In the Dark: The Mummy Returns
Eric D. Snider
In accordance with the California statute dictating that any film grossing $100 million or more must spawn a sequel, the 2001 summer blockbuster season got off to an impressively dumb start with "The Mummy Returns."
This movie opened on May 4, which stretches the definition of "summer" by even the most liberal of etymologies. May 4 falls before the summer solstice, Memorial Day, and the end of the American school year, any of which can be used as summer starting points in polite conversation. Have we reached the point where we've thrown out the traditional methods of measuring seasons and will now divide our years based on what movies are coming out? May 4 didn't used to fall in the summertime, but "The Mummy Returns" is definitely a summer movie, what with all the explosions and the Brendan Frasers and everything; ergo, summer must now begin on or before May 4. Notify the people who make calendars.
At any rate, the movie takes place several years after its predecessor, "The Mummy," which actually was released in the summer. But first there's a prologue, set in 3000-something B.C. It shows a swarthy fellow named the Scorpion King leading his forces into battle. I believe he has some of the powers of darkness on his side; in ancient Egypt, calling up the powers of darkness was like calling up a pizza delivery. I envy the ancient cultures and their polytheism, because it meant if one god was out to get you, you could probably find a more cooperative one without having to change religions. As it is, if I prayed to the Christian god and asked for help in slaying another nation in order to satiate my own lust for power, he would decline my request and maybe even smite me, and then where would I be?
The Scorpion King is played by professional wrestler the Rock. I like the fact that you can say, "Starring the Rock as the Scorpion King," and it would make as much sense to a foreigner as if you said, "Starring the Scorpion King as the Rock." Mr. Rock is a thespian of the highest order, frequently inquiring of his fans to know whether they can smell what he is cooking, figuratively speaking. He does very well in this movie, which requires him to run into battle while yelling angrily. (I'm told he needed a dialogue coach and cue cards even for that.)
Flash-forward to now, "now" being the 1930s. What's His Name, played by Brendan Fraser, is back from the first movie, and now he's married to That One Chick, played by Rachel Weisz. They have a kid, whose name I intentionally forgot but who is a smart-aleck. They're all rooting through tombs one day, looking for whatever it is people look for when they root through tombs. Sure enough, they find a special box that has a special bracelet that summons their old nemesis, the Mummy, back from wherever he was all this time. One would think that, after all the commotion he caused the last time, What's His Name would not be permitted near any mummy-related artifacts anymore.
(Actually, I'm told it wasn't the special bracelet that awakened the mummy, but a special book. I dimly recall this book, but not really. I'll take the word of the person who told me that. Remembering specific details about the plot of "The Mummy Returns" is like trying to remember what color shoes a stripper was wearing: Who cares?)
The mummy is named Imhotep, and he has a serious skin condition. His girlfriend, who gets resurrected with him as part of a two-for-one deal, is named Anck-Su-Namun, but let's hope she had a nickname she could go by. Imho and Anck-Su are hot to use the special bracelet to revive the Scorpion King so they can defeat his army of mummy-dogs and use them to rule the world. What's His Name and That One Chick, it is assumed, want the opposite. There's a lot of fighting and exploding and shooting at things, and at one point, everyone rides in a hot-air balloon that almost gets destroyed by a tidal wave with Imho's face in it. (Geez, Hollywood, how much longer are you going to keep using that cliche?)
I think there's also some hooey about What's His Name being some kind of "chosen one," and That One Chick being the reincarnation of a girl Anck-Su used to hate, but I don't remember. I wasn't listening when the movie told me that, because I was busy waiting for the next thing to explode.
As far as dumb summer action movies go, this one's pretty dumb. The plot makes no sense, and the characters are included only because action sequences featuring no people didn't test very well at early screenings. They really could have just used extras, making forty dollars a day, rather than paying Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz all those millions. People running from CGI graphics all tend to look the same, really. So do the people who see these movies over and over again: They have a glazed look in their eyes and rivulets of drool running down their chins. Must be summer.