Sequels are, by their very nature, never as “good as the original.” The biggest reason for this is because the sequel can’t surprise you (the audience) when everything has been explained/done/shown in the original. One school of thought on how to overcome this (negative) expectation is to, instead of surprising the audience, just give it what it wants, except in larger doses!
“The Mummy Returns,” the sequel to “The Mummy,” brings back all the major players, including Brendan Fraser as dashing hero Rick O’Connell and Rachel Weisz as spunky archaeologist Evie. The original’s director (and franchise creator) Stephen Sommers returns as director and this time, sole writer. Comedy sidekick John Hannah also comes back as Evie’s bumbling brother, still bumbling aplenty between sequels, it seems.
The film opens 10 years later, with O’Connell and Evie married and, along with their 10-year old son Alex (Freddie Boath), are now full-time professional, er, grave robbers. (They actually give most of their findings to a museum in London, but it’s still grave robbing…isn’t it?) Trouble arises when a group of secret society (how many of them are there, anyway?) awakens the Mummy and once more our intrepid heroes must save the day — and this time, it’s personal! Really, it is. The bad guys kidnap Alex.
Even though “Returns” is almost identical in feel and look to the original, there is a noticeable lack of “newness” to the adventures. (As expected, natch.) Writer/director Sommers has elected to flood the screen with one action sequence after another, with non-action moments seeming to exist only to set up the next action sequence. This result in the audience feeling stuffed. Imagine if someone shoved one hamburger down your throat and was already prepping the next one before you’ve even swallowed down the first, or second, or third… Even if hamburger was your favorite food in the whole world, it would still be too much, in too short of a time.
Sommers has written in more weight to the O’Connell and Evie characters, both of who discovers they are fatefully linked to the mummy’s past. This, and the revelation that O’Connell is some kind of “warrior of God”, feels not only unnecessary, but a little forced. There were already plenty of reasons for O’Connell and Evie to pursue the mummy in order to stop it a second time — that whole save the world thing, plus the abduction of their kid. No further motivation was needed.
Despite all of its faults, “Returns” is still a good adventure film that still manages to be funny. I also liked how the relationship between O’Connell and Evie has progressed, and the two seems to be glowing from parenthood and their newfound joy of, er, grave robbing, family-style. (Or is that glowing a result of increased pay raises for the respective actors? Just a thought.) The return of Oded Fehr as Ardeth Bay (how cool is that name?), the Egyptian warrior, was also a welcome treat.
After being spun off into “The Scorpion King,” “The Mummy” franchise looks as if it’s made its last save-the-world effort. There has been no mention of a fourth installment, although anything is possible especially considering the mammoth box office take of “Returns” and its prequel, “The Scorpion King.” And as we all know, nothing gets Hollywood’s attention more than a buffo box office.
Stephen Sommers (director) / Stephen Sommers (screenplay)
CAST: Brendan Fraser …. Rick O’Connell
Rachel Weisz …. Evy
John Hannah …. Jonathan Carnahan
Arnold Vosloo …. High Priest Imhotep
Oded Fehr …. Ardeth Bay