The Mummy Returns
Perhaps no filmmaker has been as commercially successful at combining classic Hollywood storytelling with newfangled technology as Stephen Sommers, who helped make The Mummy an international hit by turning it into an Indiana Jones movie for the age of digital effects. Sommers attempts similar alchemy with The Mummy Returns, with less satisfying results. Picking up nine years after its predecessor left off, The Mummy Returns finds Brendan Fraser once again battling mummies alongside wife Rachel Weisz, this time in an attempt to get back his precocious, kidnapped son and prevent an apocalyptic war between the mummy Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) and The Scorpion King (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). Hurtling forward at a breakneck pace that allows little room for characterization and even less for moral ambiguity, Returns follows its predecessor in blurring the line between homage and theft in its blatant Spielberg worship. Like the Indiana Jones series, Returns is populated entirely by antiquated stereotypes and speeds through its ridiculous dialogue and silly plotting with the mindless ferocity of a Flash Gordon serial. The Mummy wasn't exactly a masterpiece of originality or deep thinking, but its commitment to old-fashioned storytelling was refreshing in an era dominated by the blood-splattered, quasi-hip excess of Joel Silver and Jerry Bruckheimer. It's far less entertaining this time out, at least in part because Returns jams so much kinetic motion and splashy computer effects into its running time that its characters often seem irrelevant. Similarly, where the dialogue of The Mummy was self-consciously corny and old-fashioned, it at least existed; the sequel seems intent on getting by with as few words as possible. After all, who needs dialogue or characters developed beyond the level of video-game heroes and villains, when there are tens of millions of dollars worth of CGI technology on the screen? Sommers is a skilled, if limited, director, but he needs to learn Bruckheimer's Law: At a certain point, breathlessly edited setpieces devolve from entertaining to deadening.