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Mummy Returns, The
"The Mummy Returns" takes all of the technological wonders from its predecessor and pushes the envelope even further. This film has always begged to be demo worthy material and it's a crime we've had to wait so long for an upgrade.
We're treated first to a history lesson that begins in 3067 B.C. A war general in his time, the Scorpion King ruled a vast army that was vicious and unforgiving. All good things must come to an end of course, as the Scorpion King finds himself defeated and alone at the end of his final battle. Desperate to emerge victorious, a frantic prayer to Anubis vanquishes the opposition... but at a price. The Scorpion King is sealed in the desert of Ahm Shere and transformed into a hideous beast, in likeness of his battle name.
Much has changed however since 3067 B.C.! Apparently saving the world from an ancient mummy, can blossom any romance. Without wasting any time since "The Mummy", Rick and Evy have consummated their relationship with wedding vows and a son. Alex, who despite being just a boy, is granted access to all of the archeological adventures of Mom and Dad as if he were another young Indiana Jones.
During their latest dig, Evy begins having lifelike visions that lead them to the bracelet of Anubis, a powerful gold piece which belonged to the Scorpion King. It's not long after returning home that their son Alex can't help but try the bracelet on for himself. It unexpectedly shows Alex the way to the legendary temple where the Scorpion King rests. Unfortunately for Alex, once the bracelet is attached the wearer has only seven days to reach the temple. The only alternative is facing the reaper.
Predictably, supporters trying to re-resurrect Imhotep kidnap Alex since he's irremovably bound to the bracelet. Imhotep's interest in the bracelet of Anubis is to ensure his longevity. If Imhotep can use the bracelet to find and defeat the Scorpion King, he'll reign virtually unstoppable with the army of Anubis at his side.
"The Mummy Returns" is sort of like seeing an ex-girlfriend for the first time in years. There are some minor changes you notice, and she looks better than you remembered. Spending some time with her however, you see that nothing has really changed, minus the fact that she's learned how to flaunt her goods a little better since you've seen her last.
Although we have a looming battle with the Scorpion King to look forward to, most of the film is structured in much the same way the first film had been. We're treated to round two of cat and mouse between the O'Connell's and Imhotep, as well as more fantastical versions of the tricks we've already seen before.
The only fresh element to the movie is an interesting (but minimal) sub-plot about Evy. Her bizarre visions are actually flashbacks from her past life as Nefertiri. Although unnecessary to the movie overall, it does provide some moments of revelation that intertwine with the history of Imhotep's forbidden love, Anck Su Namun.
Although this movie feels like it's just a bigger and better version of the first film, that's certainly not a bad thing. Hell, what made the first film so memorable was its highly entertaining blend of action, adventure, special effects, and comedy. Even better, it was all wrapped up in engaging Egyptian folklore. "The Mummy Returns" sticks with this formula, and turns everything up a notch.
As I said before, this film has always begged to be demo material. The special effects bring fantastical action sequences to life and with them, all the thrills of a roller-coaster. Thankfully, Universal has finally provided us with a remastered edition that truly looks demo worthy. I've had the opportunity to catch this film on both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray, so I know just how good this movie can look. For a standard definition DVD, the image is sharp and lush with detail. Blacks are as deep as your set can display them, and there's no edge enhancement (minus on screen text) to be found. The colors are vivid and accurately recreate this film in the way it was always meant to be seen. Perhaps we never would have received the update if it wasn't for a third film coming out this summer, but I'll tip my hat to Universal for this release, anyway!
Presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, the movie sounds pretty decent. It doesn't provide the most 'surround' at all times for a film with such ambitious action. Thankfully this complaint is very minor. When the movie is throwing all it has at you every ten minutes, each channel just envelops you. Don't expect anything above and beyond the old release, as I couldn't make much of a difference between the two. This isn't a negative, as "The Mummy Returns" sounded quite well the first time around.
Also available in 5.1 Dolby Digital, are Spanish and French tracks.
Disc one holds back on most of the special features in order to provide the best picture quality for the movie. There are some outtakes that are mildly amusing. The only real thing that's fascinating on the first disc is the commentary track with Stephen Sommers, and Bob Ducsay. Reviewing DVD's, it's usually hit or miss with the commentaries. They're either filled with a monotone snore-fest, or with people who actually have a good time and show us they enjoy what they do. Thankfully, we have the latter.
Disc two is where all the 'treasure' is, if you can call it that. There are a lot of features that we've already seen on the original release. This is good for the collector out there that doesn't want to keep two discs for the same film on his shelf if he doesn't have to. Unfortunately the rest of the features don't really stand out as anything great.
A digital copy of the movie is included. I know some people won't even bother purchasing a movie based on this, but if you like this movie don't pass it up simply because of this. At least there are additional special features. You won't have to turn this disc into a coaster!
'An Army To Rule The World - Part 2' covers early workings on the film, such as production art and prep for doing CGI scenes. It's not very in-depth, but I suppose it's about what I would expect for this sort of thing on DVD. It's only about six minutes in length.
'Storyboard to Final Film Comparison' is pretty self explanatory, and fairly boring. You can choose from a few clips from the movie to view for this. On top of the screen you'll see the clip while below it, are rough sketches that were used to mold what we would eventually see on the big screen.
'Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy' is around eight minutes and is actually a decent watch. Being a fan of the original black and white monster flick, it was surprising to see cast and crew talking about the depiction of the classic mummy icon vs. what we have in this latest vision.
You can't have an opportunity driven DVD re-release without showing off the film you're trying to cash in on, can you? A sneak peek at the third movie in the now trilogy, is here as well.
The story and character development are far from deep. Brendan Fraser isn't Harrison Ford in a fedora, and "The Mummy Returns" is certainly no replacement for any Indiana Jones flick. However, it makes no difference. Hollywood takes a gamble when they basically make a reincarnation of their original efforts, but they came out on top here with a film that's just as fun as the first. If you haven't seen it before, now is certainly the time. The picture is superb and the special features are adequate if you haven't seen them on the old release. I'd highly recommend this DVD release to anyone who's looking to sit down, and actually feel like they had fun after watching a movie. With "The Mummy Returns", you can't go wrong.
-About the Author- Michael Zupan is primarily a film guy, but has a variety of places where you can enjoy his work otherwise. Check Bytesizeimpressions.com for video game op-ed pieces and podcasts, and be sure to check out the sister site, Byte-Size Cinema, linked up top. This writer also contributes significantly to in-print magazines such as Minecraft Explorer and Fortnite Explorer!