The first scene of “The Mummy Returns” typifies the movies as a whole. In it, the Scorpion King (professional wrestler The Rock) is leading his forces to battle in 3000-something B.C. There is a terrifically loud clanging of swords, lots of stabbing, and literally hundreds of bodies falling — and yet there is not one drop of blood.
This makes the film easier to watch, of course, and I admire any film’s efforts to maintain a degree of palatability in this era of wanton cinematic blood-letting. But it also makes the battle scene ineffectual. If no one appears to have been hurt or killed, what was the point of it? Why should we care about the outcome?
And that’s “The Mummy Returns” in general. There is almost unceasing loudness, numerous explosions, a lot of action and mayhem. But it all seems strangely soulless and hollow. We might just as well be watching a “best-of” reel of various films’ action sequences, for all the cohesiveness they have here.
Taking place several years after the 1999 blockbuster, this sequel has American Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) married to English hottie Evelyn (Rachel Weisz). They have a young son, Alex (Freddie Boath), who accompanies them as they root through tombs in search of whatever it is people are searching for when they root through tombs.
In their travels, they get a hold of a special gold bracelet that awakens their old mummy foe Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) and his girlfriend, Anck-Su-Namun (Patricia Velasquez), who hopefully had a nickname she could go by.
This special bracelet, if used properly, can also revive the aforementioned Scorpion King. Imhotep wants to wake him up, kill him, then take control of his armies and rule the world; the O’Connells, one assumes, just want peace and quiet. Imhotep takes Alex hostage, since he’s got the bracelet attached to his arm, and so this time, it’s personal.
The O’Connells are aided/hindered by Evelyn’s greedy brother Jonathan (John Hannah) and swarthy Middle-Eastern guy Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr). Jonathan is the kind of character who usually gets killed right away in these movies, so congratulate him for making it this far.
There’s also some hooey about Evelyn being the reincarnated spirit of an old rival of Anck-Su-Namun’s, and about Rick being a “chosen one” in regards to the bracelet. If anything was ever tacked on to a movie, it’s this subplot.
“The Mummy Returns” is essentially a bad photocopy of an Indiana Jones movie. The action is there, but not quite as crisp. The characters are there, but not quite as interesting. The villains are there, but they’re all computer-animated.
My already-waning interest began to fade fast when a squadron of mummy gremlins emerged from the underbrush. By the time a million computer-generated beasts were stampeding through the desert, it was clear the movie was only getting sillier.
As mindless action flicks go, this one’s not awfully bad. Its lack of originality is bound to be a problem, though, as viewers wonder why, after two hours, they’re still watching it.
C+ (; )