VOD film review: The Mummy Returns
Ivan Radford | On 02, Aug 2021
From Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to Jewel of the Nile (the follow-up to Romancing the Stone), cinema has taught us again and again that it’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle twice. That’s doubly true of the adventure romance genre, which is still defined by icons such as The African Queen that remain iconic because they’re hard to imitate or match. 1999’s The Mummy was a rare success, as it played to the genre’s strengths and allowed as much room for banter and chemistry as there was for action and spectacle. The Mummy Returns was an ever rarer thing: a sequel that was just as much fun.
The film did the inevitable Hollywood trick of upping the stakes and expanding the mythology. And so we’re introduced to the “Scorpion King” – who would go on to give Dwayne Johnson his own spin-off film – who is in the Underworld with an undead army waiting to be resurrected. Enter a sinister cult with plans to use Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo – remember him?) to bring back the Scorpion King and take over the world. Who could possibly stop this dastardly plan? Why, Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz), of course. But when we catch up with the US adventurer and the respected, they’re married – and they have a son, Alex (Freddie Boath).
Introducing a new, small sidekick is, in some ways, an obvious step, but it’s also playing straight into the franchise’s strength by developing the relationship between Rick and Evie and giving Fraser and Weisz a new direction for their dynamic to remain entertaining, surprising and sweetly believable. Weisz is impeccable as ever, and it’s a joy to see Fraser’s rugged charisma get a second outing, balanced with his familiar goofy humour. Boath, fortunately, is just the right side of annoyingly precocious, and doesn’t detract from the return of John Hannah, who is clearly having a ball as Evie’s selfish brother, Jonathan, who gets a slightly bigger role to play. Also leaning into the lighter tone but keeping things grounded is Oded Fehr, who returns to steal scenes as grizzled Medjai veteran Ardeth Bay.
It’s testament to how strong this central cast is that the dated moments of CGI – particularly involving the Scorpion King – aren’t what linger in the memory. Rather, it’s the fun of romping through the set pieces with a likeable ensemble, who are kept busy by a fast-paced stream of inventive set pieces – despite the occasionally suspect visual effects, Steven Sommers directs it all with energy, particularly when it comes to a bus ride through 1930s London and an amusingly tense dash through some long grass. The result is a genuinely fun blockbuster that feels more like a reunion than a sequel – and if you need proof of how rare that is, just look at the third film in what became an ill-advised trilogy.
The Mummy Returns is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription. For the latest Sky TV packages and prices, click the button below.