

    $155 million ($415 million global)

Oscars:

    Zip

Reviews:

Money:

    $202 million ($433 million global)
The Mummy

If one thing MUMMY RETURNS is able to walk away with it's the fact that the grander visuals and scope make for a livelier adventure than its predecessor. But in doing so it buried the ingredients that made the first MUMMY so endearing, primarily the rich character dynamics. With the first film you can tell Sommers cared just as much about giving us original characters inspired by classic action tales of the early 20th century as he did special effects, having them quip, punch and narrowly escape they're way through a rousing, old-school adventure. There's just something so pure and enjoyable about the first film that the sequel wasn't able to recapture. Although, tt could just be that CGI Dwayne Johnson looks nowhere near as cool as he used to. Current Dwayne Johnson could eat that thing for a cheat meal.

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