The wraps come off in this triple set of adventure films. In ‘The Mummy’ (1999), Brendan Fraser plays Rick O’Connell, an American who discovers Hamunaptra, the city of the dead. He is driven away by locals and arrested. Three years later, Englishman Jonathan (John Hannah) discovers an ancient artefact which he gives to his sister Evelyn (Rachel Weisz). In turn, she trades the artefact for Rick’s release from prison and the trio set off for Hamunaptra, hoping to arrive there before Beni (Kevin J. O’Connor), Rick’s crooked former associate. However Beni has already invoked a curse which frees Imhotep, a supernaturally-gifted mummy. He pursues the adventurers across the land, feeding upon the flesh of unfortunate explorers. He aims to sacrifice Evelyn, hoping to resurrect another evil mummy… In ‘The Mummy Returns’ (2001), Rick (Fraser) and Evie (Weisz) have now settled down to married life in London with their 8-year-old son Alex (Freddie Boath). Meanwhile, the British museum is playing host to the corpse of Imhotep, the mummy which had previously given Rick and Evie such a hard time. When ancient magic brings Imhotep back to life, a chain of events is set in motion that will lead to the end of the world, thus forcing Rick and Evie to dust-off their mummy-defeating skills once again. Finally, in ‘The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor’ (2008), the action moves to China, where for 2,000 years, the ruthless Chinese Dragon Emperor (Jet Li) and his vast army of warriors have been frozen in time, cast in clay, waiting for their moment to rise again. When young archaeologist Alex O’Connell (Luke Ford) is duped into bringing the ancient warlord back to life, he soon realises he has to call in the only people he knows with experience and knowledge of how to battle the undead – his parents, father Rick (Fraser) and mother Evelyn (Maria Bello). As the emperor attempts to reunite with his massed warriors and finally fulfil his dream of world domination, Alex and his family, along with mystical, high-kicking sorceress Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh) and a rival cast of undead, have to pull out all the stops to keep the evil tyrant from achieving his ends.
The MummyIf you’re expecting bandaged-wrapped corpses and a lurching Boris Karloff-type villain, then you’ve come to the wrong movie. But if outrageous effects, a hunky hero, and some hearty laughs are what you’re looking for, the 1999 version of The Mummy is spectacularly good fun. Yes, the critics called it “hokey,” “cheesy,” and “pallid.” Well, the critics are unjust. Granted, the plot tends to stray, the acting is a bit of a stretch, and the characters occasionally slip into cliché, but who cares? When that action gets going, hold tight–those two hours just fly by. The premise of the movie isn’t that far off from the original. Egyptologist and general mess Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) discovers a map to the lost city of Hamunaptra, and so she hires rogue Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) to lead her there. Once there, Evelyn accidentally unlocks the tomb of Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), a man who had been buried alive a couple of millennia ago with flesh-eating bugs as punishment for sleeping with the pharaoh’s girlfriend. The ancient mummy is revived, and he is determined to bring his old love back to life, which of course means much mayhem (including the unleashing of the 10 plagues) and human sacrifice. Despite the rather gory premise, this movie is fairly tame in terms of violence; most of the magic and surprise come from the special effects, which are glorious to watch, although Imhotep, before being fully reconstituted, is, as one explorer puts it, rather “juicy.” Keep in mind this film is as much comedy as it is adventure–those looking for a straightforward horror pic will be disappointed. But for those who want good old-fashioned eye-candy kind of fun, The Mummy ranks as one of choicest flicks of 1999. —Jenny Brown
The Mummy Returns
Proving that bigger is rarely better, The Mummy Returns serves up so much action and so many computer-generated effects that it quickly grows exhausting. In his zeal to establish a lucrative franchise, writer-director Stephen Sommers dispenses with such trivial matters as character development and plot logic, and charges headlong into an almost random buffet of minimum story and maximum mayhem, beginning with a prologue establishing the ominous fate of the Scorpion King (played by World Wrestling Federation star the Rock, in a cameo teaser for his later starring role in–you guessed it–The Scorpion King). Dormant for 5,000 years, under control of the Egyptian god Anubis, the Scorpion King will rise again in 1933, which is where we find The Mummy’s returning heroes Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, now married and scouring Egyptian ruins with their 8-year-old son, Alex (Freddie Boath). John Hannah (as Weisz’s brother) and Oded Fehr (as mystical warrior Ardeth Bay) also return from The Mummy, and trouble begins when Alex dons the Scorpion King’s ancient bracelet, coveted by the evil mummy Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), who’s been revived by… oh, but does any of this matter? With a plot so disposable that it’s impossible to care about anything that happens, The Mummy Returns is best enjoyed as an intermittently amusing and physically impressive monument of Hollywood machinery, with gorgeous sets that scream for a better showcase, and digital trickery that tops its predecessor in ambition, if not in payoff. By the time our heroes encounter a hoard of ravenous pygmy mummies, you’ll probably enjoy this movie in spite of itself. —Jeff Shannon
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
The third film in the The Mummy series freshens the franchise up by setting the action in China. There, the discovery of an ancient emperor’s elaborate tomb proves a feather in the cap of Alex O’Connell (Luke Ford), a young archaeologist and son of Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his wife Evelyn (Maria Bello, taking over the role from Rachel Weisz). Unfortunately, a curse that turned the emperor (Jet Li) and his army into terra cotta warriors buried for centuries is lifted, and the old guy prepares for world domination by seeking immortality at Shangri La. The O’Connells barely stay a step ahead of him (climbing through the Himalaya mountains with apparent ease), but the action inevitably leads to a showdown between two armies of mummies in a Chinese desert. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor has a lot to offer: a supporting cast that includes the elegant Michelle Yeoh, Russell Wong, and Liam Cunningham, the unexpected appearance of several Yeti, and a climactic battle sequence that is nightmarishly weird but compelling. On the downside, the charm so desperately sought in romantic relationships, as well as comic turns by John Hannah (as Evelyn’s rascal brother), is not only absent but often annoying. Rarely have witty asides in the thick of battle been more unwelcome in a movie. Rob Cohen’s direction is largely crisp if sometimes curious (a fight between Fraser and Jet Li keeps varying in speed for some reason), but his vision of Shangri La, in the Hollywood tradition, is certainly attractive.