HD DVD Title: The Mummy Returns
Screen format: 1080p 2.35:1
First theatrical release: May 4th 2001
Previously released on DVD/BluRay: Multiple, including the October 2001 Widescreen Collectors Edition
Director: Stephen Sommers
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velasquez and The Rock
Sound Formats: English, Spanish, French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Length: 2 Hours 10 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
The stars of ‘The Mummy’ return 10 years after the events of the original film. Hero Rick O’ Connell (Fraser) has married Evie (Weisz) and the pair have been touring the world in search of antiquities along with their now 9 year old son Alex (newcomer Freddie Boath). Loyalists to Imhotep (Vosloo) have resurrected him once again, and have discovered an ancient artifact that promises to multiply his power to untold levels, once he deals with the artifacts rightful owner that is, The Scorpion King (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson). Alex unwittingly becomes ‘The Chosen One’ who will bring the Scorpion back to this world, and is kidnapped by The Mummies henchmen. Rick and Evie will need to rescue Alex, break up Imhotep’s romance with his reincarnated bride Anck Su Namun (Velasquez), stop the Scorpion King and send Imhotep back to the underworld.
If that sounds exhausting or too complex, well you haven’t heard the half of it. Proving that Hollywood can’t resist adding either too much action or messing with a winning formula, The Mummy Returns does both, resulting in a spectacle that is high on action, thin on plot, and has absolutely no character development or plot twists. If it wasn’t so fun to watch the action, this movie would be a complete zero. If the action isn’t enough to sustain you, you will likely conclude that no matter how much audio visual wizardry this HD edition throws in, The Mummy Returns is a borefest.
Sound Quality: 4.5/5
If you can survive a film without intellectual stimulation however, at least the audio is fantastic, with a full range holographic surround field that is expansively wide and features effects that travel across and around the room throughout the film, even outside of the action sequences. Trains steam from front to rear, weather rumbles across the room, and the Mummy’s minions (especially the pygmy mummies) skitter across all corners. Bass activity is heavy duty and well implemented, giving pleasing punch where called for. The musical soundtrack is a bit repetitive and hardly unique which was a bit of a letdown as it was conducted by Alan Silvestri whom has done some great work on other films. The musical highlights are found in the deep chanting choruses and those do bring a smile. Overall, it’s pretty well done!
Visual Quality: 3.5/5
Before beginning my review I had seen a lot of chatter about how good TMR looks, but I feel there is one huge issue stopping this from being a top tier transfer: I noticed a LOT of softness that I couldn’t attribute to the original film, especially in close-ups of faces. Perhaps I'm bieng TOO critical, especially as I've noted in the past that for any given HD release someone jumps in and claims that it looked soft to them. However this time I think that the spectacle of this movie lends itself to a lot of people concentrating on the action and CGI and this has led people to ignore what I see as some seriously muddy scenes. It's not every scene of course but when they do occur it is very jarring to me. The long shots are particularly sharp, but I simply was not impressed with a lot of closeups or when there was 2-4 faces on screen.
Other than the softness issues tho this is a pretty great looking film, especially with the special effects counted in (many of which echo the classic Harryhausen movies of the 50’s). There is no dust, scratches, pops or other artificial breaks in the film, which is a relief given the problems with other recent Universal releases. Similarly, the wide color palette and deep shadow detail are impressive. I did not see any evidence of edge enhancement or other similar ringing or any noise anywhere in the film. I didn’t particularly care for the animation of the Rock’s face on the Scorpion King CGI, but this was an issue with the look of the film itself (can you say Uncanny Valley?) and not the transfer. It’s a decent looking transfer but personally I thought it could have been even better looking.
Extra Features: 4/5
One good extra feature on this disk that hasn’t been a big find for most Universal releases is the Theatrical trailer. Good deal on bringing that back. We also have a full length director’s commentary (Which I have so far skipped as I didn’t care for the film itself, tho enjoying the “making of” featurettes have me rethinking that decision), an extensive behind the scenes look at the film from the series “Spotlight on Location”, a reel of outtakes, a video for the video “Forever” by Live (which is used in the end credits), and 4 very well done series of videos that go through key effects sequences from the background plates, CGI layers all the way through the final scene. Those were my favorite extra and I recommend them to any fan of CGI. The Special Effects Coordinator’s enthusiasm for his job and for this film itself was infectious, and I actually found myself watching a few segments of the film itself a second time with more appreciation for it, but it did not change my overall feelings.
Overall: 3/5 (not an average)
The Mummy Returns represents a lot of what I think is right and wrong with film today. I love well done effects and action sequences (and there is no doubt that those in this film were top rate!) but when films like this overdo it and forget to make compelling stories and believable characters to go along with them, it just saddens me. The most mind-blowing audio and polished video can’t make you like a movie any more than what your gut tells you about it, and for me, this movie is a big let down as I really did enjoy the first one in the series. Still, on the whole this disk has a lot going for it and I’m certain that the legions of people who enjoyed this film in the theater and on DVD will be even more enthused about how it fares here on HD DVD. If you haven’t yet seen The Mummy Returns, be sure to bring a whole big bowl of popcorn and check your expectations at the door! Perhaps you will enjoy it more than I did, and if that’s the case you will find a lot of great supporting material to go along with it on this disk, as I think the making of sequences were more fascinating than the film itself.