Friday, April 2, 2010

THE MUMMY RETURNS: Blu-Ray (Universal 2001) Universal Home Video

The great curiosity in Stephen Sommor’s sequel to The Mummy (1999), The Mummy Returns (2001) remains its misleading title. This is not, as that title would suggest, the continuing saga of Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) but rather a prequel for another film based on a completely fictionalized legend of Mathayus - The Scorpion King (Dwayne 'the Rock' Johnson). It seems that Mathayus was a nobody who sold his soul to the God of Anubis to become a great warrior. But the deal came with a perilous price – eternal servitude to the God of the dead.

Meanwhile, in a London museum, Imhotep is resurrected yet again from his resting place along with his one true love, Anck Su Namun (Patricia Velasquez). On Egyptian New Years, Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan O'Connell (Rachel Weisz) begins to have reoccurring nightmares about Pharoh Seti’s murder.

The frequency of these disturbing visions increases as time wears on and gradually Evelyn begins to suspect that she may, in fact, be the reincarnation of Pharaoh’s loyal daughter, Princess Nefertiri. Evelyn's husband Rick (Brendan Fraser) thinks not. Unfortunately, fate will not let any of them rest for very long.

Rick and Evelyn's son, Alex (the precociously sickening Freddie Boath) inadvertently activates an ancient bracelet that acts as their spirit guide. The bracelet cannot be removed by man without death to the person wearing it and, since Imhotep is also after the bracelet, Rick and Evelyn must take Alex to Egypt and beat Imhotep in finding the fabled golden pyramid that holds secrets that can unlock the bracelet from Alex's hand.

Imhotep's interest in the golden pyramid revolves around the fabled army of Anubis. As legend tells, whoever has the bracelet controls an army of the dead that can conquer the earth. Naturally, with visions of untold treasure looming in the balance, Evelyn's brother Jonathan (John Hannah) is also along for this ride.

After much danger and adventures, Evelyn's advanced learning and street smarts lead Rick and Alex to the golden pyramid, but not before Anck Su Namun kills Evelyn, thus forcing Rick to invoke a special incantation that will resurrect Evelyn from the dead for one final showdown between her and Anck Su Namun.

The Mummy Returns is an ambitious undertaking, but one awkwardly flawed in Stephen Sommer's convoluted screenplay. There's too much plot, too many unanswered questions that spiral into a narrative wildly veering all over the map. We get present day dilemmas wrapped in an ancient mystery told in flashback. It's no wonder that, after his brief appearance at the start of the film, we wait until practically the end of the movie for the reappearance of the Scorpion King. There's just no room for him in this story.

The special effects in The Mummy Returns easily outdo any of those seen in its predecessor, but to what purpose? The story is still that of a cursed mummy brought back to instil havoc and mayhem on the unsuspecting mortals in his midst. For that we need more pensive and tightly scripted storytelling and not a barrage of digital manipulations that endlessly assault our vision. Tragically, The Mummy Returns is a would be epic utterly lacking in the grandeur of a good story. It's simply bigger, rather than better.

Universal Home Video's Blu-Ray easily bests its Collector's Edition standard DVD.
Flesh tones are still too terracotta orange for this reviewer's liking, but fine detail and depth of black levels takes a quantum leap forward on this Blu-Ray. The image will surely not disappoint, although the matting in of digital effects seems, at times, more glaringly obvious than I remember from my theatrical experience with this sequel. On a sonic level, the audio is DTS lossless and aggressively robust. Extras are all direct imports from the standard DVD.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)
3

VIDEO/AUDIO
4

EXTRAS
2.5

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