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The Mummy Returns (2001)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/22/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/12/2008

When 1999's The Mummy made over $150 million in the United States alone, few were surprised when a sequel was announced. However, I have to say that I was a little shocked by how quickly the second film was ushered into the theaters. While the movie doesn't have "rush job" written all over it, an examination of the film reveals where writer/director Stephen Sommers cut some corners with the story. Also, one must remember the odd way in which the film marketed. Despite this, the sequel made more than its predecessor at the box office. The Mummy Returns has now come to Blu-ray Disc, and it reveals itself as a film which deserves a second look.

As The Mummy Returns opens, we learn the legend of The Scorpion King (The Rock), a great warrior who attempted to rule the world, but was defeated. In defeat, he cried out to the god Anubis for help. Anubis granted The Scorpion King a great army, but then entombed the warrior in a hidden oasis. The story then leaps ahead to the 1930s. Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and now wife Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), and their son, Alex (Freddie Boath), are exploring a temple when they find the Bracelet of Anubis, which Alex inadvertently straps to his wrist, unable to get it off. Meanwhile, a faction led by Baltus Hafez (Alun Armstrong) and Meela Nais (Patricia Velasquez) are attempting to unearth and resurrect Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo). Learning of the discovery of the Bracelet of Anubis, they realize that this artifact would enable Imhotep (who is more powerful than ever) to command the army of Anubis and rule the world. Hafez's men attack the O'Connell's in an attempt to get the bracelet, and soon the race is on to see who can reach the oasis first and claim the power of The Scorpion King.

To call The Mummy Returns a virtual remake of The Mummy would be somewhat unjustified, but to say that it closely resembles the first movie would not be inaccurate. Stephen Sommers apparently took the blueprint of The Mummy and duplicated many of the same beats for the sequel. The movie opens with a big action scene, someone close to Rick is kidnapped, there's a car chase scene (although the one in The Mummy Returns is much bigger), Imhotep uses a force of nature to attack a flying machine, and there are many, many action scenes. The Mummy Returns almost plays like a "greatest hits" of the first movie.

However, there are some difference between the two films. The inclusion of Alex O'Connell gives the film a somewhat lighter tone, and there are some comedic moments involving the boy. However, much of the movie actually is darker than the first film. The Mummy offered a lot of violence, but most of it was between humans and monsters. With the villains Hafez and Nais killing anyone who gets in their path, this film features more action scenes where people are fighting people. In addition, Alex's presence means that a child is in danger, which is never to be taken lightly. Also, Imhotep is, again, even more powerful here (I'm not sure why), and he seems to genuinely revel in torturing people. Sommers also goes the route of many superhero films by having two super-villains in the movie.

This dichotomous nature also runs through the quality of the film. Like the first movie, The Mummy Returns features some great action scenes, and does a fine job of mixing swashbuckling stunts with marauding monsters. We get even more monsters here, and the movie rarely stops to take a breath. Fraser again proves to be a great action here, and he even gets dramatic in the finale. The story is fairly linear, but there is one surprise near the end. But, the film also has some problems. Both Rick and Evelyn have subplots which come out of nowhere and most audience members will ask, "If that's so important, why wasn't it in the first movie?" Most of the special effects in the film are good, but the main effect in the final battle is awful. The CGI was jaw-droppingly bad in 2001 and it looks even worse today.

Of course, I may be the only person who picked up on the biggest mistake in The Mummy Returns. In the first film, we learn that Imhotep fears cats. (Although we aren't told why. Allergies?) Even if Rick and Evelyn were 99% convinced that the mummy would never return, they still should have had a houseful of cats! Other than that, and the problems listed above, The Mummy Returns is a fairly good sequel and a fun action film.

The Mummy Returns gets unwrapped on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, as the picture shows only a fine amount of grain in some of the exterior shots. I noted no defects from the source material, nor any dirt on the image. The bright desert landscapes look very good and offer an impressive amount of depth. Colors are natural and any bright color (red) stands out against the beige desert background. Skintones appear realistic and I noted no video noise. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at an average of 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. As with The Mummy Blu-ray Disc, the audio here is awesome. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects throughout. The stereo effects are highly-detailed, and the speaker separation is excellent. The same can be said for the surround sound effects, which are nearly constant here. The meticulous use of the 5 channels really helps to draw the viewer into the film. The subwoofer effects are great as well, and I was fairly convinced that all of my art was going to fall off of the walls during the two scenes involving rushing water -- that's how crazy the bass was. Again, a great start to Universal's introduction to Blu-ray.

The Mummy Returns features enough extras for a tomb robber. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Stephen Sommers and Executive Producer/Editor Bob Ducsay. Although it is the same commentary which was on the original DVD, it is still a fun talk, as the two give a lot of detail about the movie, while joking around. They discuss the visual effects, the locations, and the actors. While giving background info, Sommers frankly (?) talks about things that he wanted for this film which weren't available on The Mummy. The film can be watched with "U-Control", which provides picture-in-picture extras which focus on various aspects of the movie. An icon appears on-screen to alert the viewer that these extras are available. "An Army to Rule the World, Part 2" (6 minutes) offers a discussion of the special effects creations for the film, such as the Anubis warriors. We see concept art and computer tests. The Disc contains 6 minutes of "Outtakes". (The one with the plane is one of my all time favorites.) "Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy" (8 minutes) is the exact same offering at that found on The Mummy Blu-ray Disc. "Visual and Special Effects Formation" shows how various components were assembled to create the visual effects in four scenes. "An Exclusive Conversation with The Rock" (4 minutes) is a brife interview with the wrestler turned actor. "Spotlight on Location: The Making of The Mummy Returns" (20 minutes) is a mixture of electronic press kit and making-of featurette from 2001 which contains comments from the cast and crew and some behind-the-scenes footage. We get "Storyboard to Final Film Comparisons" for three scenes. The final extra is a MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Forever May Not Be Long Enough" by Live.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long