THE MUMMY RETURNS

 

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THE MUMMY RETURNS

 

Stephen Sommers' big noisy new movie deserves credit for truth in advertising -- the Mummy does return, in all his ILMish glory. Imhotep first comes roaring on screen as the craggy, moth-eaten-looking fellow he was in The Mummy, his bandages hanging off his not-quite-existent limbs in gruesome tatters, his teeth glaringly visible through the holes in his skull. Eventually, as in the first film, Imhotep comes into his full and imposing bodily form (played by Arnold Vosloo), again roaring in ancient Arabic, again looking to revive his 3000-year-old lover Anck-Su-Namun (Sandra Bernhard's fabulous ex, Patricia Velasquez), and again pestered by brash adventurer Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his sidekicks -- his Egyptologist wife Evie (Rachel Weisz), her irresponsible brother Jonathan (John Hanna), and their wise desert warrior-friend Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mummy Returns film trailer

 

 

 

 

As even this brief rundown makes plain, The Mummy Returns is all about rehashing and repeating. And just about everyone's back for a second go, from writer-director Steven Sommers (and his producers, cinematographer, editor, and designers), to Rick and company to Pharaoh's dead daughter Anck-Su-Namun, reincarnated in this film's present day, 1933, as an archivist named Meela, but hellbent on bringing back her boyfriend, and so, her long-lost nefarious self. But then, that's what mummies do, isn't it? They resurrect.

 

Granted, the impulse to repeat is understandable, given the unexpected and tremendous success of the first film, a punchy old-school Hollywood B-movie dressed up as a hip, wise-cracky action-comedy. Even when re-viewed, The Mummy is corny good fun, standing Boris Karloff on his wrapped-too-tight head and reanimating the musty old mummy-stuck-in-a-pyramid story with witty FX and smarty-pants dialogue, not to mention Brendan Fraser's genially self-aware performance as Indiana Jones Lite. Arriving in theaters with relatively little fanfare, it made an unexpectedly whopping profit ($414 million), and became an insta-franchise.

 

Regrettably, the sequel takes what must have seemed the safest route, delivering more of the same, lots of it. Everything in The Mummy Returns is bigger and more expensive, from its impressively enormous matte shots and massive armies composed of thousands of digitized soldiers, to its great swirling sand effects and outsized characters. The armies are larger, the fight scenes are longer, the digitized stunts are more complicated, and the mighty mummy face that materialized in the first film's desert sand here appears in rushing floodwaters and black billowy smoke -- it's not so scary as it was the first time, and not nearly as startling. Locations range from the Moroccan desert to London's Tower Bridge, so folks (and creatures) do lots of traveling, their means limited to horses, trucks, trains, and a dirigible that's piloted by Rick's entrepreneurial buddy Izzy (Shaun Parkes), prescient proprietor of Magic Carpet Airways. And Rick and Evie's romantic teasing is now solidified into an 8-year marriage, and their ardor is apparently boundless: every time they catch a minute, they're murmuring and lip-locking, much to the embarrassment of their young son Alex (Freddie Boath).

 

 

Brendan Fraser and Arnold Vosloo

 

Brendan Fraser and Arnold Vosloo

 

 

Lamentably, the film's biggest effect -- The Rock's (Dwayne Johnson) loudly publicized feature debut -- is also the biggest disappointment. As the spectacularly doomed Scorpion King, The Rock is typically charismatic and beautiful to behold, but he's only on screen for a few minutes, right at the beginning, and he doesn't talk as much as he roars and grunts (which is too bad, considering his verbal talents, exploited so well by Vince McMahon). In the few minutes of pre-story set up, you see that the Scorpion King is an ancient warrior who sells his soul for an army of two-legged doggy-beasts, armed with spears and arrows and other implements of penetration. The SK wins a horrific and costly war, raises his fist in triumph, then whoosh!, he's sucked away by the demon and stowed in a pyramid, to be dug up much later in the film.

 

That would be the film's present day, 1933, which -- wouldn't you know it? -- happens to be the dreaded Year of the Scorpion, just that time when he's set to reappear. On their way to the Scorpion King's 5000-year-old resting place (at the oasis of Ahm Shere), the humans must battle each other, the weather, and a battalion of ewokish mummy-pygmies, sputtering and swooping all through the jungle-like oasis. Alas, when the SK is dug up, he looks rather puny and ghastly. And it's not just age that's made him look so feeble -- washed out, two dimensional, not like The Rock at all. It appears that the effects crew didn't quite get the imaging correct, and the SK roars into life as an combination of digital Rock's face and digital Scorpion body, the SK looks like he belongs in a videogame, not a $multi-bijillion Hollywood blockbuster. Fraser and Vosloo do their best to make you believe they're in an ancient chamber with this bad boy, but he's too obviously other-dimensional to be convincing.

 

Of the human organisms, the most welcome and least developed newbie is Lock Nah (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Oz's recently deceased and sorely missed Adebisi, here without his miraculously affixed wool cap). Assigned by Imhotep to babysit the kidnapped Alex, Lock Nah is in an awkward position, to put it mildly. His sparring with the kid is less comic than tedious (large black man vs. precocious white child, an exhausted trope if ever there was one). Moreover, their relationship is just one of the film's schematically antagonistic pairings, designed to situate everyone in his or her own combat scene in the jumbled climax. Rick and Imhotep square off (they also have a three-way with the SK), as do Ardeth Bay's vast army and the doggy-beasties, and Evie and Anck-Su-Namun. The film's intercutting between these three fight-finales is more distracting than thrilling, however: it breaks up building tension in favor of, again, the film's central concern, size.

 

 

Anck Su Namun

 

Anck-Su-Namun - Patricia Velasquez

 

 

The women's relationship is perhaps the most intriguing one here, in part because of some nifty morphing images that make Evie look a lot like Anck-Su-Namun (these are not a little strange, because, of course, Weisz and Velasquez look not a bit similar). Such images descend on poor Evie's fevered brain, in not-very-well-explained "dreams," otherwise known as plot contrivances. The short version of the rationale for these visions (aside from the fact that Velasquez looks so stunning in her skanky ancient outfits) is that Evie has Nefertiti's spirit in her, and so somehow has knowledge of Anck-Su-Namun back in the day, when the latter was married to her dad, Pharaoh. The ladies' eventual present day showdown resembles an expensive, professionally choreographed catfight, and they display a rudimentary command of ancient Japanese martial arts (just how this translates to ancient Egyptian fighting techniques, taught to young women in royal houses, I'm not sure).

 

Both the flashbacks and the climactic final battle are designed to show off the girls' well-toned physiques and occasional fancy weapons-moves (perhaps gesturing toward the girls-can-do-it-too! spirit that so energized Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or even Josie and the Pussycats, but with considerably less potency). But in the end, their confrontation is only foreplay for the men's money shots. When Rick and Imhotep face off against the Scorpion King, well... the chests are a-heaving and the bodily fluids are a-flowing.

 

 

A - Z FILMS INDEX

 

 

 

13 GOING ON 30

16 BLOCKS

20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA

A PERFECT STORM

ALIEN

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

ATONEMENT

AUSTIN POWERS

BABE

BACK TO THE FUTURE

BATMAN

BIG MIRACLE

BRAVEHEART

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S

BRIDGET JONES' DIARY

CASABLANCA

CASINO ROYALE

CAST AWAY

CATWOMAN

CHRISTINE

CON AIR

CROCODILE DUNDEE

DEAD CALM

DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER

DIE HARD

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS

DISCLOSURE

DOLORES CLAIBORNE

DOLPHIN TALE

DR. NO

DUMB AND DUMBER

ERIN BROCKOVICH

FATAL ATTRACTION

FIRE ON THE AMAZON

FLIPPER

FLY AWAY HOME

FREE WILLY

FRENCH KISS

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

 

 

GLADIATOR

GOLDFINGER

HARRY POTTER

HORNBLOWER

INDIANA JONES

JAMES BOND

JAWS

JURASSIC PARK

JUST LIKE HEAVEN

KING KONG

KUNG FU HUSTLE

LEON

MAN ON FIRE

MASTER and COMMANDER

MEAN GIRLS

MEDICINE MAN

MEN OF HONOUR

MISERY

MISS CONGENIALITY

MOBY DICK

MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY

NAKED GUN

NATIONAL TREASURE

OUT OF TIME

OVERBOARD

PARENT TRAP

PAYBACK

PEARL HARBOUR

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN

PLANET OF THE APES

PRETTY WOMAN

PSYCHO

P2 DEAD MANS CHEST

RACE THE SUN

RAMBO

ROB ROY

ROBIN HOOD PRINCE OF THEIVES

ROBOCOP

ROXANNE

 

 

SCHOOL OF ROCK

SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC

SEABISCUIT

SHORT CIRCUIT

SPEED

SPIDERMAN

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN

STAR GATE

STAR TREK

STAR WARS

THE 39 STEPS

THE AVIATOR

THE COUNT OF MONTE CHRISTO

THE DA VINCI CODE

THE DAMBUSTERS

THE FLY

THE MASK

THE MATRIX

THE MUMMY RETURNS

THE PATRIOT

THE PERFECT STORM

THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

THE TERMINATOR

THE THING

THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH

THE WORLDS FASTEST INDIAN

THUNDERBALL

TITANIC

TOP GUN

TRADING PLACES

TREASURE ISLAND

TROY

TRUE GRIT

UNFORGIVEN

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE

WAR OF THE WORLDS  

WATERLOO BRIDGE

ZULU

 

 

 

 

A - Z ACTORS INDEX

 

 

 

Adam Sandler

Al Gore

Alec Baldwin

Angelina Jolie

Anthony Hopkins

Arnold Shwazenneger

Arnold Vosloo

Ashlea Kaye

Ben Stiller

Brad Pitt

Brendan Fraser

Bruce Willis

Burt Lancaster

Catherine Zeta Jones

Charlize Theron

Chris Cooper

Clint Eastwood

Daniel Craig

Demi Moore

Dennis Hopper

Denzel Washington

Drew Barrymore

Dwayne Johnson

Eric Bana

Eva Green

George Clooney

Gerard Depardieu

Glen Close

Goldie Hawn

Gregory Peck

 

 

Halle Berry

Harvey Keitel

Hugh Jackman

Humphrey Bogart

Ian Holm

Ingrid Bergman

Jack Black

Jack Nicholson

James Caan

James Cromwell

James McAvoy

Jason Statham

Jean Reno

Jeff Bridges

Jeff Daniels

Jim Carrey

Joaquin Phoenix

John Hurt

John Travolta

John Wayne

Johnny Depp

Judi Dench

Julia Roberts

Julie Andrews

Kate Hudson

Kate Winslett

Kathy Bates

Keanu Reeves

Keira Knightley

Kevin Spacey

 

 

Kim Basinger

Kirk Douglas

Kirsten Dunst

Kurt Russell

Leonardo di Caprio

Liam Neeson

Linda King

Linda Kozlowski

Lindsay Lohan

Mads Mikkelsen

Marilyn Monroe

Marlon Brando

Matthew McConaughey

Mel Gibson

Michael Cain

Michael Douglas

Michael J Fox

Michael Keaton

Michelle Pfeiffer

Mike Myers

Morgan Freeman

Naomi Watts

Nicholas Cage

Nicole Kidman

Orlando Bloom

Owen Wilson

Paul Bettany

Paul Hogan

Pierce Brosnan

Rachel Weisz

 

 

Rebecca De Mornay

Reese Witherspoon

Rennee Zellweger

Richard Gere

Robert de Niro

Roger Moore

Russell Crowe

Sally Edwards

Sam Neil

Samuel L Jackson

Sandra Bullock

Sean Connery

Sharon Stone

Sigourney Weaver

Stanley Baker

Stephen Chow

Steve Martin

Steve McQueen

Steven Segal

Slyvester Stalone

Tim Roth

Tobey Maguire

Tom Cruise

Tom Hanks

Tommy Lee Jones

Uma Thurman

Willem Dafoe

Will Smith

Yul Brynner

 

 

 

 

 

FILM COMPANIES

 

Amblin Entertainment | Carolco | Castle Rock Entertainment | Columbia (Sony Entertainment) | DreamWorks

 

Metro Goldwyn Mayor | Miramax | Paramount (a Viacom company) | Pixar | RKO Pictures

 

Tristar Pictures | Twentieth Century Fox | United Artists | Universal Pictures | Walt Disney

 

 

DIRECTORS

 

TOP 25 DIRECTORS | GEORGE LUCAS | JAMES CAMERON | JERRY BRUCKHEIMER | STEVEN SPIELBERG

 

QUENTIN TARANTINO | GORE VERBINSKI | PETER JACKSON | PETER WEIR | MARTIN CAMPBELL

 

 

CONTACTS

 

 

 

John Storm meets The Mummy

 

The Mummy a book by Jameson Hunter, the Adventures of John Storm

 

by Jameson Hunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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