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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/2/01

The Mummy Returns
Widescreen Collector's Edition - 2001 (2001) - Universal

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Mummy Returns: Widescreen Collector's Edition

Film Rating: D-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/C-

Specs and Features

130 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:21:04 in chapter 13), audio commentary with writer/director Stephen Sommers and executive producer/editor Bob Ducsay, An Exclusive Conversation with The Rock video interview, The Scorpion King preview trailer, Spotlight on Location, 4 visual and special effects formation breakdowns with visual effects supervisor John Berton, outtake reel, Egyptology 201, Forever May Not Be Long Enough music video by Live, Universal Studio's The Mummy Returns Chamber of Doom theme park ride walkthrough, theatrical trailer, A Special Message from Oded Fehr about Kid's Cancer Connection, Universal Studios Theme Parks promo, The Mummy Returns Playstation 2 game trailer, production notes, cast and crew biographies and filmographies, DVD-ROM features (including Unlock the Secrets of The Scorpion King), DVD newsletter, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English

"My dad is going to kick your ass!"

Oh... I hate, hate, hated The Mummy Returns. I'm not ashamed of that fact, so if you feel you must get your "you critics suck because you only like stuffy flicks" e-mails ready, then fire away my friends. But I will say that I already disagree with your defense of this film. And I think I have room to, because I usually love crap flicks. But I love crap flicks that actually make sense. This film has no integrity whatsoever. It's silly, it doesn't follow the "mythology" set up in the first film and it creates relationships that make no sense at all. It's dumb. It's stupid. And it's on DVD, so rejoice all you Mummy fans.

Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) is back. It's nine years after the adventures in the first film and he and Evie (Rachel Weisz) are now globetrotting treasure hunters - tomb raiders if you will - who have just discovered the tomb of The Scorpion King ("played" by The Rock and whom we are introduced in a thoroughly unneeded prelude to the film). It would seem that an ancient bracelet previously worn by The Scorpion King is a map to his real tomb and, as legend dictates, he who goes there and defeats him will control his army of zombie dogs and rule the world. Rick, of course, wants nothing of it, because even after everything that happened nine years ago, he's still a jaded unbeliever. That is until his new young son (annoyingly and badly acted by young Freddie Boath) is kidnapped by the newly reanimated Imhotep. I guess he's no longer cursed to protect his tomb from raiders and can now do whatever he wants. I mean, I can understand him coming back to wreak havoc for a sequel, but to be reanimated solely to rule the world is incredibly misguided and silly. Oh... and Anck-Su-Namun, 'Tep's girlfriend from the first film, is also reborn and infused with her spirit (in, like, no time because it doesn't really serve the plot to have it any other way). Anyway, on with the adventure as Rick and Evie head out to stop Imhotep and Anck-Su-Namun, only to learn that they both are ancient prophesy that no one in the first film recognized, but everyone does now. Whatever. File this flick under greedy.

The rest of the film is a series of chases with mummy priests, mummy pygmies, a hot air balloon with jet power and Oded Fehr returning to protect... uhm... the world, I guess. In the end, you get a bunch of digital eye candy with no soul, no heart and plenty of reason to believe that Hollywood is going to hell in a hand basket. But at least it's a very expensive hand basket.

As much as I hate the film, I have to say that it looks and sounds absolutely wonderful on DVD. I'm sure there's an Ultimate Edition of this flick in the works, so you may not want to rush right out and pick this version up. But if you were to do so, you wouldn't be disappointed in the video and audio presentation. The anamorphic widescreen transfer features some bold colors, excellent detail and hard blacks. You could cut paper with the picture on this disc. The sound, too, is a marvel to behold. The surrounds are quite active, the dialogue is nicely centered and there's plenty of bass - especially in the pygmy/storm scenes. I can't wait to hear this film in DTS... which, again, will probably be on a forthcoming Ultimate Edition. Why it can't be on this initially release is anyone's guess - especially after you consider most of the extras on this thing.

Where this DVD goes wrong is the DVD filler. There's one nice extra, another okay extra and then a pile of steaming marketing crap. Let's break it down. The nice extra is a thorough look at four of the major special effects from the film. John Berton, mummy reanimator extrordinaire, walks us through the conceptual stage, reference plating stage, plate photography stage, Visual FX element drop in stage and the final sequence as seen in the film for the first time we see Imhotep, the pygmy attack, Anubis warriors' rise from the desert and the oh-so-cheesy Scorpion King attack scenes. Together, they're a great look at the production and show just how much artistry went into creating this film. Some of this stuff looks great and some of it looks like crap, but you'll know exactly how they did it when you watch this supplement. The okay extra is a very self-congratulatory audio commentary track with the writer/director, Stephen Sommers, and his editor-slash-executive producer, Bob Ducsay. Besides letting us in on how much money the film made (and therefore how many people just love the film), they reveal who almost caught fire, how shots were ruined and why they used sets instead of actual locations. If you like the film, maybe you'll like the commentary. But if the film pisses you off, nothing in the track will change your mind.

The steaming pile of marketing crap is just that - a steaming pile of marketing crap. Let's see... first there's a mandatory intro to the film from The Rock. That leads to a mandatory preview trailer for The Scorpion King, that you have to chapter through unless you want to be forced to watch a trailer before your DVD home viewing. There's a DVD-ROM feature that will help you Unlock the Secrets of The Scorpion King by keeping you up to date on the film's production via your computer's Internet connection. If you haven't had enough of The Rock by this time, there's a 6-minute interview with Mr. Rock. Mmm-Mmm Rock. Okay... so the Rock's out of the way. Anyone care for some delicious Universal Studios marketing to wash it all down? Well there's plenty of that here too. We're treated to a worthless walkthrough of the new Mummy Returns attraction at Universal Studios, a special Mummy Returns offer that's nothing more than a commercial for Universal Studios, a DVD newsletter with DVD-ROM access and an additional DVD-ROM feature with access to the Universal Studios website, where you can download games, wallpaper and news about other thrilling Universal Studios product. Oh... and if you love the movie, play the Playstation 2 game, for which we have a trailer right here on the DVD. And since we're selling, Oded Fehr gets in on the act, but he does so with some nobility by letting us know how we can help children with cancer. I appreciated this extra and, in this time of giving, it would be nice to see more features like this. But after everything else, I was a bit numbed. There's also some standard DVD fare, like a fluffy Spotlight on Location EPK piece, a silly outtakes reel, a Live music video and a follow-up lesson on Egyptology continued from the many original Mummy DVDs. You'll also find the film's trailer, some production notes and cast and crew info. Note that this DVD is also available in a full frame version, buy why would you care?

So The Mummy Returns. Hated by me. But according to the commentary track, it's loved by millions, so what do I know? I don't see it, personally, but if you're one of those millions, run out and get the film on DVD. It looks and sounds great, but the collector's edition materials are sadly not collectible at all. Universal could (and should) have done much better with this. But that can be said of a lot of their DVD product these days. Maybe they'll get this disc right in the forthcoming Ultimate Edition. Or Ultimate Editions...?

Todd Doogan

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