“The most powerful force on earth is about to be unleashed by the two people who should know better.”
Directed by Stephen Sommers
Starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velasquez and The Rock
In the dim and distant past, a mighty warrior named the Scorpion King (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) sells his soul to the god Anubis (in this film, very much playing the part of Satan), and leads an army of jackal-warriors to conquer the known world.
Back in the now, Rick and Evie O’Connell recover the Bracelet of Anubis, which affixes itself to their son, Alex (Freddie Boath), and grants him a vision to lead him to the secret Oasis of Am-Sher where the Scorpion King and his treasure lie. They are attacked by forces working for the evil Curator of the British Museum (Alun Armstrong) and the reincarnation of Imhotep’s (Vosloo) lost love, Ankh-su-namun (Velasquez), who seek to resurrect the Mummy so that he can go to the Oasis, defeat the Scorpion King, gain command of Anubis’ army and destroy the world.
Abducting the boy, Imhotep’s forces set out, pursued by the O’Connells, Evie’s still-dissolute brother, Jonathon (Hannah), the Medjay warrior – Fun Facts to Know and Tell: Many people watching the original heard ‘magi’, to the point that the Danish subtitles translate it as ‘wise men’ – Ardeth Bey (Fehr, whose character was only named in the credits of the first movie), and Rick’s former partner, Izzy, an aviator with a rocket-powered dirigible. Bey claims that a mysterious Masonic tattoo – which Egypt nut Evie has never apparently made anything of – on Rick’s wrist marks him as a Medjay; a holy warrior against darkness. The heroes track the bad guys to the Oasis, where Evie is killed and resurrected, so that she can battle Ankh-su-namun while her husband goes toe-to-toe first with Imhotep, then the Scorpion King – a big, bad CGI – and Bey and his fellow Medjay battle the ‘only kill them if you cut their heads off’ Anubis warriors. The heroes win, the Scorpion King and the Anubis warriors are dragged back to hell, and Izzy rescues the rest from the collapsing Oasis.
What’s wrong with it?
1999’s The Mummy was a superbly-crafted piece of action-adventure fluff, but despite reassembling the same cast and crew for the sequel, Stephen Sommers fails to recapture the spirit of the original. The plot winds with excessive complexity for its depth, and a lot of the best set-pieces are just recreations of scenes from the original, like the killer wave that is just a damp version of The Mummy’s sand wall. The pygmy mummies in the hidden Oasis are just plain random, and smell like velociraptors as they pursue hapless idiots through the long grass. There’s also just a whole bunch of crap that one feels might have come up during the course of the first movie.
The end credits kind of sum up the film’s failings. Where The Mummy closed with a gentle, dignified tune, and the credits fading in and out on ancient walls, the sequel ended with a mess of flashing screens and over-zealous music. Also, Alan Silvestri’s score just falls terribly short of Jerry Goldsmith’s original.
What’s right with it?
Some of the set pieces are very nice, and there is some good action going on. The performers are all pretty decent, and even the sproggly Boath isn’t too annoying. Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bey once more snags the ‘coolest moment in the movie’ award for the flying scimitar Anubis warrior decapitation.
How bad is it really?
The Mummy Returns falls firmly into the category of ‘not bad, but could do so much better’. The plot is convoluted in a way that only detracts from the film’s highlights, landing this effort with a ‘could do better’.
What’s up with…?
- Rick and Evelyn still doing the Tomb Raider thing? Do they not learn? Still, at least this is done knowingly.
- The sudden appearance of a tattoo which marks Rick as a Medjay? OK, I checked, and he does have that wrist covered all through the first film, but still…
- The pygmy mummies?
- The Scorpion King’s astounding crapness? The rest of the SFX is pretty solid, but he just looks like a big plastic scorpion. Actually, a Ray Harryhausen big plastic scorpion might well have looked better.
- The rocket-powered dirigible? I mean, normally I’d be all in favour of rocket-powered dirigibles, but this one felt a little gratuitous (and may in fact have been a blimp after all).
Production Values – Generally speaking, pretty damn good; which just makes the Scorpion King look that much lamer by comparison. 7
Dialogue and performances – The problem with the script of this film is not in its dialogue, which is generally speaking pretty snappy. The actors also do the lines justice, giving credible and charismatic performances. Given that pretty much everyone was reprising a role they had played before, it is perhaps unsurprising that they seem very comfortable with their characters and relationships. 5
Plot and execution – The Mummy Returns has a major plot problem. Not that there’s too little, but that there’s too much. The movie dashes around from place to place, and in the first viewing at least is actually pretty confusing. The basic gist is simple enough, but it rambles so much that you get lost, and at times just stop caring. 13
Randomness – Sacred tattoos, pygmy mummies, rocket-powered dirigibles. Yeah, this film has some randomness. 16
Waste of Potential – As the sequel to a far superior film, The Mummy Returns clearly wastes some potential, but this is somewhat alleviated by the fact that it is struggling against the law of diminishing returns. Besides, at least it did not try to be a sequel with none of the original cast. 10