The Mummy Returns (2001) Universal Pictures
2 hrs. 11 mins.
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Rachel Weisz and John Hannah.
Directed by: Stephen Sommers

The Mummy Returns



Photo: Universal Pictures

The 2001 Summer Movie season officially opened with Universal's 'The Mummy Returns' on more than 2500 screens across North America. With so much publicity and hype around this film one could have easily expected an easy opening. With more than 70 Million$ at the box office on opening weekend, the summer movie season has officially arrived.

Brendan Fraser stars as once again the elusive and rugged everyday man who returns to save the world from the worst threat ever - The Mummy. The cast from the original also returns including Arnold Vosloo as The Mummy, Oded Fehr as the Arab Warrior Priest and John Hannah as Jonathon; the film's useless comic relief. Here it is obvious they insert his character merely as the comic relief to possibly alleviate any uneasiness incurred by any audience members due to the film's excessive adventure - after all, it is a family film. The sad thing is though; the jokes are not funny at all.

We catch up with the O'Connell's 10 years after the original. Now married and having an 8-year-old son with his ladylove from the original (Rachel Weisz), they all return to save the world from The Mummy's menace. Also along for the ride is the newest threat to the world species as WWF wrestler, Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars as - The Scorpion King. Warning: let it be known now that those who simply watch the film for the wrestler's performance will be utterly disappointed. He opens the film with a riveting action sequence that lasts approximately four minutes and then the human portion of his character disappears completely. In retrospect, there is a spin-off film about The Rock's character - The Scorpion King; it is clear that this other useless character was simply included in this film to promote awareness for the upcoming film.

As for the film itself, it also can seem to be completely useless to many people. It is in no way better, or worse than the original. Part of that reason is perhaps no one expected the first film to be that good. It took the box-office by surprise and delivered the goods to the audience. 'The Mummy Returns' is definitely bigger, definitely louder and definitely has a lot more visual effects. And that is where the central problem lies.

In the first hour and a half the film comes off as a truly dark and hard-core action flick. There is plenty of running, jumping, shooting, and plenty of mummies get their heads blown off. It truly is a fun ride. Yet, the film seems to suffer greatly towards the last hour where the film tries to set up its' climax in an unforgettable manner, using an incredible amount of cg (computer generated) effects that seem to bog down the film. I hate comparing sequels to originals but one must in order to truly understand the validity of a sequel. Therefore, the first film had some special effects but relied on strong action sequences and some great story telling from the director's point of view to move the story along. In this film, visual effects are a plenty in order to demonstrate the threat of this Mummy. This can be good for some, but at one point in the film the intelligent moviegoer will simply find all these effects too much and as a result this will dampen the film's effect.

The cg effects are over-used and the climax is completely ridiculous. Yet, the film opens up and keeps rolling with some great action sequences that completely leave the audience breathless. One such example is a masterful sequence in which the film sets itself in London atop a moving double-decker bus where the mummies who now seem to have enormous velocity and strength attack the O'Connell's and their entourage in what proves to be the film's most memorable sequence.

The film's biggest weakness is its' silliness. It contains a tremendous amount of silliness all in within the span of the last hour that if removed, could have made for a truly unforgettable movie experience. As aforementioned, the film's visual effects are incredibly well done but completely useless. Director Stephen Sommers makes it seem as if he cannot tell a story without any visual effects, resulting in the last hour of a formulaic approach and a disappointing climax. If loud, pointless and silly movies are your 'cup of tea'; this will satisfy one's appetite. Yet, this film could have catered to all if it kept its' pace and did not let up within the last hour. Sometimes less is more; in this case, more was less.

Definitely to be seen on a big screen for all the fans of this genre out there, but unfortunately, the bar was not raised and no 'plateau' broken. The film demonstrated a strong potential as being different. For example, Sommers brings a certain serenity at capturing people flying and rolling through the air simultaneously in slow-motion (a la Matrix), though ultimately there were not enough fresh and exciting moments to truly separate this film from its' predecessor. It simply is a recycled formula from the first film's format. The only difference - much bigger in grandeur, much bigger in effects, and much bigger in ambition, yet the result is a film that is no better or no worse from the original.

Click here to comment on this review or post your own thoughts.

Giancarlo De Lisi


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