The Mummy Returns (2001)
The Mummy Returns (2001)

Genre: Adventure and Supernatural Horror Running Time: 2 hrs. 10 min.

Release Date: May 4th, 2001 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Stephen Sommers Actors: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velasquez, Freddie Boath, Dwayne Johnson, Alun Armstrong, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

 


 

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n Thebes, 3067 B.C., a fierce warrior called the Scorpion King (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) led a massive army to conquer the known world. But after a harsh, seven-year campaign, he was defeated, with his scattered forces driven deep into the desert, where they would perish one by one to the elements. As the last man standing, the Scorpion King made a pact with the god Anubis, who raised the Oasis of Ahm Shere and allowed the King to lead armies of supernatural soldiers. But upon overthrowing his enemies, the King’s soul was enslaved, to lie in wait for all eternity.

In Egypt in 1933, adventurer Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his archaeologist wife Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) poke around ancient ruins, along with their young son Alex (Freddie Boath). But danger awaits, as mercenary treasure hunters working for a corrupt British Museum curator (Alun Armstrong) close in on their position. Additionally, Evelyn has visions of events from the distant past, involving Anck-su-namun (Patricia Velasquez), whose spirit was previously destined to be inserted into Evelyn’s body during a demonic ritual. But just before the family can be killed by one of the thieves, Evelyn disturbs a booby trap that guards the Scorpion King’s golden bracelet, unleashing the destructive power of the Nile. And when the O’Connells take the prized trinket back to London, they bring legions of greedy fortune seekers – and sorcerers – chasing after them. Plus, the Scorpion King is set to awake in seven days to destroy mankind and rule the earth.

“The Mummy Returns” starts off with an epic battle, aiming to up the production value and costs associated with this quick sequel. The dependence on CG has also increased, which is unfortunate, considering that these sequences are the least effective. Even when Evelyn musters some outrageous sword-fighting skills, or mummies freak out like zombies, or corpses litter the ground, or explosive action sequences incorporate the ceaseless unloading of bullets, the practical effects remain convincing. But when the faces of royal guards deform into stretched grimaces, or resurrections involve completely computer-animated creatures, or mounds of blurry scarabs burst from the ground, the believability – and therefore the amusement – wanes considerably.

Here, the setup feels like a rip-off of Indiana Jones’ adventures more than ever before, particularly as Rick dons a fedora, booby traps arise, spiders and other such creepy-crawlies crunch underfoot, tombs and desert locales are traversed, and snakes and artifacts are uncovered. Plus, fire stunts, car chases, accursed rites, and even the music seem reminiscent of that far more famous professor of archaeology. The nonstop action sequences are also comparable, though the timing and execution in “The Mummy Returns” lack the creativity and momentum needed to truly match up. Nevertheless, they’re consistently complex and prolonged, which, on occasion, adequately substitutes for the monotony of their designs.

An abundance of returning roles also cheapens the innovation – though it’s no wonder, with the speed in which this sequel arrived, that all of the principal players were available to participate. John Hannah is back as the sheepish brother; Arnold Vosloo again plays the titular mummy Imhotep; Oded Fehr is Medjai leader Ardeth Bay; and even Hamunaptra, the City of the Dead, becomes a designated location. And while the new addition of the Scorpion King is engaging enough to receive his own spinoff series (beginning in 2002), the use of a child actor in an integral part is a poor choice. It’s already difficult to take the action and light horror elements seriously, but with this starring youth comes plenty of comic relief to unfittingly mitigate the severity. And, of course, he’s aided by countless other agents of humor, which always pathetically manage to protect the heroes from machine gun bullets, murderous mummies, flailing scimitars, poison dart-shooting pygmy natives, and even death itself – as well as all the incredibly contrived predicaments and spontaneous solutions that pop up with disappointing regularity.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10