The Mummy Returns
The Mummy Returns was quite a different movie than The Mummy, which was basically an Indiana Jones flick starring Brendan Fraser as Indy. I'm not trying to imply that either movie really has anything that can be counted as a plot, but where The Mummy is basically a one-man, one-mummy show, The Mummy Returns is an ensemble piece.
The good guys are: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, their 8-year old son Alex, Rachel Weisz' brother (think George from BlackAdder Goes Forth), a black dirigible pilot with gold teeth who thinks that wearing an eyepatch makes him look more dashing, the guy with all of the tattoos on his face, and a cast of thousands of his tribesmen.
The bad guys are: The Mummy, The Rock (oops, pardon me, the Scorpion King), the Curator of the British Museum, some chick who claims to be the reincarnation of the Mummy's one true love, a bunch of African tribesmen, a bunch of small and chirpy ghoulies, and a cast of thousands of CG Anubis Warriors (in Blue's words, the Dogs of War). And lots and lots of big ugly black arthropods.
Trying to explain how all of these good guys and bad guys interact would probably take me as much time as it would take you to actually watch the movie. The kid is clever and actually contributes to the movie without being cloying. The minor bad guys are appropriately cowardly and stupid, and the really bad guys are appropriately evil in a supernatural way. The good guys are strong-jawed or comically inept as appropriate. The women actually take part in the action instead of just shrieking uselessly.
Now let's talk about the visual impact of this movie. So, The Mummy's big showpiece was a roaring head of sand, reprised here by a roaring head of water. Then there was the costuming, but we won't talk about that too much. Most of the characters were pretty convincing, but couldn't the costume department have found something better for Rachel Weisz? She spent the entire movie looking like she should be in a contemporary romantic comedy. Most interesting was the way The Mummy Returns was affected by summer blockbusters which came after The Mummy: The Matrix, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, Crouching Tiger, and Titanic.
Okay, so Titanic came before The Mummy, but there was a definite reference to it when Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz were standing at the bow of the ship/dirigible as it flew through the air. As for The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, well, I noticed an awful lot more slow-motion harness effects than in the first movie. Finally, following Private Ryan and Gladiator, what is this sudden preoccupation with staging a giant battle scene in the first five minutes of the movie?
Anyway, so I guess you've got the picture that The Mummy Returns is visually pretty derivative. That doesn't make it a bad movie. Except for the Titanic reference, I think that The Mummy Returns took all of the visual effects which really stood out from the aforementioned movies and recombined them in a very successful way. It was really fun to watch, really good eye candy.
I actually thought that The Mummy Returns was quite a romantic movie. Other people like romantic movies that make them cry, or that star Julia Roberts. That stuff is so not for me. The Mummy Returns is romantic in the sense that Brendan and Rachel still can't keep their hands off each other even after eight years of marriage, and in the sense that Rachel proves her love for Brendan in a way that even the Mummy's reincarnated beloved is unable or unwilling to do. No really. I know you're going to make fun of me for this, but I thought it was really touching and well-integrated into the story (such as it was).
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The Mummy Returns makes no pretensions to being a "good movie" in the sense that say, something like The English Patient is a "good movie". You'll notice however, that I'm going to give it five pints, whereas you probably couldn't get me to watch The English Patient even if I had already had five pints. There is a certain select segment of the population, myself included, who would prefer to be entertained by a movie to being edified by a movie. Or maybe some people find entertaining that kind of deep movie where the protagonist becomes a better person. Not me. I like to see stuff get blown up. The Mummy Returns has very little in the way of a plot, and nobody really becomes a better person, but it's pretty to look at, and stuff gets blown up. I think it's a promising beginning to a promising summer.