Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

The Mummy Returns (2001)


Notes: Universal Pictures.
Rick O’Connell: Brendan Fraser
Evelyn: Rachel Weisz
Jonathan: John Hannah
Imhotep: Arnold Vosloo
Medai Warrior: Oded Fehr
Scorpion King: Dwayne Johnson
Anck-su-namen: Patricia Valesquez

Written: Stephen Sommers
Directed: Stephen Sommers
Special Effects: Industrial Light & Magic

Summary: In Thebes, 1367 BCE, a defeated military leader trudges through the desert and eats a scorpion, thereby gaining control over Anubis’ legions of the dead.

In 1933, Rick O’Connell explores an Egyptian tomb, but reluctantly, and apparently only because his now wife Evelyn has been having dreams. They’re breeders now too, and their brash kid is much given to uttering prophetic anachronisms (such as “Get a room” when his parents kiss). Three sleezy thieves intrude but flee when a cave-in/flood is precipitated by Rick and Evie’s explorations and removal of a box containing a bracelet.

At a dig orchestrated by a dark woman, workers unearth a swarm of those scarabs from the 1999 film. Dark Woman is pleased, but she also seeks the bracelet, which is on its way to England with the O’Connells. There, the kid, Alex, puts the scorpion-shaped bracelet on his arm. It clamps down and yields visions of Egyptian sites. He hides his stupidity under a sleeve.

The deal is that Dark Woman is Anck-su-namen who seeks to revive Imhotep and then help him gain control over the armies of Anubis (which they’ll have to wrest from the Scorpion King with the help of that bracelet). Sneaking into the O’Connell mansion, she first mistakes brother-in-law playboy Jonathan for Rick and nearly kills him with an asp before Rick enters and a bullet shower ensues. Meanwhile, other soldiers fight Evelyn and the Medai guy from the previous film, who shows up unexpectedly and inexplicably. Evelyn fights well but is kidnapped, and they get the box, not knowing that the bracelet is on the kid.

Rick, the Medai, Jonathan, and the kid drive to the British Museum where a ceremony is taking place to revive Imhotep. Anck-su-namen presents Evelyn to the skeletal version of Imhotep, who will kill her. But Rick bursts onto the scene and another bullet shower ensues throughout the rescue. Imhotep animates four warrior mummies who pursue the protagonists onto a double-decker bus stolen by Jonathan and the kid. These dead are dispatched, but the kid is kidnapped afterwards, since he can take them all to the site of the Scorpion King.

The thieves are served up to Imhotep for sucking so that he rejuvenates into a human-looking monster. The kid is told by Imhotep that the bracelet will drain his life if he is not inside the Golden Pyramid within a few more days. He leaves sand-castle clues so that the protagonists can pursue in a dirigible. Imhotep discovers this and summons up a water-storm (parallel to the sand-storm in the previous film) to harass the pursuers. They emerge in a lush mid-desert jungle and crash. The Medai warrior has been summoning his soldiers by means of a messenger-falcon, but one of the Imhotep followers shoots the bird.

It has come out by now, partly in trance flashbacks of Evie’s, that she is a reincarnation of the daughter, Nefertiti, of the Pharaoh murdered by Anck-su-namen and Imhotep. She had done nasty show battles with Anck-su-namen at the royal court.

We have also seen, much like the hypnotism scene in the 1931 film, The Mummy, Imhotep and Anck-su-namen kneeling before a pool of water and him swirling it to reveal the ancient scene, here recounting portions of the 1999 film where Imhotep is carrying on an affair with Pharaoh Seti I’s mistress, Anck-su-namen. They leave out the smudged arm paint this time, but not the murder of the Pharaoh or Anck-su-namen stabbing herself.

All parties converge in the jungle and are attacked by vicious mummy-like pygmies with poison blow-darts. Rick rescues the kid and rushes him to the pyramid before the dawn sun hits. Peachy, but Anck-su-namen emerges and stabs Evie to death. Rick enters the pyramid to kill Imhotep, who is summoning the Scorpion King to gain control over the armies of Anubis. Joanathan and the kid resuscitate mom with the sacred book — lucky that’s around — while Rick and Imhotep fight. The Scorpion King is revived and Imhotep presents himself as a worshipper and Rick as someone sent to kill the King. So more fighting.

A scepter Jonathan has been carrying is the magic weapon that will kill the Scorpion. Jonathan flings it. Imhotep catches it. Imhotep flings it. Rick catches it. Rick jabs the Scorpion just as the Medai are about to be overrun with thousands of dog-soldiers out on the dunes.

Rumbling cave-in effects begin, and both Rick and Imhotep are being clutched at by spirits in a firy crevasse. After beating up Anck-su-namen a bit, Evelyn rescues Rick. Anck chickens and flees, so that Imhotep, with a glance at the true worthy lovers, throws himself backwards to be claimed by the dead. All escape the imploding pyramid by catching the dirigible at the top, where Jonathan takes the gigantic diamond.

Commentary:The closing credits and some of the accompanying music is more Egyptological in feel than most of the film, but the thing is entertaining certainly, if confusing. Filmmakers keep perceiving themselves as separate from people, and then fretting about what will succeed with the movie-goers. They need only look into their own psyches to realize that they, we, and the entire world DO NOT want to see kids when we’re trying to indulge in entertaining escapism. Until he killed the bird, I was entirely on the side of the guy whose one joy in life was the thought that eventually he would get to butcher the brat. He, and we, of course, were cheated. I have already bet a colleague $60 that The Mummy 3 will include a girl O’Connell brat added to the horror film.

Reviewer for The New Yorker David Denby notes:

In the old days, the studios employed teams of screenwriters precisely to insure that a story hung together. But planned incoherence is something new…. Sommers is obviously on to something: he has taken accurate measure of an alienated audience that can enjoy itself by watching mucky creatures and roiling digital clouds and a messiness so pervasive that no one could possibly feel a thing about what’s happening onscreen. (28 May 2001: 141)

He also wonders if anyone feels “cheated that the Rock has been turned into such an elaborate piece of special effects that he’s not remotely interesting as a movie star, as a human being, or even as a famous body” (141). Well, Dwayne seeks dehumanization by renaming himself “The Rock,” yielding the rather absurd credit: The Rock as the Scorpion King. What the hell is that?

Mummy Films