*. There are a lot of things I like about The Mummy Returns, so let’s start with that. I like the way we pick up some ten years after The Mummy. Rick and Evelyn are happily married and have a plucky but not-too-irritating sprog. For some reason this made me think of Another Thin Man.
*. I also liked several of the set-piece action scenes: the fight on the double-decker bus with the soldier mummies, for example, and the attack by the tribe of mummy pygymies in the jungle. I rolled my eyes at Izzy’s dirigible but, sure, it was fun. And I could appreciate Imhotep pitching himself into hell when realizing that his eternal love hadn’t been worth it after all. It’s hard to think of another movie of this kind where the villain kills himself rather than being destroyed by the hero.
*. I could go through a similar list for things I didn’t like, headlined by the terrible CGI work on the scorpion monster at the end. But overall I think the good parts outweigh the bad. The problem is that they don’t add up to as solid a movie as the first one.
*. I don’t know why so many mummy movies have such bewildering plots. Is it to make up for their stiff and rather dull feature monsters? That would be less necessary here, as Arnold Vosloo’s Imhotep is a compelling enough figure on his own, but there’s still way too much going on. For starters, did the film really need all the stuff with the Scorpion King? It seemed to complicate things far more than necessary, and at the end of the day it just confused me. If you awaken the Scorpion King, and then kill him, but only with the ceremonial spear, then you get to command his army, which will allow you to rule the world? Whatever.
*. There’s a lot of unnecessary stuff like this. Another example is the fact that Alex has to get the bracelet off his arm in seven days or he’ll die. The only place this really comes in to play is in the final dash to the pyramid, which hardly seems worth it. It’s just another example of too much going on. There are too many flashbacks, and too much exposition, even for a mummy movie. They really needed to streamline things. Why all the rigmarole about Alex escaping from the train at Karnak when he gets recaptured right away? Just another example.
*. I mentioned in my notes on The Mummy how improbable it was that Imhotep would mistake Rachel Weisz for Patricia Velasquez. In this movie they try to fix things up by bringing Velasquez back and making Weisz’s character into Velasquez’s step-daughter (I think). Also, Rick is now identified as one of the Medjai or bodyguards (because of some tattoo he doesn’t remember getting), which means he’s tasked with protecting Evelyn. Or at least he’s a spiritual descendant or reincarnation of one of these figures. Honestly, it’s just not worth trying to figure out, and I suspect few people even try. But if all they wanted was a flimsy bit of plot to hang the action sequences on they could have got by with a lot less.
*. Trading places. Dwayne Johnson in his first dramatic feature. Still only referred to as “The Rock” by director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay on the DVD commentary. He’s just here for his muscles and I don’t believe he even gets a single line. Meanwhile, Brendan Fraser seemed like one of Hollywood’s fastest-rising and most bankable leading men.
*. Was there a curse of The Mummy? This movie did well but the franchise died, leading only to a mongrel sequel (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) and a spin-off for Johnson’s character (The Scorpion King). But Brendan Fraser, as noted, mostly disappeared. Perhaps the mummy’s curse, or the curse of Monkeybone. Stephen Sommers has never lived up to this early promise either, going on to direct Van Helsing and G.I. Joe movies and not much else. Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Kevin J. O’Connor: they were all great in supporting roles but just followed up with more supporting roles in worse pictures. Rachel Weisz fared best of all, becoming Yorgos Lanthimos’s It girl. But you would have thought with a pair of hits this big much more was to come from these people in terms of mainstream success. So was there a curse after all?