Universal Home Video
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Arnold Vosloo, Odhed Fehr, The Rock
Extras: Commentary Track, Spotlight On Location, Outtakes, Special Effects Features, Theatrical Trailer, Music Video, Interviews, Cast & Crew
"The Mummy Returns" opens with the recounting of the legend of The Scorpion King (played by The Rock), a warrior who traded his soul to the god Anubis in exchange for power and control of Anubis’ army. Their alliance led to the creation of the Oasis of Ahm Shere, which was soon lost to civilization. Once The Scorpion King had conquered the known world, he was forced to serve Anubis for all time.
The story then jumps ahead to 1933, eight years after the events, which took place in "The Mummy". We once again meet the (now married) O’Connell’s, Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), and are introduced to their eight-year old son Alex (Freddie Boath). As their story opens, Rick and Evelyn have discovered a tomb containing the bracelet of The Scorpion King. This discovery sets off a dastardly chain of events as a group of individuals led by The Curator (Alun Armstrong) and Meela (Patricia Velazquez) want to use the bracelet for evil. If they can get the bracelet, and resurrect Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), the mummy from the first film, then they can gain access to the army of Anubis and rule the world. So, the villains go after the O’Connells. But, Rick isn’t going to let anyone endanger his family, and with the help of the mysterious Ardeth Bay (Odhed Fehr) and his bumbling brother-in-law Jonathan (John Hannah), Rick sets off on a race against time to stop Imhotep and his followers from carrying out their evil plan and to save his family.
On the other side, "The Mummy Returns" suffers from "Deep Blue Sea Syndrome". This occurs when a film is exciting and fast-paced, but once it’s over, you begin to realize that nothing in the movie made any sense. There are tons of plot holes in this film and many seemingly important plot points are never explained. (We’ll get to the filmmakers’ view on this in a moment.) This leads to a noticeable lack of character development. While Rick O’Connell wasn’t exactly a chatterbox in "The Mummy", one can’t help but notice how Brendan Fraser doesn’t have that many lines in this film. It’s clear that Sommers has tried to load the film with plot (adding some things that don’t quite gel with the first film) and has succeeded in creating at least one very surprising plot twist, but this comes at the cost of the minor details. The other minus to "The Mummy Returns" is a special effect, which occurs during the finale. Now, I won’t spoil this for those who haven’t seen the film, but the effect is so laughably bad that it actually draws one out of the movie. This is quite a tragedy, because besides this bizarre special effect, the finale is quite exciting. On a personal note, I’m disappointed that Sommers chose to mimic the filming style used in "Gladiator" for the fight scenes in "The Mummy Returns". These flaws explain why some people dislike "The Mummy Returns", but I don’t understand why some hate it outright. It’s not all that different from the first film and plays quite well as an action-adventure.
"The Mummy Returns" is one of those films where there is a sound effect for everything (even headlights being turned off) and they all come through loud and clear on the <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 channel> soundtrack. This track offers clear and audible dialogue, with no overt hissing. There is constant surround sound action, whether it be from Alan Silvestri’s score, or from the aforementioned sound effects. The dynamic range is quite good here, creating an impressive soundfield. Also noticeable is the attention to detail in the onscreen action to speaker placement of the sounds. And let us not forget the subwoofer, who never feels left out in this sonic assault. (Someone in my household thought I was watching "Jurassic Park" because of all the pounding!). This is an excellent soundtrack to match the clear video transfer.
We get a closer look at the special effects in the "Visual and Special Effects Formation" section. This feature looks at four different scenes (involving Imhotep, the Anubis warriors, and two others) in a step-by-step fashion to show how the effect was created. From the concept drawings to the finished product, this is a brief, but informative look at the CGI effects. Whereas the DVD of "The Mummy" included a section entitled "Egyptology 101", we now have "Egyptology 201" on "The Mummy Returns" DVD. This contains five all-text sections with detailed information on various aspects of ancient Egypt, including the myth of The Scorpion King.
The highlight of the more traditional extras is the outtake reel. The typically "by the book" Universal has chosen a very unique way to showcase this 6-minute gag-reel, so fear not if you feel as if you’ve chosen the wrong option, because the gaffs and blunders soon show up and many are very funny. We have a music video for the song "Forever May Not Be Long Enough" by the band Live. The theatrical trailer is also offered here as well as detailed production notes and cast & crew bios.
Most viewers who enjoyed "The Mummy" should enjoy "The Mummy Returns". While the sequel suffers from some major story and technical problems, and isn’t quite as clever as the original, it is still a fun "no-brainer" action adventure. And nowhere does "The Mummy Returns" look better than on this DVD. The audio and video are both very good and really bring the theater experience to your living room… or tomb.