Review: “The Mummy Returns”

I love Summer movies, they’re my favourite kind – but like everything in general there are some efforts that are way better than others.

The original “The Mummy” was plagued by poor writing and cheesy FX but it proved damn entertaining with a great cast of characters, a semblance of a story and some good laughs. Its one of those films that’s cheesily B-grade, but such good fun in the process.

“The Mummy Returns” on the other hand is a photocopy of the first – at first seemingly the same, maybe a bit brighter visually but lacking the depth and nuances of the original. TMR follows the usual pattern of a sequel in that everything is bigger, louder, includes more action and FX.

On the flip side it falls into the same trap of substituting style for substance with less story, flatter characters and more posturing to cover for script holes – that’d be fine but the first film was dangerously low on plot in the first place, here its basically non-existent. Worse still it suffers from that most awfully convenient trick of sequels – the “what are you doing here?” syndrome in which characters just happen to turn up at the right place at the right time, defying all sense of logic and believability.

I can suspend disbelief just as easily as the next person and have been more forgiving than a lot of people I know, but after the dozenth time it happens in this, one gets fed up quickly. Its entertaining alright, not for content but rather how easy it is to tear it apart Supporting characters like Oded Fehr and John Hannah are back but disappointingly with Fehr spending most of the film just stroking a bird, whilst Hannah’s character just seems stupider and less funny than he originally was.

Fraser is Fraser, less wise crackin’ Han Solo style and more action hero mould than in the first film. Vosloo is Vosloo, a good actor who does well with what he’s got but is overshadowed by the haunting looking Velasquez who’ll definitely get some good work after this. Freddie Boath as the O’Connell’s young son is the annoying kid that always tags along on these things – he gets two or three good gags, but otherwise he’s just a pain. Its Weisz though once again proving the highlight of the movie – damn I love this lady.

Sure her character has suddenly shifted to become action woman extraordinaire, but she’s great and makes Fraser seem junior theatre company quality in comparison (there’s a big emotional scene toward the end where you’ll see exactly what I mean). On top of that there’s the annoying ‘driver’ character, a lot better than Kevin J. O’Connor’s snivelling “Benny” in the first film, this guy however just spends his time flying a CG blimp that ILM must’ve pulled out of their “Waterworld” archives. As for ‘The Rock’, well his 5 minutes on screen time is a highlight actually and the boy really shows off his talent with his three-word, one-scream line (I was being sarcastic there).

The saving grace of the film is the action which is pretty spectacular. The opening sequence is a battle which ‘rocks’ (no pun intended), and there’s great sequences involving a huge wall of water, a London bus, and a whole bunch of pygmie Indians that are like little raptors (note: watch for the ode to the famous “Dr. Strangelove” missile riding sequence in the pygmie segment).

The FX on the other hand are rather short shrift. Vasloo’s dessicated corpse look at the start is familiar but also looks more realistic than the two years since we previously saw it. The opening battle and sequence utilised the graphic spectacularly too. On the other hand the giant facial bit in the water wall looks horrible, the scarabs are as fake as always, and as for the big ending battle – Uhhhh, man its horrid.

In fact the more the film goes on the weaker they seem to get and there’s only half as much comedy as the last film had to compensate. Stephen Sommers is a solid director, but as a writer he makes some of Akiva Goldsman’s efforts look good at times.

There are bad films which are great fun, and then bad films that are just bad – a lot will find this is just bad. I an say its certainly better than some other recent examples of bad Summer movies like MI2, Armageddon, the majority of movies opening in August, etc. but still – its early yet, best save your pennies for more interesting Summer fare.