Brendan Fraser gets back
in the mummy-fighting bidnez
|"The Mummy Returns"
Reviewed by John Orr
(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)
With "Raiders of the Lost Ark" Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Philip Kaufman created something wonderful out of childhood memories of watching serial adventure movies at Saturday matinees.
The films they saw as kids (on TV, probably) were in black and white, had walls visible behind the "jungle vines" and were cranked out cheap, dirty and fast. The children who watched them invested them with color and excitement via their own imaginations.
Spielberg, et al., improved on those serials with significantly better production values; better artwork, better cinematography, special effects, music, everything.
The trouble is, all that stuff takes money and time. The films of the Indiana Jones cannot be cranked out in less than a week on a backlot in the San Fernando Valley.
That's why we haven't seen a new Indiana Jones feature every week since 1981.
We've only seen three Indiana Jones films in 20 years, with at least one more in the works.
Personally, I would love to see Harrison Ford continue to make Indiana Jones films till he dries to dust and blows away in a windstorm.
But, I could use some more fine adventure films with a Saturday-matinee feel while waiting, which is why I am glad that filmmaker Stephen Sommers and actors Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz have a series going with "The Mummy" (1999) and "The Mummy Returns" (2001). (Sommers is also involved with "The Scorpion King" for 2002 as a writer; I don't know if Fraser and Weisz are attached; they don't seem to be.)
I thought of Indiana Jones while watching "The Mummy Returns." Fraser, one of the most likable of film actors, with an abundance of good looks, screen charm, charisma and muscles, swaggers heroically across the screen very much like a young Harrison Ford. Like Ford, he plays an adventurer, running around the world in the 1920s and 1930s, unearthing serial thrill after serial thrill.
There have been plenty of tacky adventure films made … Richard Chamberlain movies come to mind … but "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns" are both right up there in Spielberg country, with good stories, fine production values and great casts.
It's hard to keep a good mummy down, and this film finds the title character of the 1999 "The Mummy" waking up in London in 1933 after a ten-year sleep. He'd been put down for a nap by Fraser's adventurer, Rick O'Connell.
Imhotep, again played by Arnold Vosloo, still wants world domination, but first, a little romance, which involves once again returning Anck Su Namun to corporal form, which is one of her best qualities. Patricia Velasquez is back in the role, again in full-body paint, and this time with more involved dialogue and action.
Thrown into the mix is The Scorpion King, another long-dead desert creepazoid who has been revived, and who is played by Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock.
O'Connell and his wife Evie (Weisz) have a son, Alex, who is 8 and knows ancient Egyptian, which his mother the brilliant scientist taught him. Alex, played with sufficient charm and precociousness by Freddie Boath, gets a hold of an artifact that displays a hologramic map to a special pyramid.
Along the route there are dangers of every kind, ranging from rising river bridges and guns to tsunami-size waves in river canyons to some of the weirdest creatures ever brought to cinematic life. There is also a powered dirigible that is an art-director's delight and an aeronautical engineer's post-pizza nightmare.
We don't go to movies such as this for scientific plausibility; keep that in mind, class.
Among the good guys are the darkly handsome and rather menacing-looking Ardeth Bay, played by Oded Fehr; the amusing John Hannah as a dithering friend; and Shaun Parkes as a resourceful dirigible inventor and pilot.
These days, as much as it costs to go out to a movie, it's nice to be thoroughly entertained in the process. "The Mummy Returns" accomplishes that.
AT HOME OR AT A THEATER?
See cast, credit and other details about "The Mummy Returns" at Internet Movie Data Base.