Let’s Get the Band Back Together (The Mummy Returns, 2001)
Stephen Sommers returns to helm the next installment of the franchise. Set about ten years after the first film, Rick and Evie are married and maverick adventuring archaeologists. Think if Indiana Jones was rich, rather than a college professor. With their young son, Alex, they explore an ancient site and discover artifacts related to the fabled Scorpion King.
The film actually begins by establishing the myth. In his film debut, Dwayne Johnson (billed in the film as The Rock) is the Scorpion King. A fierce Warrior who wandered the desert and on the verge of death made a pledge to the god Anubis. In the present day, a Cult has resurrected Imhotep with the help of Meela, the reincarnation of his beloved Anck-Su-Namun.
Alex tries on a bracelet that reveals a map to the oasis of the Scorpion King…and the bracelet won’t come off. This sets into motion both the O’Connells and Imhotep racing to the oasis.
The Mummy Returns is guilty of the sequel tendency to be “bigger”. Every action scene is a major event. Every character a greater purpose. Evie suddenly has super fighting skills, and it is discovered she is the reincarnation of Nefertiti, daughter of the Pharoah and opponent of Imhotep and Anck-Su-Namun. And Rick? Well, he is revealed to actually be Magi (with magical knowledge of their code phrases) the watchers over Imhotep from the first film (Oded Fehr returns as Ardeth Bay). They must fight an army of pygmy mummies. I mean, the movie is full of mummies beyond Imhotep.
This is not to say the film is not fun. It actually carries a lot of the spirit of the first one. The action is fun, there are daring saves, exciting sword fights and so on. The film relies on the same humor of the first.
The digital effects are mostly on par with the previous film. There were not real leaps in technology for these films, and it all looks…okay. But there is one glaring issue here. Even by the standards of digital effects in 2001 (and remember, this is post “Phantom Menace”)? The digital Scorpion King monster looks absolutely terrible. It looks like a sub par video game creature.
In spite of the ridiculous flourishes (reincarnation for Evie, Rick being Magi, etc) the Raiders of the Lost Ark feel still works in the film, and it comes out as a fairly decent sequel.