Nine years after the events of the first movie , the tomb raiding O'Connells (Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz) uncover the Bracelet of Anubis, an artifact that proves the existence of the supposedly-mythical Scorpion King (The Rock). Unfortunately for our heroes, the Bracelet is also being sought by a gang of bad guys that would be the envy of any 40s serial - a collection of gun-toting thugs and sorcerers, headed up by the reincarnation of the Mummy's ancient love interest, Anck-su-namun (Patricia Velasquez). Even more unfortunately, the O'Connells' nine year-old son, Alex (Freddy Boath) has put on the Bracelet, which sets into motion a curse that will not only kill him in seven days, but give rise to the Legion of Anubis, an army of nine-foot tall monsters that will destroy the world. And, oh yeah - that Mummy guy's back, too.
I didn't enjoy this sequel as much as I did the original, and this puzzles me; all in all, it does everything a sequel should do, but rarely does - it follows the rules laid down by the first movie, expands on the characters, and gives you everything the first film did, but differently enough to establish its own identity. Perhaps it's because it is also undeniably bigger, louder, and dumber than the first movie. None of which bothers me, normally.
Don't get me wrong - this is a good movie, and I should be rejoicing that for once, a sequel is not a miserable mess. All the original actors return, and they are a talented, professional, likable lot. Even the addition of a child into the character mix, which normally poisons the end product, proves ultimately to ring true. Perhaps it's the fact that there is a certain lightness missing from the proceedings - The Mummy was a skillful blend of action, horror and comedy, and Returns skimps on the comedy to concentrate on action and horror.
Universal does it's usual fine job seguing from the initial Universal logo to the interactive menu. The picture and sound quality are as fine as one can expect from a transfer that was doubtless struck before the prints even started circulating to theaters.
There is one unfortunate aspect to the general presentation, though, that seems an omen of things to come: the marketing boys have started to notice how popular these shiny discs have become, and the commercials come hard and fast. Hit "Play Movie" and you get the traditional Universal Home Video commercial, hawking upcoming and current releases in the guise of a music video. Then The Rock pops in and urges you to enjoy a preview of the upcoming Mummy Returns spin-off, The Scorpion King. Then, after this preview, you finally get to your feature presentation. They're not total idiots - it's possible to page through each of these "extras" with the Chapter Skip button - but it is only the beginning.
There's a fair number of extras here, which should last you until the inevitable Ultimate Edition.
"An Exclusive Conversation With The Rock" is a short interview with the WWF wrestler on the differences between being a pro wrestler and a movie actor (you're allowed re-takes and any metal chairs taken to your head aren't real). Frankly, if you watch the "Spotlight on Location" featurette, you'll also see practically every frame of The Mummy Returns in which The Rock appears. With all the ballyhoo, I was expecting to see more of him in the flick. And you can watch that preview of The Scorpion King again.
The ungainly-titled "Visual and Special Effects Formation" once again takes you on a stage-by-stage breakdown of four FX sequences. These are nicely done, though as each stage ends, you are bumped back to the menu; a "Play All" option for each sequence would have been very welcome.
The "Outtakes" are smoothly edited together into a featurette with a musical track; it seems to be a marketing tool of some sort. A sequel to the first disc's "Egyptology 101" - appropriately "201" - has text pages on a number of subjects, and one interesting Easter Egg - press the cursor to highlight the scorpion on the first page of "Mummification", and access a brief video on a 1994 attempt to replicate the ancient mummification process ("My mummy isn't cursed," says the lead doc with some smugness).
There is also the theatrical trailer; brief bios for the major actors and director Stephen Sommers, production notes, and the music video for Forever May Not be Long Enough by Live. That's the song that runs over the end credits after Alan Silvestri's marvelous score peters out. I have no idea how good it is, because I always switch off in disgust - it's that out of place.
The audio commentary track features Sommers and Executive Producer/Editor Bob Ducsay. They provide interesting technical details, such as what is real and what is digital tomfoolery in each scene, how they could only film the Tower Bridge scene ten minutes at a time, and how many times Brendan Fraser got injured during the shoot. Sommers also won me over by stating to his cohort at the very beginning, "We've got to point out all our mistakes. They love it when we do that!"
I did mention marketing, didn't I? Over the three pages of Special Features, there are many ads disguised as extras: Besides the almost mandatory plug for the Mummy Returns PlayStation 2 game, and "Recommendations" - surely you would also enjoy owning the DVDs for Dragonheart, the first two Jurassic Park and Tremors movies and the Ultimate Edition of The Mummy, right? (And their constant inclusion of U-571 in these things is beginning to reek of desperation) There is also a plug for Universal's DVD newsletter. "The Mummy Returns Chamber of Doom" is a video walkthrough of the attraction of the same name at Universal's Hollywood theme park. It's a spookhouse, folks, plain and simple. It's just open at other times beside Halloween.
"A Message from Oded Fehr" features the actor plugging the Kid's Cancer Connection, a worthy cause, at least. But "The Mummy Returns Special Offer" turns out to be a commercial for the Universal Theme Parks.
As I said, these are not unexpected; charitably, they are like the ads in a magazine - nothing more. And frankly, I expect to see a lot more of them in the future.
Dr. Freex, 12/3/2001