Written & Directed by Stephen Sommers
Produced by Sean Daniel & James Jacks
Starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velasquez, Freddie Boath, Alun Armstrong, Shaun Parkes, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Per the success of previous Mummy films in their own era, it was only natural that Stephen Sommer's spectacular re-invocation of the mythos would spawn its own sequel. With advance trailers that promised adventure on a grander scale than its predecessor, "The Mummy Returns" fuelled world-wide anticipation for its announced May 4th, 2001, release date. If you were one of the lucky ones like myself, you probably managed to catch it well ahead of release at any number of the sneak previews before it opened. If you were impressed with the first film, you were probably similarly (once again, like myself) knocked back in your seat in slack-jawed disbelief at the frenzied energy, and $100 million dollar opulence, of the sequel. It's a rare thing for a Hollywood sequel to meet then exceed the standards set by the original, yet thanks again to Stephen Sommers this sequel succeeded beyond my wildest dreams with extravagance to spare. "The Mummy Returns" was everything I was expecting in a sequel…and more.
Purporting to take place ten years after the original (the actual time frame is a mere seven years…oops!), "The Mummy Returns" kicks off in grandiose style with an epic opening set in 3067 BC. Enter the Scorpion King (Johnson), a mighty warrior whose quest for Egyptian domination led to a pact with underworld god Anubis in return for the fulfillment of his goal. Flash-forward to 1933, and we're back with Rick and Evie (now Mr. & Mrs. O'Connell) in Egypt again. Scouring an ancient tomb they uncover the Bracelet of Anubis, thus setting the wheels in motion for the resurrection of the Scorpion King. Elsewhere, in the hallowed grounds of Hamunaptra, Meela (Velasquez as the re-incarnation of Anck-Su-Namun) conspires to revive Imhotep to supplant her mortal soul with that of his dead lover. Returning a second time is fortune-seeker Jonathan, Medjai warrior Ardeth Bey (Fehr), and deadly High Priest Imhotep (Vosloo), as well as a few new faces in the O'Connell's son Alex (Boath), British Museum curator Hafez (Armstrong), Rick's former partner-in-crime Izzy (Parkes), and of course the Scorpion King himself. Turn up those dials to eleven and you've got a film even bigger than the first!
Time to be honest with you all. I am an avowed supporter of the golden greats of the genre, but am more than happy to skip the breadth of the genre when required to do so, being without boundary in my appreciation of the genre that I have held a life-long love of. Although happy to plumb the depths of the more grisly excesses of the horror genre for you all, I am more at home with a film the size, scale and entertainment value of "The Mummy Returns". These were the films of my youth, and the ones I harbour the greatest affection for. Surprise revelation out the way (yes, I'm not a gore junkie!), I am more than happy to impart that Sommers' continuation of a theme is all the rollicking good fun that one could hope it would be, and more. The ENTIRE original cast return this time out, albeit with a larger part for Patricia Velasquez and a joining of the fray by WWF (ugh!) wrestling superstar, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Johnson's involvement, as new arch nemesis The Scorpion King, is the film's major misnomer. Painted in advance trailers as an intrinsic element of the film, he has barely a few minutes screen-time, disappearing for the bulk of the movie, only to reappear at the exhilarating finale in nebulous (digital) form. To seemingly compensate for this fact, a returning Vosloo is afforded greater expansion of character, giving the film its true focus.
Once again, Sommers directs with confidence, and an eye for outdoing the sweeping scale of his original epic. The cast plays off one another exceptionally, Fraser allowed the luxury of one brief moment of true depth that shines of the true nature of his oft-hidden talents. Oded Fehr's character is given greater screen time herein, displaying facets developed and expanded upon from the original. And Weisz' character is given a harder edge this time out, hinting back to a past life, as well as a deeper connection to Imhotep and his lover Anck-Su-Namun. Sommer's even goes that extra mile, giving Weisz over one of the many action set-pieces, a great girl-on-girl fight with Velasquez. And the setpieces in this film are something incredible to witness, be it Imhotep's guards defying gravity in a chase through the streets of London, a stunning balloon chase through a gorge, the wild ride of an attack by a tribe of pygmy mummies (!), or the grandeur of the armies of Anubis' climactic battle with the Medjai. This sequel trades on the expectations of its progenitor, then gleefully blows them out of the water! The only real faults I can level at Sommers' sequel are the glaring fact that ILM's countless CGI FX shots smack of being overblown and, dare I say, of an 'unfinished' quality, as well as the simple admission that Alan Silvestri's score is not a patch on Jerry Goldsmith's original compositions. Sure, it's a huge raucous action-adventure score, but it recreates virtually none of the sweeping beauty, nor romantic passion, of Goldsmith's work on the first film. Otherwise, it's all good…and one of the most entertaining big budget romps I've seen in years (well, since the first film)! The Harryhausen nod at the finale is priceless!
Per the film topping the original for those big screen thrills and old school cliffhanger antics, so too does Columbia's DVD edition exceed the previous high standards set by their original "Mummy" release. Columbia/Universal deliver "The Mummy Returns" in a DVD incarnation that is impossible to fault. Letterboxed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35 and anamorphically enhanced, the transfer is beyond description. If I had to say anything of it, it is too clean and draws unnecessary attention to ILM's flawed CGI effects sequences. As some of the digital work appears somewhat "unfinished" the exemplary transfer given Sommers' film really makes them stick out like the proverbial. Otherwise, I can't fault this disc's image at all (and it should really be stuck under George Lucas' nose as a reference of how to do DVD right. Yes, I have seen that other big DVD release of 2001…). Audio? DTS 5.1 and Dolby 5.1 are the dual audio formats here (unlike the US R1 edition which is bereft of the DTS track) and it must be said, if you have the capabilities then this disc is really going to test the abilities of your system. Sound simply gushes from everywhere…pretty much for the full run of the film's 130m duration. These were two audio tracks that simply floored me. Which reminds me, the Region 4 disc is uncut (as we Aussies don't get flustered about chicks head-butting each other!)
The Extras on this double disc set are comprehensive, yet not up to the quality of those found on the first film's DVD edition (in both versions). Disc one's extras commence with the pairing of Sommers & Duscay again for an informative and entertaining Audio commentary, and close with a packet of DVD-ROM features (if you don't have a DVD-ROM drive, forget I mentioned these, as you're missing out on nothing much at all really). Disc two kicks off with A Conversation With The Rock, which gives the impression of being an "Entertainment Tonight" promo and creates the illusion that Dwayne Johnson is the star of the show. This is followed by advance footage from Chuck Russell's "The Scorpion King", which by the looks of things might just spark another wave of Sword & Sorcery epics. Next up is the 'making of' featurette we've all come to expect of these things, "Spotlight On Location", which is short enough at 20m not to outstay its welcome. Then we're afforded an FX reel that breaks down four sequences per the featurette on the first film, and followed on by an "Outtakes" gag-reel (which has some priceless moments). Remaining video material is comprised of a music video for Live's "Forever May Not Be Long Enough" (featuring Ed Kowalczyk with HAIR!), the Chamber Of Doom (a walk-through of the Universal Studios attraction and lame as all fuck), the Theatrical trailer & a Playstation trailer (see comment for Chamber of Doom). Text materials consist of Egyptology 201 (which prompted a few choice comments from my house guest on the night), 26pp of Production notes and Cast & Filmmakers notes for Fraser, Weisz, Hannah, Vosloo, Fehr, Velasquez (Mmmm), The Rock & Sommers. Strike me pink, what a marathon! The studios are going a bit loopy on this whole supplemental materials idea, but I guess it all adds up to value for money (?).
International specifications: PAL format disc; Language options in English Dolby 5.1 & DTS 5.1 only; Subtitle options in English only
Review by Mike Thomason
|Released by Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment|
|Classified M (15+) - Region 4 (PAL)|
|Running time - 130m|
|Ratio - Widescreen 2.35 (Anamorphic)|
|Audio - DTS 5.1, Dolby digital 5.1|
|Audio commentary, Interview with The Rock, "The Scorpion King" teaser, "Spotlight on Location" featurette, Visual FX featurette, Outtakes, Egyptology 201 notes (includes Easter egg), Music video, "The Mummy Returns Chamber of Doom" featurette, Theatrical trailer, "The Mummy Returns" PS2 trailer, Production notes, Cast & Crew biographies|
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