Reviewed by: Kenneth R. Morefield, Ph.D.
|Featuring:||Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo|
|Producer:||James Jacks, Sean Daniels|
Prequel: “The Mummy” (1999)
Sequel: “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” (2008)
Explorers Rick and Evie O'Connell (Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz) discover an ancient bracelet which may resurrect the Scorpion King (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), an Egyptian warrior who sold his soul to Annubis in return for immortality and the ability to control an army of humanoid animal demons. Imhotep, a resurrected Egyptian mummy (Arnold Vosloo) and his followers kidnap the O'Connell’s son in hopes that they can find the resting place of the Scorpion King in time to kill him and take control.
Although this film is rated PG-13, the editing and intensity level is extremely high. One difficulty in adequately rating films for content is the inability to take context into consideration. On a literal level, what you actually “see” in close up is often tame, with the camera cutting away a “kill shot” or framing it in such a way that we lack the graphic detail. That having been said, what is implied or shown indirectly is a large amount of particularly violent killing (shotgun blasts to the head, degeneration of skin, live dismemberment, beheading, etc.).
***SPOILER*** Certainly from an ideological standpoint, any movie that has as one of its central scenes a boy resurrecting his mother from the dead by reading from an Egyptian book is going to leave some Christian viewers turned off. The underlying theology of the film is very confused, with new gods and powers invented to advance the needs of the plot in a haphazard manner. At times it is clearly polytheistic, presenting the Egyptian gods as real and the Judeo-Christian god as absent or unimportant. But at other times the movie shows an inability to think through the implications of the world it created and falls back to Western Christian rhetoric. “God help us,” a magi warrior says when looking at a swarming horde of demon warriors bearing down on his troop of protectors of the innocent, and it seems clear enough that he is making reference to some omnipotent higher power that is not on the same level as Annubis or others who empower the Egyptian zombies. Imhotep wishes to kill the Scorpion King who derives his powers from Annubis, because the power to lead the demon army automatically passes to whoever kills him. This seems to imply that Imhotep is not a follower of Annubis, but at a key moment Imhotep’s supernatural powers are taken away by Annubis whom Imhotep says wishes him to “fight as a mortal.”
As mentioned earlier, the O'Connell’s son, Alex, raises mom from the dead by reading from the same book that raised Imhotep physically and recalled the spirit of his betrothed from “the underworld.” Yet after Evie is brought back, she asks if anyone wants to know what “heaven looks like,” implying the book has powers over souls both in the Egyptian underworld and the Christian “heaven.”
Later, Imhotep and Rick will be balanced over a precipice with members of the underworld trying to pull them in—why they would both go to the same place when they die, or why Rick would be pulled into the underworld but Evie would go to “heaven” is never fully explored. None of this is intentionally heretical or even thought out. And I say it not because being unchristian in its worldview makes it a bad movie, but because being inconsistent in the world it recreates (Christian or non-Christian) is an element of an inferior fantasy world.
These religious implications, however, are not what ultimately hurts the film as an entertainment vehicle. The larger problem here is we have a huge case of sequel-itis. Everything has to be bigger, louder, and longer. Much like last year’s “MI-2,” the film seems to be designed around a series of set pieces—special effects or action scenes which are designed to dazzle viewers and look impressive in trailers. When is Hollywood going to catch on to the fact that one or two money shots in the context of an intelligent and engaging story (think “The Matrix” or “Titanic”) are generally more effective than a series of money shots run together (“Gone in 60 Seconds”) or a dull build up to a set piece so spectacular it dwarfs the humanity and hence the emotion (“The Perfect Storm”)?
“The Mummy” was a modest hit because, lacking the big budget, it had to be judicious with its effects; the face in the sand was memorable because it stood out. In “The Mummy Returns” we get a replay of the memorable effects (Imhotep transforming from degenerated corpse to human, Imhotep’s face forming elementally in the water) but they are not the cherry on the sundae, they are a couple of cherries in a bowl of cherries—which is a very different culinary experience.
Overall, what “The Mummy Returns” is lacking is any sense of camp or creepiness. With the arrival of a big budget comes the need to be an action movie, not an adventure movie. Mummy movies work best when they are about mood, not bullets and battles.
As an action flick “The Mummy Returns” manages to avoid the excessive profanity, nudity and gore that will mark some summer movies. As such it has less offensive stuff in it than some other viewing options. It just doesn’t have a lot in it to recommend it in its own right.
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people, and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27-28).
My Grade: C