Retro Review: The Mummy Returns (2001)

The text below the break is part of a theatrical review originally published on May 7th, 2001.

Here are some updated thoughts:  My opinion on The Mummy Returns really hasn’t wavered over 15 years.  It’s still an unsuccessful sequel to the fun original.  It’s a rehashed summer cash-in rife with bad special effects and meandering plot.  It did introduce the interesting character of [lightbox full=”” title=””]the Scorpion King, which was wasted and marginalized into an utter joke by special effects[/lightbox].  The characters was later butchered in another horrifically bad cash-in movie bearing his name, The Scorpion King.  Now, in 2017, everything comes full circle as The Mummy franchise is being re-booted starring none other than Tom Cruise . . .[divider style=”dashed” top=”20″ bottom=”20″]

Summer. It’s almost here. That means lots of blockbuster hits, lots of big stars, and lots of special effects. This year’s summer season has officially begun with the release of Steven Sommer’s The Mummy Returns, the sequel to the $150 million hit that graced screens a couple of years ago. I’m a fan of The Mummy.  It was a new take on an old story, full of fun, adventure, and some groundbreaking special effects. Now the second installment in the series is out and, unfortunately, this one stumbles and falls prey to the problems that almost all sequels suffer from.  There isn’t much good to be found in The Mummy Returns, a film which is filled with bad special effects, bad acting and a meandering plot.

This film picks up a few years after the original The Mummy. This time, Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evie (Rachel Weisz) are married and they have a son, Alex (newcomer Freddie Boath). They still go on archaeological quests and they’re still haunted by the curse that was plagued upon them in the first film.

The film opens as they find the bracelet of the Scorpion King, an ancient Egyptian warrior who sold his soul to Anubis, the Egyptian god of Death, in order to fight with an army of evil creatures. But when Anubis was done with him, the Scorpion King was buried forever, to be resurrected at a later time to seek vengeance and lay waste to Earth’s population. And as chance would have it . . . it’s the Year of the Scorpion, the very year the King is supposed to rise again.

Meanwhile, a group of no-good archaeologists revive our beloved mummy (Arnold Vosloo). This time, he’s after the Scorpion King. If he can get his hands on the bracelet in time, and if he can kill the Scorpion King, then he will become commander of the King’s army and will be invincible and rule our planet forever. (Dun-dun-dahhhhh!)

Unfortunately, kids will be kids and Rick’s steals the bracelet and puts it on. It will not come off for seven days, when the bracelet will be used to awaken the Scorpion King. But the bracelet also serves as a map to direct them to the King’s temple . . . a temple that is hidden somewhere deep in the Egyptian desert. So the Mummy and his followers kidnap poor little Alex in order to get to the King’s pyramid in time for his resurrection.

And the race against time begins. The rest of the film consists of a fairly uninteresting chase as Rick and Evie pursue the Mummy. The story line is highly predictable. There are too many characters at stake in this installment. Sommers, who also wrote the script, wants seems to want to develop too many of his characters this time around. So we’re left with small bits and pieces of contesting story lines that never really mesh well together.

[box type=”error” align=”” class=”” width=””]The Mummy Returns PosterTen years after the events of the first film, Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) O’Connell are settled in 1935 London, where they are raising their son. When a chain of events finds the corpse of Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) resurrected, the O’Connells go on a desperate race to save the world from unspeakable evil and to rescue their son before it is too late.

The Mummy Returns (2001)

Director:  Stephen Sommers
Starring:  Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah
Genre:  Action / Fantasy / Horror
Media:  Film, 130 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Budget: $98 million
Box Office: $433 million, worldwide
Year: May 4, 2001
2.5 out of 5 stars[/box]

And those special effects! The reason why I didn’t dislike the first installment in the series was because of the special effects. That face in the sand was amazing! But here, Sommers tries to recapture the magic of the first film and fails miserably. Instead of a face in the sand, we get a face in the water. And look out for all those computer-generate shots in the beginning of the film when we see the Scorpion King’s army attacking Egypt. I couldn’t contain myself, I had to groan at how fake and horrible it looked. You can tell in this installment where the green screens were used and where computer-generated images were superimposed.  The confrontation with the transformed Scorpion King is almost cringe-worthy!! It’s almost as if they rushed the special effects in order to finish the film in time for its release date. For the first time, I have to admit that Industrial Light & Magic failed. The wonderful and amazing effects from the first film were lost somewhere during the post-production process.

This installment doesn’t take itself as seriously as the first one did, which could have been a good thing if the humor in the film had actually worked. But most of the jokes are childish and only once did I smile, and only because I was looking for something to smile about.

I know summer movies are supposed to be no-brainers. I know that they’re there to entertain and thrill, but I still wish that they wouldn’t take us for no more than dummies planted in seats. There’s nothing really interesting or fresh in The Mummy Returns. It doesn’t even have that charming, cheesy feel to it that the first one possessed. It’s just an uninteresting film that fails to recapture what made the first film moderately entertaining.

Fortunately, The Mummy Returns is only the first film of the summer season. But if I base my judgment solely on this film, it looks like the summer will only be another long and boring one with regards to movies.


The Mummy Returns just didn’t do it for me. I wanted more; I wanted something different; I wanted something original. Instead, I got the exact same thing as the first film, but worse. At least the creators of the film were able to come up with new, somewhat cool creatures to entertain us. Oh well, another sequel that failed to surpass its predecessor. At least, there’s still hope for the other slew of summer sequels: Rush Hour 2, Dr. Dolittle 2, Scary Movie 2, Jurassic Park 3 (implied sarcasm).

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Note:   I’m revisiting and re-posting many older articles (almost 200) I’ve written (or contributed to) over the years, either for my own purposes or as contributions to other sites now long digitally decayed and dormant.  These reviews/articles will appear in their nearly raw, unaltered form, with a few updated thoughts at the beginning of each.

Words © 2016-2021, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
Images/videos cited © to their respective owner(s).

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