Making a critical judgment of a movie like The Mummy Returns is sort of likehonking your car horn whilst stuck in rush hour traffic: totally pointless, yet you feel compelled to do so anyway. Itdoesn’t matter if this, the “filmed deal” (thank you Roger Ebert) to the1999 blockbuster, got either the best or worst reviews of the year. Peopleknow what to expect from the film and with an overdose of marketing shoveddown their throats, they will show up in droves (judging from its recordopening, they did).
However, the question still remains: is it a good movie? The answer to thatis well, not really. If you look at it in terms of plot, characterdevelopment, emotional involvement or a necessary second instalment, youjust lost nine bucks. If you are looking for some cool set pieces and CGIeffects up the wazoo, accompanied by ear-splitting digital sound and,hopefully, air conditioning, then you have only lost five bucks.It is eight years later and adventurers Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) andEvelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) now are married and have a son named Alex(Freddie Boath) who is every bit as resourceful and adventurous as hisparents.
Good thing too, because the trio are once again battling the evilImhotep (Arnold Vosloo) and his armies of the undead. The quest this timecenters around a bracelet the O’Connell’s unearthed that will bring back amysterious warrior named the Scorpion King (WWF star The Rock) and prettymuch spell certain doom if it falls into the wrong hands. When Alex decidesto put it on his wrist in order to hide it when Imhotep’s baddies show up atthe O’Connell’s house in England, they swipe the kid and head off back toEgypt, with our heroes, including Evelyn’s brother Jonathan (John Hannah)and the mysterious warrior Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr), close behind in pursuit.
When I sat down to watch this film, I knew what not to expect: a decentplot, characters with more than one dimension or that sacred cow ofmodern-day cinema, originality. I mean, let’s face facts here people: thisisn’t Memento. I just wanted to have fun and be viscerally thrilled in thesame way the first two Indiana Jones adventures or the original RomancingThe Stone did.
While I did enjoy a few of the set pieces (a fun chasethrough London and a Jurassic Park rip-off involving skeletal pygmiesinstead of raptors), the rest of the film left me cold. There was so muchgoing on in terms of chases and battles and stunts galore (enough for twofilms), but very little of it was thrilling. Writer/director Stephen Sommerswants desperately to walk in the cinematic shoes of Steven Spielberg andGeorge Lucas (the film borrows heavily from both of them), but he justdoesn’t have the right grasp on what makes an adventure film work: pacing,fun dialogue or giving the cast a chance to play around with theircharacters. He knows how to fill a movie with visual popcorn, he just hasn’tfigured out how to fully cook it.
I won’t go into too much detail about the cast or the acting. What there isof it is adequate, although they seem to be having less fun this time outthan they did in the first one (Brendan Fraser looks bored). One exceptionto this would have to be the young Freddie Boath, who nicely sidesteps theusual cute kid clich and seems to be the one person having a good time onscreen. As for the much publicized screen debut of the Rock, for the fiveminutes he is on screen, he does a dilly of a job throwing people around,yelling and biting a scorpion in half (and if that thrilled you kids, justwait! A spin-off movie of the Scorpion King is in the works for next year).
The real star of the film however, is Industrial Light and Magic, who waspaid a reported $20 million for their work here. Was it worth it? Well, yesand no. For the amount of money they were paid, the effects should haverivaled their work on The Perfect Storm or Star Wars: Episode 1. It doesn’t.Some of the effects are quite good, but a lot of them look cheesy and justplain bad (the Scorpion King at the end is a joke). I’m not sure if it was arushed production or whether ILM is too busy with Star Wars: Episode II, buta lot of this work is substandard in this day and age.
The Mummy Returns is a loud, frenetic and unoriginal Hollywood byproductthat leaves the viewer worn out and under whelmed. In short, it is yourtypical popcorn movie that will ride the tsunami of hype to a half-billiondollar box office worldwide.