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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Mummy Returns
The Mummy Returns
Universal // PG-13 // July 8, 2008
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted July 8, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

I suppose it shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that Universal is dipping their hands into your pockets once again with a re-release. This time around we're getting another edition of The Mummy Returns which is intended to tie in with the upcoming The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. The effort proves to be worth it as this entertaining sequel receives a two disc edition that outdoes what's already sitting on your DVD shelf.

When the original Mummy was released in theaters in 1999 it shattered expectations. The film directed by Stephen Sommers and starring Brendan Fraser took audiences on a fast paced action romp full of quirky characters, humor, and plenty of CGI bad guys. It proved to be the ideal popcorn movie and sufficed to say it was successful enough to warrant a sequel.

The Mummy Returns hit theaters just two years later. With Sommers at the helm and the entire cast returning for the adventure it seemed to be a shoo-in but the preconception of the film being rushed made many skeptics. How many times have we had to sit through terrible sequels because a studio wanted to make some extra cash? Thankfully Returns was "almost" as enjoyable as the first romp through Egypt with Fraser and company.

The Mummy Returns begins in 3067 B.C. with a great battle between the forces of Thebes and the Scorpion King (The Ro-Oh, wait, Dwayne Johnson). At any rate the Scorpion King's army loses big time and he winds up being the last man standing in the desert of Ahm Shere. There he makes a pact with the Egyptian god Anubis to get revenge upon his enemies and to make a short story shorter he winds up being locked away for a very long time. From here the film fast-forwards about five thousand years and we see Rick O'Connell (Fraser) back in an Egyptian tomb looking for artifacts. His wife, Evy (Rachel Weisz), and son, Alex, are tagging along though Evy's role is a bit more significant in this instance.

While Rick seems content to tackle digging the old fashion way, Evy has eerie visions from her former life as Nefertiri. Her instincts guide her to a lost treasure which turns out to be the bracelet of Anubis which is a trinket left behind by the fabled Scorpion King. Unfortunately for the O'Connells, Imhotep's cult is looking for the bracelet as well. They want to offer it to their master when they bring him back from the dead again but considering little Alex puts on the bracelet first both groups hit kind of a snag. According to prophecy once the bracelet is worn the Scorpion King will rise and the armies of Anubis will walk the Earth again. Oh, and whomever wears the bracelet kicks the bucket after seven days of putting it on.

Imhotep's people capture Alex in an effort to use the bracelet to find the resting place of the Scorpion King. We learn early on that if the mummy is able to meet up with the King and kill him then he will gain control of Anubis' Army. One super-powered mummy is bad enough but a super-powered mummy with an ancient army of death? That's just a twofer the O'Connells don't want to deal with but saving their son's life in the process of saving the world is a nice bonus. With this plot in place The Mummy Returns takes its characters from Egypt to London and back again. The core story itself is entertaining but a pair of side stories helped expand an otherwise thin tale.

One of the most interesting aspects of this film for me was the fleshing out of Imhotep's character. In the first Mummy he was mostly portrayed as a monster bent on world domination but there were some elements that hinted to his former life and gave way to his motivations as a villain. This time around his background is explored further as Anck-su-namun's body has been reincarnated in the form of one Meela Nais. This begins a side quest to return her soul to Meela's body and once again reunite himself with his lover. It's a bit of a diversion but there are moments scattered throughout the film which play this aspect well. Another nice thing that comes from this focus is that it makes Imhotep seem human and in many cases someone worth pitying. These bits also tie-in to Evy's visions of Nefertiri's life and the murder of her father Seti which spawned the events that led to Imhotep's mummification.

The other subplot that comes through here is the notion of destiny between Rick and Evy's characters. Ardeth Bey (Oded Fehr) the Medjai warrior returns once again to dispense prophetic advice and warn the O'Connells about the dangers that face them. Ardeth surmises by a tattoo on Rick's arm that he is a Medjai soldier given the sacred duty of protecting the reincarnation of Nefertiri. It's all a little silly in the grand scheme of things but with the way it's handled in the context of this film it's digestible.

I suppose in the end the reason that The Mummy Returns is so successful is that it follows the mantra set by the original. This is a franchise that never takes itself seriously and it's over-the-top entertainment candy for the eyes. It also helps that the writing and acting are fantastic in both of these pictures though I wouldn't say that Returns is better than the first film. Just because it's bigger doesn't mean it's better and if this sequel had more than time to brew it may have trumped the original. Even so I suppose there is something to be said for striking while the iron is hot and thankfully The Mummy franchise was scorching when Returns came out. The energy level feels the same as the first, the entire cast returned, and it proved to be a very adequate sequel. We'll see how Tomb of the Dragon Emperor does when it comes out but the franchise has undoubtedly set the bar very high for itself.

The DVD:

Video:

The side by side comparison images here represent the differences in video quality between releases of this film. The left image is the original which is a hair lighter and the right image is for the new Deluxe Edition which offers a slightly richer experience.

Despite the additional content included with this two disc DVD The Mummy Returns Deluxe Edition features a newly restored picture. The film is presented exactly like it was before with 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Some real differences can be noted in the presentation here and though much of the clean up is subtle there's no denying that the picture simply looks better all around this time through.

The previous edition of The Mummy Returns offered an image that was very acceptable and it represented the film well. Despite the decent presentation there were flaws such as an abundance of grain that made darker scenes less dynamic and there was an overall softness to the picture that just didn't give the film the crispness it should have had.

Thankfully Universal's trip back to restore the picture and clean it up is very noticeable and the Deluxe Editions image is superb in just about every way. Blacks and shadows have much more depth and darkly lit scenes are definitely the benefactor of that. From Rick's crawling around a tomb to the forest with the Pygmies there are some much improved moments here. Film grain has virtually been eliminated and the image is also sharper with richer colors that stand out just a little more.

Audio:

While the picture has received an upgrade the soundtrack remains untouched. That means you can expect the Dolby Digital 5.1 track to be quite immersive and deserving of upping the volume a few notches. The sometimes sporadic experience of the first film's presence on the soundstage was touched upon for Returns and it's safe to say that the spread is much more appropriate this time around. The rear channels make better use of ambient noise and instances when the action surrounds the heroes much like in the first film when the scarabs scuttled about. The mix is very good all around and the audio is crisp with a clean delivery.

For spoken languages there are alternatives to the English here including 5.1 offerings for French and Spanish. Subtitles for all three languages are available as well.

Extras:

The two discs here are split up in terms of what they offer. The first features the restored film with the recycled five minutes worth of reasonably amusing outtakes and audio commentary with Stephen Sommers and Bob Ducsay. In case you haven't heard the commentary before then you're in for a treat. I personally appreciate commentators that bring some humor and personal experiences into the mix and Stephen and Bob do just that. They have a lot of fun during this commentary and provide plenty of information during it as well. It's not usually the case but this feature fits the tone of the film and is definitely a welcome inclusion.

The second disc is where some double dip factor of this Deluxe Edition comes into play and we'll discuss the new material first. For starters there is a digital copy of the film so if you want to unload it onto your PC or laptop then by all means. It's easy enough to do and the quality of the film is good but then again you already have the DVD so is there really a point? Another light supplemental here is a brief sneak peak at Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. This offering basically features the producers of the third installment patting themselves on the back about a job well done. There's really nothing that interesting in this feature since it basically serves as an extended trailer with some behind the scenes footage.

The next new feature on the disc is "An Army to Rule the World Part 2". The first inclusion of this has been tossed onto the original Mummy Deluxe Edition and as you'd expect the second has to do with elements from the sequel. Clocking in at six minutes this features offers some commentary about the production of the film as well as some pre-CGI scenes and production art to take a gander at. It's interesting but some of the material is covered at various points during the commentary with Sommers and Ducsay. "Unraveling the Legacy of the Mummy" is an eight minute look at the history of the mummy in film which had some interesting moments as the cast and crew talk about the various depictions of the monster from Boris Karloff to their representation. The final "new" inclusion here is a storyboard to final film comparison which takes three scenes and presents both aspects side by side.

Other than the few features that we just discussed the rest of the material here can be found on the previous edition of The Mummy Returns. That means you can expect to see a non-anamorphic trailer for the film, Live's "Forever May Not Be Long Enough" music video, Egyptology 201 which offers some textual information about Egyptian history, and a light conversation with The Rock about his role as the Scorpion King.

Finishing off the second disc is a feature that looks at the special effects of the film. Imhotep, the pygmies, Scorpion King, and Anubis' army are all discussed at length here with John Berton providing the commentary. With the play all feature you're looking at just over sixteen minutes worth of special effects discussion and there's definitely some nice information wedged in there. And finally "Spotlight on Location" is a twenty minute promotional video for the film with behind the scene shots and the cast and crew talking about their experience.

Final Thoughts:

At the end of the day The Mummy Returns is a very successful sequel to 1999's action adventure. Sommer's goal of presenting a film that was bigger than the first definitely hit its mark. Unfortunately bigger doesn't always mean better and the plot in Returns makes some sacrifices for the onslaught of action and one-liners. Despite that flaw this is still a highly entertaining film that is almost as much fun as the original.

With all of that being said the only question you should be asking yourself is whether or not you want this Deluxe Edition to replace your old version. The improvements to the picture quality alone make this release a no-brainer for anyone who loves the film. The new bonus content won't blow your socks off but the inclusion of the old material is nice as well because it means you don't have to worry about losing something when you replace the disc. All around this is a solid release that anyone desiring an upgrade should consider. If you're new to the series and don't own the prior edition then grab both Mummy films; you'll be glad you did.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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