Mummy Returns: Deluxe Edition (The) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Pat Pilon (31st July 2008).
The Film

The perfect scene to show you the overall nature of this movie comes pretty early on in the movie. Inside a pyramid, Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evie (Rachel Weisz) do something they're not supposed to do, eventually setting off a track whereby the Nile starts to flood the pyramid. The pair run down a hallway, with the water in close pursuit. So close, in fact, that it seeps under their feet while the pair are running, though there's really no physical connection between the actors and the water. The compositing is so bad, it just puts the actors in the middle of the water, in a bad green-screen-type shot.

The entire movie seems slapped together, rushed to make the most amount of money before the audiences forgot 'The Mummy'. The filmmakers tried to mask this hollowness by pointlessly tying all characters together, with Evie being from the time of the Pharaohs, and Rick and his tattoo. This is pointless and just enhances the cheapness and lack of thought that went into making the movie.

It's about now that I should say that I am a huge fan of Stephen Sommers' 'The Mummy'. Two years after that movie, the sequel finally came out. Why, then, does everything about the movie feel rushed? Maybe director Stephen Sommers was hard at work on 'Van Helsing' or something because something is definitely missing from this movie. For starters, the sense of wonder.

Eight years after the events of first movie, all the actors reunite in a plot even thinner than before. This time, some bad guys resurrect Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), so he can go to the middle of the desert and kill the Scorpion King (The Rock). This, though I'm not exactly sure what it will accomplish, is a bad thing. Rick and Evie follow, along with their son Alex (Freddie Boath) and Evie's brother John(John Hanna, follow, trying to stop the bad guys.

The movie isn't horrible, and It's somewhat similar to the first one. There are only two new real creature effects (the pygmy mummies and the Anubis army). Every other enemy is basically the same. However, the action is still plentiful and everything moves quickly. It's just not as entertaining as the first movie. The chases are fun and everybody involved seems to want to entertain.

In addition, I also had a lot of mini-thoughts during this movie. These mini-thoughts are put here in no particular order:

- Shouldn't special effects technology get better with time? The CGI in this movie seem to be worse than in the first one. In the very first action sequence, the compositing is awful, having the water rushing underneath the couple's feet, proving really bad effects. The Scorpion King effect is also pretty ambitious and probably a few years beyond the capablities of the visual effects.

- The tone of the first movie is fun and light, but this movie has a little too much fun with conventions, mentioning people will destroy the world a few too many times. It almost comes off as being a spoof rather than a comedy. All the talks of curses border on the 'evil' gag from MST3K's 'The Thing That Couldn't Die'.

- This movie also has a few elements that make the first movie rather complicated. If Imhotep can resurrect Anck-su-namun so easily here, why go through all the hocus pocus of the first movie? By the same token, in the first movie he could only control the sands, while in this movie he seems to have developed some nifty telekinetic powers, which makes me wonder why it's so hard to get rid of Rick and Evie?

- The movie also seems to forget reality a bit more than the first one. When those pygmy mummies start attacking, you've crossed the border between horror and fantasy (and, for most people, suspension of disbelief, even for an adventure/horror movie).

The first movie exhibited this incredible enthusiasm, sucking you into the movie. This one seems to be done just to be a sequel, and no other reason. The oomph, the excitement, the wonder from the first movie seems to have disappeared, unfortunately. The movie feels a little more scattered than the first, like the movie was tailored to the action, instead of the other way around. With 2 years between movies, youíd think the filmmakers could have done a bit more to make this a bit more fun, and to make this movie a bit more solid.

Video

2.35:1 widescreen, using the VC-1 codec. As can be expected, there's nothing really bad with the picture. I saw no edge enhancement whatsoever, with no other compression artifacts, either. The colors are vivid, while not popping out too much. The contrast is very subtle at times, but never does injustice to the cinematography. The black levels are very good with great shadow detail. In the far corners of the pyramids, details can still be seen. Skin tones are very consistent, and the yellows and golds of the various locations are strong and true. The picture is very strong and gives the movie the appropriate look.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS 5.1 and Spanish DTS 5.1 tracks are here for the listening. I chose the lossless track and I was very happy. The dynamic range is very good, though some sounds are probably louder than they should be. The dialogue, on the other hand, is very clear (for better or for worse) and is never muffled by other sounds. The score is loud and clear, booming out of all speakers. The sweeping action sequences utilise all speakers very well, with very nice pans and surround effects. Clangs and screams come from wherever they're supposed to come from. The 5.1 speakers are used to their full effect in the movie. There arenít many quiet moments, but thatís okay because the track is up for the challenge.
English (HoH), French and Spanish subtitles are here.

Extras

Universal does a very nice job with their first Blu-rays. The technical side is very strong, and the extras are pretty plentiful. They're all carried over from the previous Ultimate Edition, with the exception of the text-based extras, which are completely omitted here.

First off is an audio commentary by writer/director Stephen Sommers and executive producer/editor Bob Ducsay. Like in their track from the first mummy movie, these two are filled with nice enthusiasm and information on the movie. They talk pretty much throughout the entire track, enlightening us on the special effects, locations, filming methods, actors, and tons and tons of behind the scenes stories. It's a great track to listen to, and provides some great information. Not only that, but they joke throughout the thing, which is nice to hear, expecially if you enjoyed the movie.

Next are some outtakes (6:06), which are pretty funny. You see people hitting things they shouldn't hit, and messing up lines that seem to be very easy to say. Sometimes they even burst into laughter for no apparent reason. It shows the fun they had while shooting the movie. 'The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor' Sneak Peek (3:01) is next, but is the same as the one found on 'The Mummy' Deluxe Edition, so here is what I said in that review: This is nothing more than a 3-minute promo piece. All the main actors talk about how great the movie is going to be, while you see some behind the scenes clips, so it's nothing special. The film clips they show are also nothing you havenít seen in trailers, either.

An Army to Rule the World, Part 2 (5:59) talks about the new beasties in the movie. They talk about the Anubis army. You see and hear some of the various effects with the army, and with some of the other creatures used in this movie taken from the first movie. The pygmy mummies are also discussed. It's okay, but it's only an overview, and not very detailed. Unraveling the Legacy of 'The Mummy' (8:07) is the next featurette here, and is also found on 'The Mummy' Deluxe Edition. Here is what I said: it tracks the history of the Universal mummy movies, starting with the 1932 version. This only takes a small portion, though, and the last 5 minutes focuses on 1999ís 'The Mummy' and 2001's 'The Mummy Returns'. Various people talk about the mummy movies, and what they think about them. Some special effects people on the Stephen Sommers movies talk about the effects and how big the newer movies are. This is just a fluff piece, though starts off pretty nicely.

Visual and Special Effects Formation is next. This time, there are five stages shown for four different scenes. The conceptual stage, reference plate or animation tests, plate photography, visual effects elements and the final feature sequence are shown for, 'Imhotep Returns' (1:09, 0:36, 0:33, 2:11, 0:37), 'Pygmy Mummies Attack' (1:54, 0:21, 0:22, 0:41, 0:20), 'Anubis Warriors Rising' (1:32, 0:58, 0:17, 1:11, 0:26) and 'Scorpion King Revealed' (1:15, 1:54, 0:21, 0:47, 0:35). The conceptual stage has the visual effects guy, John Betton, about what they wanted to accomplish, then you see the various stages of completion and the final clip. These are nice to watch, but could probably use a bit more depth.

An Exclusive Conversation with The Rock is a short (3:42) interview where The Rock talks about why he took the role in 'The Mummy Returns', and about working on movies compared with working in the WWE. He also talks about the dangers of working on 'The Scorpion King', giving out a particular example. It's a nice interview, but a bit short. The Spotlight on Location: The Making of 'The Mummy Returns' featurette (20:03) is nothing more than an EPK. The first movie, the actors, the director and the special effects are in here. It's about as insightful as you'd think, but the special effects explanations are pretty nice.

Thare are also some Storyboard to Final Film Comparisons. There are three scenes here, 'Blimp Being Chased' (2:31), 'Pygmy Chase' (3:13) and 'Scorpion King Final Battle' (2:01) and the boards are pretty chose to the final scenes. Only details like camera placement is different, as well as some framing. It's pretty impressive to know that these guys knew exactly what they wanted before the first camera rolled. The last thing taken over from the standard edition is the Live Ė 'Forever May Not Be Long Enough' Music Video (4:33). I find it kind of funny Live would compose a song for this movie, but what do I know? It's a good enough song, typically Live. It consists mostly of Live on a pyramid set singing in front of nobody, with a few clips of the movie here and there. The song is about 3 minutes and 50 minutes long, but thereís an extra 40 seconds at the end advertising the soundtrack. For some reason I find this song more appropriate for 'The Scorpion King'.

The only High-def exclusive extra is Universal's U-Control toggling deal. This picture-in-picture commentary shows you various interview bits, behind the scenes footage and storyboards of various sequences. Some of the information you see here is repeated from the featurettes, but it's a nice effort of compiling the information. There are far too many gaps where nothing is being said (though you can watch the movie during these gaps), but a lot of the information is pretty interesting. The behind the scenes footage, especially, is nicely informative. Again, I preferred the audio commentary, but fans of the movie might want to see this.

Overall

The Film: C Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: B Overall: B

 


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