As far as sequels go, The Mummy Returns is a solid start to a new franchise. Given the green light for production one day after The Mummy premiered in theaters to huge box office receipts, Returns does a fine job of adding to the story while one upping the action and adventure aspects. The story is lost in the middle somewhere, but you’re generally too engrossed in the visual splendor to care.
This is a series loaded with cheesy fun, and it doesn’t take long before star Brendan Fraser has a chance to poke fun at the predictability in the script via dialogue. The full cast returns unlike the 2008 sequel, with the heavily hyped appearance of The Rock coming in at around three minutes of total screen time. Fraser and Rachael Wise’s characters have been married since their last screen appearance, now with a son played by Freddie Boath.
For full appreciation of the summer blockbuster, the script needs the audience to believe anything is possible. Mummy Returns handles this quite nicely in that it doesn’t bother detailing anything. It starts off running with mystical events and continues to pile them on before any sense of logic can set in. This is a darker film than the first, set mostly at night with somewhat harder edged deaths. The story is also a bit rough, with murders, betrayal, and numerous close calls.
It takes some time for the story to become fully apparent to the audience. By the time the set-up is complete, you’ve already been exposed to three or four epic action sequences. While an energetic way to begin the film, the plot is dragging on behind the scenes. It manages to be fast and slow paced at the same time.
As with the first film, special effects range from incredible to abysmal. A truly epic and wild finale is ruined by a pitiful attempt to merge The Rock’s Scorpion King character with an actual scorpion. It’s an embarrassment and a disappointing way to end the film. Granted, the number of effects shots is astounding, but this rarely looks like a $100 million film from a visual standpoint.
That said, the show stealing action sequence occurs against a group of pygmy mummies. It’s a set piece with it all, including comedy, clashing swords, an eerie forest, and miniature mummies who kill for the fun of it. It makes up for an unintentionally hilarious battle between Wise and Patricia Velasquez that exists purely for T&A, chicks fighting, and to break up about 10 minutes of non-action.
Freddie Boath, in the role of the young son, doesn’t mesh either. His acting level isn’t up to par, and his character seems to exist to be kidnapped while holding on to a precious artifact. The character could be eliminated without a loss to the overall product.
While Brendan Fraser doesn’t seem to fit in the action star role, the wise cracking Rick O’Connell leaves the door open for the right touch of comedic bits spliced in with gunfire and sword fighting. It’s that touch of fun camp that elevates this series to the high point of goofy summer big budget actioners, and the best of the series. Movie
Don’t be fooled by this transfers bright contrast, rich color, and sharpness from the start. In the immortal words of Admiral Akbar, “It’s a trap!” Universal has hit the DNR button, and done so heavily. Smearing of colors, pasty flesh tones, total lack of fine detail, and shimmering/aliasing are all signs of noise reduction. Some noticeable edge enhancement mars a few shots, and some brief color banding during a nighttime air ride further degrade what should have been a flawless looking disc.
At the very least the audio holds up. This is a masterful DTS-HD mix, one that kicks off right from the start with one demo worthy sequence after another. Deep, throbbing bass is consistently powerful in every action scene. Surround tracking is top-tier material. The stereo channels also have some positional dialogue, and a fun moment in which Weisz swings a torch left to right, perfectly captured in both channels. There’s not a single action sequence that lets the listener down. Audio
Extras end this disc on a letdown despite an active commentary from Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay. Some brief outtakes have some laughs although nothing terribly special, while a shameless plug for the third Mummy sequel is blatant in its promotion. A generic and short featurette An Army to Rule the World briefly details some of the behind-the-scenes stuff.
Unraveling the Legacy of the Mummy is the best piece on the disc, running eight minutes and detailing the history of Universal’s franchise. Visual Effects Formation details four scenes and their evolution during the process. A Conversation with The Rock should have been on The Scorpion King since that’s all the short interview talks about. Spotlight on Location is another piece of promotional junk. A music video, storyboards, and Universal’s annoying interactive U-Control can deliver these features via picture-in-picture. Extras