In the tradition of The Godfather, Part II and The Empire Strikes Back, The Mummy Returns [recently made available on video and DVD] succeeds at being a sequel released after the original. Director Stephen Sommers’ follow-up to the 1999 sleeper hit squeezes more craptastic dialogue, Mari Paint-quality CGI, and zombified performances into 130 minutes than can be unearthed in the entire Star Wars: Special Edition trilogy.
Still, the film is a wicked guilty pleasure that makes no bones about its lack of artistic vision. Sommers may claim that the movie’s a self reflexive odyssey, critiquing the death of creativity in Hollywood, and the resurrection of ancient franchises as a means to dominate the world box office; but, such cases aren’t made on the filmmakers’ commentary track.
The Mummy Returns opens with a flashback to Egypt, circa 5,000 B.C., as the Scorpion King-played by WWF wrestler-thespian The Rock-leads his legions into a bloodless campaign with many slow-motion battles. Not unlike the XFL, his tyranny is met with a swift defeat. He flees into the desert and pays homage to Marlon Brando’s famous “Stella!” line from A Streetcar Named Desire, only he abbreviated it simply to “-AHHH!” It’s a powerful scene.
Millennia later, Rick O’Connell and his wife Evelyn [their lines recited by Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, respectively] discover the Scorpion King’s bracelet in a dusty temple with fully functional revolving doors. Aping both Titanic and Raiders of the Lost Ark, they escape with the loot and their sub-genius son. However, the boy’s ability to read Cuneiform doesn’t keep the bracelet from wrapping itself around his wrist in the next scene. Duh, kiddo!
Meanwhile, the title character, Imhotep [Arnold Vosloo] is exhumed by the great-great granddaughter of his former love, Anck Su-Namun [Patricia Velasquez], who sees dead people in a romantic sense. Imhotep also seeks the Scorpion King’s bracelet because it’s a three dimensional travel brochure that advertises the whereabouts of its original werer’s jungle-like resting place. Once there, the Mummy can usurp the Scorpion King and command his army of bipedal Great Dane warriors.
There’s more plot in this movie than you can swing a scimitar at. Why Imhotep wishes to conquer the planet is anybody’s guess. Didn’t he want to be reborn in the first film so he could raise his true love from the grave in turn? Suddenly, the whole of the Earth was at stake. Evidently, when the guy promises his lady the world, he delivers.
The DVD extras include a standard making-of documentary, “Forever May Not Be Long Enough” music video by Live (they should call themselves “Lite” and an “exclusive conversation” with The Rock. Coincidentally, the disc contains a teaser trailer of his spin-off/prequel The Scorpion King, directed by Chuck Russell, who never met a big star he didn’t put in a sub-par film [The Mask, Eraser].
I don’t need some Mickey Mouse bracelet to foresee that The Rock will someday be shilling Slim Jims. “-AAAAHH!”