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Movie Review

The Mummy Returns

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for adventure action and violence

Reviewed by: Kenneth R. Morefield, Ph.D.
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Mature Teens Adults
Genre:
Action Adventure Fantasy
Length:
2 hr.
Year of Release:
2001
USA Release:
May 4, 2001 (wide)
poster Scene from The Mummy Returns
Relevant Issues
Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz in “The Mummy”
Bible Archaeology
Learn about archeology and the Bible

REINCARNATION—What’s the Bible say? Answer

HELL—Is it real? Answer

God’s Story: From Creation to Eternity Go

Featuring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo
Director: Stephen Sommers
Producer: James Jacks, Sean Daniels
Distributor: Universal Pictures

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


Viewer Comments
I saw the movie—twice. Now I know that a lot of Christians will be offended by this movie because of (1) the teachings of reincarnation throughout the movie (2) the use of witchcraft to call up the dead (3) the scantily clad women (4) the exposure to the spirit realm, etc. What I would want people to think about is this: is this not all around us all the time and we tend to put our heads in the sand in hopes that it will go away or that our children will not be exposed to it?

I would never want any child or teen exposed to anything that was beyond their spiritual comprehension or growth but there comes a time when we must allow our children to be made aware of the deceits and trickeries of the enemy. Banks have their tellers work exclusively with real money until they become so familiar with it they can immediately recognize the false.

This movie is a very good representation of the false beliefs that Egyptians had regarding the preservation and “mummifying” of deceased people. Every false belief the movie shows can be used train in discernment and wisdom in recognizing truth. This is the spiritual lessons. ON a natural real, the movie has everything that today’s movie goes want—special effects, fantasy, attractive actors, etc.

Even though the movie was made for entertainment and for profit, it still sends a message to the audience and we need to be aware of how to confront issues that are coming forth—exposure to the supernatural is all around us—don’t bury your head in thinking that you are protecting your children—they are drawn to it—make sure that they know what truth is!
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Kaye H., age 46
…more than a few “bugs” in it. This film sequel really exploits the summer moviegoer. The film uses several of the favorite scenes from “The Mummy”, an over-exaggerated cameo by the Rock, and an over-dose of CGI effects and calls it a movie. We do have all the familiar characters back, but not nearly the “fun” or the “adventure” of the first film. There is much in this film theologically that will offend Christians. I was greatly offended by the amount of violence in this PG-13 film. It reminded me of “MI2”. My question again to those rating our movies—where are the borders. My recommendation is to skip this one and see “Driven” or “A Knight’s Tale”. Both are more worthy of your time and theater dollar.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Douglas Downs, age 45
I loved the first movie and was looking forward to the sequel, HOWEVER I WAS QUITE DISAPPOINTED! Realizing this was a fantasy/monster movie, I was expecting more Egyptian spiritualism and objectional practices, however I was more uncomfortable this time than in the first one… it seems they took it too far this time. But not only did they take it too far to mesh with my Christian comforts (which was, sadly, expected), they forced it into a story line that simply didn’t sell. It was somewhat confusing to begin with, and not at all captivating.

I rolled my eyes more than once. My husband and I found it predictable, not as witty as the first, and despite the high-tech movie magic, not as enthralling. The tension and scary-ness was not there at all. I liked the referrals to the first movie, but those also seemed forced. Overall, I thought the writing was embarassingly awful. that’s what particularly got me… BAD SCRIPT. Anyway, to sum up, I was disappointed and thought with all that talent working together the product would have been much better.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Lori Lundquist, age 27
Nothing can compare to Indiana Jones, but for this type of movie, Mummy Returns was full of action and adventure. The biggest weakness is, as far as movie making quality is concerned, I did not know the characters names until half way through. The characters were not as strong as they could be. As far as the moral rating goes, I went to see a fantasy/adventure, and that’s what I got. While it disturbs me that there are people out there who *do* believe in reincarnation (and that these movies may feed that belief), I am not offended by this any more than I am offended by movies showing flying carpets or fire-breathing dragons that fly. As one other reviewer stated, “it’s only a movie.”
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Bill, age 49
This is a purely popcorn movie, not to be taken seriously at all. There are plot devices that don’t make any sense (ex. the tatoo on Rick’s hand showing that he is predestined to be a “protector of men”), but that’s to be expected within this poor man’s “Indiana Jones”. The main problem I had was that it was easy to pick out the special effects; the filmmakers didn’t do a good job of making them look “real”. I would warn viewers that some of the action sequences and deaths may be too scary for younger children. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s (WWF) part is beefed up in the ad campaigns, but in reality, he’s only in the movie during the beginning and near the end. Basically, this movie is about 2 hours and 20 minutes of a good time, if you’re not looking and/or expecting something really deep.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Hillari Hunter, age 39
…[I] generally agree with your reviewer’s comments. I was disturbed by the re-incarnation plot and bringing the dead back to life through the occult. I did think that this was a much better movie than the original with regard to the special effects and the “Indiana Jones” feeling of some of the action sequences. I was even more bothered by how many children [far below the age of 13] were in the theater with their parents or by themselves. What is it about the ratings system that people don’t seem to get? Although I do believe the rating system is flawed, it still gives somewhat of a guideline for parents to go by—it just doesn’t seem to be working-which is why we need good web sites like this one. The view of Hell was pretty effective for me because it really called to mind the Biblical depiction of eternal torment and the weeping and gnashing of teeth. Too bad so many only see this as yet another special effect with little thought as to having a basis in reality of what Hell may actually be like.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Donna Kristiansen, age 50
Where “The Mummy Returns” goes wrong is where a lot of movies go wrong: they assume that whatever spiritual side they happen to be toying with, whether it’s Christianity, New Age, or Egyptian Mysticism as correct at the moment. For a good example of this, watch the Indiana Jones movies. The question I ask is: is this assumption necessary. For “The Mummy Returns”, my answer is a firm maybe. The film requires some tie-ins to ancient Egyptian Mysticism to form the story, but the reincarnation subplot did leave a bad taste in my mouth.

In fact, for a good comparison, Indiana Jones serves as a very good measuring stick for this movie on a moviemaking scale. Brendan Frasier (in my opinion) did a great job in the first movie, because he knew he wasn’t Harrison Ford, and really didn’t try to be. In this film, the only major difference is that more characters know that they’re not Indiana Jones—they bring an individual aspect to the film that is refreshing when everyone is comparing them to and expects them to be Indiana Jones.

All in all, I thought that “The Mummy Returns” is an OK film for older teens and up, who have the discernment to not take what a movie says as a statement of faith (I would rate it between average and very offensive). Be warned: there’s lots of action violence, some unpleasant and uncomfortable presentations of other religions, and bugs. Lots of bugs.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Scott Ward, age 28
I found this a mixed bag. While this movie had lots of violence, exposed cleavage and occultic elements to it, it could have been a lot worse. The violence was not overly graphic, any spiritual-occultic elements were clearly meant to be taken as total fantasy and I have seen films with much more over the top sex content. Still, don’t take your young kids to this one and be cautious about even letting teens see it. This film, is overall, about what you expect out of Hollywood these days.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
—Kevin, age 30
…a great movie. It had gratuitous violence through well choreographed scenes of spectacular battles. The fight between good and evil was well seen throughout the whole movie. The things that I found offensive were the resurrecting of the dead through spells. Other than that I would recommend it to anyone to go see it. The script was well written. The actors chosen were stupendous.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Randall P Davis, age 32
I will never understand why Christians go to an obviously fictional story and then complain about it not holding true to Christian truth. Excuse me? Repeat after me, “it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie!” The special effects of this film were top rate. Nearly every 5 minute segment of the film is filmed with incredible effects. BUT… after about an hour I felt, “Been there, done that”. This film reminds me a lot of Episode I. The producer seems so enthralled with showing us Hollywood’s latest movie magic that he fails to tell a convincing story. But at least Mummy has some likeable characters, unlike Episode I. I’m still waiting for Hollywood to put it all together: story line, good characterization, good special effects. I don’t think Hollywood has done this since Jurassic Park. I wouldn’t recommend Mummy to children under 12 because the film is pretty intense and this is magnified by fast scene changes.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Ron Reames, age 54
While I generally don’t expect lessons of morality when I head to the theater, I do take notice of things that are offensive. Though the story for “The Mummy Returns” centered around reincarnation, I don’t particularly find that offensive. To be offended at such things I think makes us then have to be offended at every fairy tale and story dealing with special powers or imaginary creatures. With that said, I love this movie. Perhaps my expectations were low because I didn’t much care for the first one, however this was a full-on action/adventure move. The cutsie moments of the original are toned down, and the combat (guns and hand-to-hand) drove this film from start to finish. Oh, did I mention that I don’t find guns used against imaginary evil creatures offensive either?
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—Stoney G deGeyter, age 28
Comments from young people
I think that this was a good movie. I went with a BIG group of friends so that made it all the better. If you haven’t seen the first Mummy and enjoyed that, then I can see why you’d be offended. I don’t go into movies like this and believe everything is real. It never effects what I believe. The truth is there were people who believed in other gods and there still are. I have nothing against those people, but I definitely don’t believe in their faith. it’s a fictional movie re-make of Boris Karloff’s Mummy in 1935. If you watch this movie for Christian Morals, you won’t find anything. However, if you watch it just for the fun, the action, the thrill of it then you’ll have a lot of fun.

I’m DEFINITELY not saying “put your Christianity aside” and go watch it, just KEEP in mind this isn’t real. About the movie making quality, if you’re going to see it cuz the Rock is in it, then I’d suggest waiting till he makes his own movie. He was completely computer generated. That was one thing I didn’t like about it. In the first Mummy they didn’t have as much knowledge about computer graphics so they didn’t use it as much. I think it was a lil over used in Mummmy Returns. But overall I think it was a Cool making! Final comment: This movie is for those mature Mentally and Spiritually so as to not mistake the O'Connells beleifs with their own.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Kris, age 16
…an excellent movie and a mixed bag in terms of religious stuff. The acting and special effects are excellent and there are a whole lot of cool laugh lines (especially with Evelyn’s sleazy brother and his escapades). The movie is somewhat more overt with the ancient Egyptian religious business (Mom being brought back from the dead, the mummy underworld, Anubis, etc) than the original. Evelyn’s apparently concluding she’s the Pharaoh’s reincarnated daughter is a little weird. However, there are some Christian elements such as Jonathan referring to the Bible to comfort Alex (the kid) after Mom’s death and Evelyn’s description of Heaven. The Medjai (desert warrior) characters mention God in a positive fashion. The O'Connells show a lot of familial love, which is very positive. Overall, I’d recommmend this movie for those 11-13 or so, as long as they can discern fantasy from reality.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Matt Quinn, age 16
For those who like action movies this is a great movie. I liked the way they made things look so real. Like all movies there were language problems, but not as bad as most PG-13 movies. I believe that this might be a little scary for anyone under the age of 10. Overall I considered this a good action movie.
My Ratings: [Average / 4½]
—Tyler Lingenhag, age 17
Basically if you liked the original you’ll go absolutely bonkers over this sequel; the special effects were a little weak in all honesty and the plot is paper thin, but when I paid my $8 at the door, I was expecting a roller coaster ride of thrills and comedy, and I got just that. Content wise there’s much to be offended by here; there’s references to reincarnation and all sorts of ancient Egyptian religion, but it’s not meant to be taken seriously and is sometimes almost played for laughs. In a similar fashion, there are bus-loads of violence and some nasty scares, but surprisingly it’s all very cartoonish in nature. If you want about 2 hours of nonstop gunfights, fistfights, chases and about two billion people fighting in the biggest battle I’ve seen in any film ever, you’re money won’t be wasted.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4]
—Ben Berntsen, age 17
…quite an enjoyable film. Though the theme of reincarnation makes it slightly objectionable, I believe that it is not totally corrupt and can be enjoyed by even Christian audiences.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Dustin Foree, age 13
I loved this movie. The only thing I did not like in it was the occultic themes and some mild nudity. The violence was Indiana Jones style and didn’t really bother me though it may bother other people. The movie portrays a loving tight knit family, it does not have a lot of cursing, I counted 8, it doesn’t have any sex. As for the occultic themes, it is a mummy movie, what do you expect? Not that I liked the occultic themes but if you can separate fiction from truth, it is a great, fun movie to watch.
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—Abigail Guerrero, age 17
Movie Critics
…strong family bonds and love shown by the O'Connells, [but] the occultic aspects… earn THE MUMMY RETURNS a “quite objectionable” rating…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…brief, passionate kissing …a female character… wears a fishnet-like outfit that barely covers her body and shows a great deal of her breasts and rear end…
—ScreenIt!
…a bigger and better sequel that’s scarier and swarming with more dazzling special effects than its entertaining predecessor…
—Brian McTavish, The Kansas City Star