Ossus Library Index Fantasy Movie Index

THE MUMMY RETURNS

Directed by Stephen Sommers (2001, Universal Pictures)
Starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, and Arnold Vosloo

Pirates resurrect Imhotep in order to gain control of the Scorpion King's army of Anubis.

View count: Twice

 

 

2 stars

February 28th, 2004 on TV

 
    Ah, no thanks. What I said below was completely true, all of it. In the theatre, the whole thing must have seemed like a lot of fun, one rolling adventure after another. However, it loses much of that fun on the small screen, which makes story and characterization much more important. There, the movie was sorely lacking.

I have more complaints, mostly in how violent this movie is. Why did they need machine guns and shotguns throwing bullets everywhere, especially since they barely did any good. The sword fighting was so much better than the gun slinging.

Neither Rick nor Evie were particularly funny in this film. Mostly, it is Jonathan who picks up the comedic ties. Their son was at his best when playing defiant, as opposed to his wide-eyed scared look, which seemed rather fake. I loved when he faced death so often with a bored face, so it was disappointing to see that he could still be shocked by Imhotep's fleshless face, for example.

The special effects were really good, though, and the movie showcased them as much as it could. Unfortunately, effects couldn't carry the movie.

I wish they had explained what motivated Ancksu-Namun's clone to seek Imhotep all of a sudden. In the last movie, people had to arrive at the lost city at a particular time, under particular conditions, but here, they could come any time they wanted. Why did they have to dig it up?

In all, this movie wasn't about story, simply effects, and it can't be taken for much more than that.

 

 

B++

July 28th, 2001 in the Theatre

 
    A stunning adventure roller-coaster ride from start to finish.  I thought this one was better than the original, although it left continuity to the wind.

I was going to rate this movie at three stars, except that the digital animation was so tremendous, so exciting, and so amazingly done, that I had to bump it up a notch.  The effects were incredible, especially with large hosts and armies, with transforming landscapes, and amazing fight sequences.  On second viewing, I am sure this movie would not be as good, because I will probably focus more on story.  But for the moment, I was totally engrossed in this packed adventure.

Rick O'Connell and his wife, Evie, have not changed much since the last film.  They are deeply in love, and even interrupt the movie to show us mushy parts, which is amusing (and could get annoying, too).  They also have a son, Alex, who is just as clumsy as his mother (as homage to her at the beginning of the first film, he knocks over a series of pillars, which fall as dominoes, and is pretty funny in itself).  They just happen to be digging in ruins and discover the bracelet of the Scorpion King, who made a deal with the devil millennia ago and was made immortal.  The Scorpion King commanded the army of Annubis, and was to be called upon to command the army again at a later date.  Now that somebody has the bracelet, his time will come pretty quickly. Especially since their son puts the bracelet on.  Now a deadline is set, and they have seven days before the army is raised, the world will be ruined, and their son will die.  Pretty good incentive.

In another part of Egypt, a group of pirates have excavated the "lost city" from the last movie, and find the body of Imhotep, the book of the dead, and the book of the living.  The first part of their plan is to resurrect him, which they do.  The second part is to use him to conquer the Scorpion King, whom they plan to release using the bracelet.  That Alex has done so already is not a problem, as long as they can acquire the boy.  

Acquire him they do, after a hilarious chase between some undead warriors (which we saw last in the lost Egyptian city) and a double decker bus in the streets of downtown London.  Using shotguns, machine guns, and a whole host of other methods (including shaving the top of the bus of inadvertently), they think they are safe, and then Alex is kidnapped.  

Alex's bracelet shows him the way to an Oasis where the Scorpion King is being kept.  Imhotep and the others use this information to get to the oasis.  But Alex's parents won't stop at anything to get him back.  So they use a dirigible piloted by one of O'Connell's old partners to follow him.  He is smart enough to make little sandcastles at each location, so that his parents would know where to look.  Writing the name in the sand might have been quicker, but would probably be noticed by his captors, while they might think the sandcastles were originally in the ruins.

I guess this is a good place to point out the numerous deficiencies of the movie.  Depending on what you liked about the first Mummy, this movie may or may not live up to it.  While I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek nature of the first movie, and the way the main characters were constantly bumbling into things, it was not what drew me into liking the film.  This time around, they are much more serious.  Almost all of the comedy takes place with Evie's brother, Jonathan.  And he's really, really funny.  

However, if you were looking for continuity with the last film, this is not the place to look.  And so I ignored it.  And it was easy to ignore, because the adventure was so fun.  What nods to continuity we get are simply in lip service.  Imhotep still requires somebody to open "the chest" in order for him to gain back his powers.  The book of the dead can bring anybody to life, it seems, not just Imhotep.  If Evie is the reincarnated daughter of the Pharaoh, why didn't Imhotep recognize her in the last film?  While it was really cool to see Evie and the reincarnated Ancksu-Namun battling it out, I can't help but wonder why they remember the ancient ways, if they are not these people in spirit.  It takes Imhotep to bring Ancksu-Namun's spirit back into her body, but it seemed to me that she knew exactly where to find the Lost City, and exactly where Imhotep's body was, before her spirit was brought back from the underworld.  Didn't it require a sacrificial body to bring Ancksu-Namun's spirit back from the dead in the last film?  Okay, enough with the nitpicks.  There were so many that I could spend days going on.  But the truth of the matter is that it doesn't matter.  At least on the first viewing.

For they reach the Oasis, they reach the golden pyramid a split second before the sun hits it (at which time Alex would have died), so the bracelet comes loose.  Imhotep says that the bracelet is the key to the Scorpion King, but he must have passed it right by as he walked into the temple.  One of his underlings grabs it and unlocks their foe.  And then he wanders around whimpering for the rest of the film until he is killed.  

Evie is killed, and I am surprised that it took her son so long to realize that the book of the dead could bring her back.  O'Connell goes off in a rage to confront Imhotep, and they battle it out in a sword fight that goes on and on, with each player getting smacked around and around.  The choreography for the fights was incredible.  I liked the stylistic rendition of movements throughout, as the foreground seems to move so much faster than the background.  I thought it was terrific.  

But the best fight scenes were two fought by Evie and Ancksu-Namun.  Evie has been having dreams, and when she fights, she uses techniques that she has never learned.  It turns out she was the daughter of the Pharaoh, and protector of the bracelet of the Scorpion King.  She has awakened, remembered the old ways in a dream sequence that shows her fighting the Pharaoh's fiancÚ in mock battle.  The hand-to-hand and the sword-to-sword were wonderful.  Almost as good was their fight in the pyramid in the "present".  Evie gets the winning strike this time by using some of her husband's techniques (specifically, a head-butt!).  

The only place where the effects let us down are in the climactic battle with the Scorpion King.  He looked totally fake, and absurd, as well.  And it was way too easy to stay one step ahead of him.  How convenient for all of them that Annubis took away Imhotep's magical powers before he went into battle.  O'Connell, of course, strikes the killing blow, thus gaining control of the army, and sending them back "to hell".  

And thus follows one of the best effects of the entire movie, a subtle, split second moment that looked like it was created with care and love.  Throughout the whole chase, while the heroes are in the blimp, an army of hundreds of thousands of Magi are following them, told where to converge by their General's falcon.  We saw the General in the last film, where he was terrific, and here he is even better.  But the army encounters Annubis's army of the undead, and in a spectacular battle (which made The Phantom Menace's similar droid battle look orderly), and by the end of it, the undead army is destroyed (when they turn to dust it's really, really neat) and there are a couple of dozen Magi (but I saw no dead lying around).  A great battle, indeed.  But of course, that was only the vanguard of the force Annubis has at his command.  It all looks bleak, but the Magi stand their ground.  And as they are upon one another, the entire army of Annubis is turned to dust.  A thick, black cloud breezes over the remaining Magi.  And that was worth waiting the whole movie for.  

Aside from the frenetic pace, which kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time, and the great effects, which kept me gasping in awe, there is not much story, and not even that much characterization.  O'Connell sports a tattoo (where none was before, I believe), and accepts that he also lived at one time in ancient Egypt in another life, which doesn't fit with the last movie.  The continuity was terrible.  So I expect that if I see this movie a second time, it will not be so great.  But this time, I overlook the way these people can outrun a raging torrent of water, the way Alex escapes captivity on the train (through a toilet!) and makes an emergency stop in front of the ruins they are supposed to meet at (why weren't they ready to stop before then, and why didn't they continue to the next stop by train?).  Putting Imhotep's face in the water was neat, but not as cool as when it was in the sand in The Mummy.

But the fun is not in the analysis, not in the coincidences and contrived conditions that connect this movie.  I enjoyed the thrills, and especially the effects.  Imhotep was animated even better this time around, from the terrific rendering he had the last time around.  Coming away from this movie, I felt truly entertained.

 
   

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