1999's The Mummy was a blockbuster that kind of came out of nowhere, struck itself a nice early-May release date, and squeezed a whole lot of bucks out of an enthusiastic audience. I didn't much care for the movie upon first inspection, but I'm not embarrassed to admit that the thing has grown on me in a pretty positive way.
It's the story of a dashing hero (Brendan Fraser), a beautiful babe (Rachel Weisz), a few goofball sidekicks, an evil mummy, and about 23 megatons of high-octane special effects mayhem. Stephen Sommers, director of a true guilty-please favorite (Deep Rising) strikes a amiable mixture of Indy Jones-style derring-do, PG-13-level horror stuff, and a cockeyed sense of humor to top the whole thing off. It sure isn't high art (heck, it's not even half the flick that Pirates of the Caribbean is), but The Mummy is a flashy and unassuming adventure flick that absolutely gets better with repeat viewings.
It would only take two years for The Mummy Returns to hit the screens ... and I say they should have waited a little longer.
Louder, splashier, sillier, but by no discernible degree better than the original, The Mummy Returns feels like 3,000 gallons of CGI desperately searching for a screenplay. Returning heroes Rick & Evie now have a cute little tyke in tow, which leads to all sorts of indecipherable malarkey involving hidden city this and resurrected villains that.
Part 2 feels like something that was begun without a screenplay, lensed with very little passion, and hastily dumped into a theater with the knowledge that the thing was a guaranteed smash no matter what. The original Mummy gradually worked its way into my heart, but after three visits The Mummy Returns still feels like an empty husk of product. Let's just say I'm not a fan.
No less silly, but actually a little more bizarrely entertaining than Part 2, is the semi-sequel/spinoff The Scorpion King, in which the villain from the sequel (aka "The Rock") gets to go prequel and give us his Conan-esque back-story.
The Scorpion King earns a few points for acknowledging its pulpy comic book meets professional wrestling action style, and it's pretty clear that nobody involved is taking the flick too seriously. Plus, there's director Chuck Russell and his talent for crisp and efficient action sequences, so the predictable screenplay and generally deflated acting performances don't overwhelm the flick. The Scorpion King isn't quite entertaining enough to earn the "guilty pleasure" medal ... but it's much better than The Mummy Returns at about half the budget!
Video: All three movies are presented in an anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) format. Picture quality is exactly what you'll find on the previous DVD release, which means your non-stop sandstorms and CGI mummy-freaks hit the screen in fine fashion.
Audio: All three movies come in Dolby Digital 5.1 English or French, with optional subtitles in English only. Audio quality is at a predictably strong 5.1 level, which sounded perfectly loud and raucous in my living room.
If you already own the whole trilogy by way of the stand-alone releases, then you simply have no need for this set. This collection is strictly for those who don't own the Mummy Movies and are also looking for a pretty nifty bargain. (20 bucks for all three movies and a whole bunch of (yes, recycled) extra features isn't a bad deal.) Well, you do get an all-new foldout case, so if that's worth 20 bucks to you, then double-dip away!
With The Mummy you get an audio commentary with director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay, a Visual & Special Effects Formation featurette, a handful of deleted scenes, some Egyptology 101 text notes, a few theatrical trailers, and your standard cast bios & production notes. (For a closer look at the extra features, check out Aaron Beierle's review here.)
With The Mummy Returns you get you get an audio commentary with director Stephen Sommers and executive producer/editor Bob Ducsay, another Visual & Special Effects Formation featurette, an exclusive conversation with The Rock, a promo piece for The Scorpion King, a Spotlight on Location piece, an outtakes reel, some Egyptology 201 text notes, a "Live" music video, a file of production notes, the original theatrical trailer, and a whole bunch of semi-Mummy-related promotional hoo-hah. (Read Aaron's review here.)
With The Scorpion King you get alternate version footage, which can be viewed within the movie or separately, two audio commentaries (one with The Rock and the other with director Chuck Russell), a collection of outtakes, a Spotlight on Location featurette, as well as ones entitled Ancient World Production Design, Preparing the Fight, The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan, Working with Animals, and The Special Effects. Also included is a Godsmack music video, some King Scorpion text notes, the original theatrical trailer, and some production notes. (Read Aaron's review here.)
If only I liked the sequel and the prequel enough to enjoy this collection... Ah well. It's a pretty solid triple feature release nonetheless, if mindless popcorn escapism is what you're after. Plus if you snag a copy now, you get a free ticket to Peter Jackson's King Kong, which is so amazingly awesome that it makes The Mummy look like Plan 9 from Outer Space.