The Mummy Returns appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Only minor concerns appeared here.
Sharpness was pretty crisp and detailed through the entire movie. A few shots looked slightly soft, but it was well-defined and accurate the vast majority of the time. I witnessed no examples of moiré effects or jagged edges, and I also saw no edge enhancement. In regard to print flaws, the movie appeared to be totally free of grain, grit, speckles, nicks, blotches or other defects; it was a clean and fresh presentation.
As was the case with the first movie, Returns mainly featured a golden palette, and the disc replicated these warm tones nicely. Colors seemed to be vivid and accurate, and other hues also came across well. The reds of various costumes looked vibrant and solid, and the entire flick showed clean and distinct colors.
Black levels were deep and rich, but shadows detail was just a smidgen heavy. Many scenes came with firelight, and I thought those could’ve been a wee bit better defined. Nonetheless, these are nit-picks, as Returns presented a consistently fine visual experience.
Also terrific was the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of The Mummy Returns. The soundfield presented a broad and consistently engaging affair. All five channels received a strong workout, as they offered a variety of elements throughout the movie.
Music showed good stereo separation and breadth, and effects seemed to be well placed and accurately localized. These aspects came from logical places and they moved neatly between speakers.
The surrounds played an active role in the film, but the many action pieces provided the best examples of the engulfing audio. Probably my favorite scene occurred when Imhotep unleashed the giant wave. All of the speakers came vividly to life and the sound melded together well to create a clear and vibrant impression. While that sequence worked best, much of the movie included very engrossing sound.
Audio quality also appeared to be top-notch. Despite the fact that much of the speech must have been looped, I thought dialogue always sounded warm and natural. The lines blended well with the action, and I heard no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess.
Music sounded bright and showed good fidelity with fine dynamic range. Effects were the most prominent aspect of the mix, as they presented accurate and bold elements that really created a fine mix. Bass response was loud and tight, and the low-end really shook the house at times - literally. Ultimately, The Mummy Returns offered a fine audio track that really added to the movie.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the 2008 “Deluxe Edition” DVD? Audio was smoother and more dynamic, while visuals seemed tighter, clearer and more film-like. The Blu-ray provided a nice upgrade.
We get most of the old DVD’s extras and some fresh components. We open with an audio commentary from writer/producer/director Stephen Sommers and executive producer/editor Bob Ducsay. Both men were recorded together for this running, screen-specific affair. Their Mummy commentary offered an entertaining experience, and their material for Returns repeated the successful track from 1999.
As with their commentary for Mummy, Sommers and Ducsay kept the tone light and lively as they went over a variety of production elements. They covered technical concepts, alterations made to the script, various anecdotes plus a lot of smaller bits, especially in regard to goofs and gaffes. They were totally willing to poke affectionate fun at the flick as they told us of their errors and also acknowledged some of the movie’s stretches.
One wonderfully catty aspect came from their periodic razzing of Roger Ebert; apparently they felt he took the movie too seriously, so they got back at him for his appraisal of the flick. (Hopefully this won’t seem tastleless now that Ebert has passed, but since the critic was very much alive when Sommers and Ducsay recorded the track in 2001, it shouldn’t be a distraction.) This was a fun and informative commentary that I definitely enjoyed.
Exclusive to the Blu-ray, we get an interactive feature called U-Control. While this usually includes a few different elements, The Mummy just goes with picture-in-picture tidbits. These provide shots from the set, storyboards and remarks from Sommers, producer Jim Jacks, VFX supervisor John Berton, costume designer John Bloomfield, technical director Mark Hamilton, production designer Allan Cameron, and actors Brendan Fraser, The Rock, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Oded Fehr, Freddie Boath, and Arnold Vosloo. We learn about the development of the sequel, new characters and cast members, story issues, visual effects and sets, and costumes.
While I thought the U-Control for The Mummy was lackluster and inefficient, it looks brilliant compared to this dud. For the film’s first half, most of the soundbites relate character/story basics. Do the disc’s producers not understand that we own the movie and have already watched it? Why throw those kinds of promotional bits into a running movie feature?
As the film progresses, it tends to spend most of its time with effects, and those tidbits can be interesting. However, they’re covered elsewhere on the disc, and those featurettes are more efficient. I can’t think of much reason to bother with this U-Control; it’s one of the least interesting I’ve seen.
Next come some Outtakes. We discover six-minutes and five-seconds of the usual goof-ups and clowning. These were mildly entertaining, though the only one that actually made me laugh briefly featured an impression of Scotty from Star Trek by John Hannah. Blink and you’ll miss it, though.
After this we locate a Sneak Peek for 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In this three-minute clip, we get a few remarks from Ducsay, Sommers, Fraser, director Rob Cohen, and actors Luke Ford, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh and Maria Bello. The piece exists to promote the new movie, so nothing substantial appears here.
Next comes the five-minute and 59-second An Army to Rule the World – Part 2. It features Sommers, Vosloo, Berton, Jacks, and visual effects art director Alex Laurant as they discuss the film’s depiction of the Anubis Warriors and the Pygmy Mummies. You’ll find a few interesting comments, but the featurette’s brevity means it lacks substance. (Oh, and if you want to see Part 1, you’ll have to get the Blu-ray of The Mummy.)
Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy lasts eight minutes, seven seconds and features Sommers, Berton, Jacks, Weisz, Fraser, Hannah, producer Sean Daniel, film historians Steve Haberman and Sir Christopher Frayling, makeup artist Nick Dudman, and author Stephen Jones. The show nods in the direction of the 1930s Mummy but really exists to promote the 1999 Mummy and Mummy Returns. It’s a superficial puff piece that wastes the viewer’s time.
Visual and Special Effects Formation broke down into some subsections. There were four movie scenes examined: “Imhotep Returns”, “Pygmy Mummies Attack”, “Anubis Warriors Rising”, and “Scorpion King Revealed”. Each looked at five different stages, from concept to final, and all except the actual film footage included comments from Berton. The snippets ran for a total of 16 minutes and 10 seconds of material.
Overall, I thought this was good stuff. The pieces showed the elements as they evolved, and they offered some solid insights into the process. One nice change: the addition of a “Play All” option absent from the prior disc. That makes the feature much more user-friendly.
An Exclusive Conversation With the Rock offered a three-minute and 42-second interview clip with the actor. This piece provided little more than a fluffy exercise in which the Rock told us about Scorpion King and his new experiences as an actor. It seemed mildly watchable but inconsequential.
The longest program found here is a Spotlight On Location featurette about The Mummy Returns. This 20-minute show offered the standard mix of movie clips - lots of them, actually - plus shots from the set and interview snippets with principals. Mainly we heard from the actors as well as director Sommers, Jacks, Berton and others. Some of the effects material was moderately interesting, and I also liked some of the “behind the scenes” shots, but as a whole, this was nothing more than a standard promotional piece. For the most part, it provided footage that told us about the story and the characters and how great the movie would be. In other words, it was a thin and superficial show.
Next comes a Storyboard to Final Film Comparison. It breaks into “Blimp Being Chased” (2:32), “Pygmy Chase” (3:15) and “Scorpion King Final Battle” (2:01). These use the standard format with the movie on the top half of the screen and the boards on the bottom. It’s a good presentation.
Finally, we locate a music video for Live’s “Forever May Not Be Long Enough”. This used the standard video-from-a-movie format. The band lip-synched in front of an Egyptian-themed setting; those shots were intercut with many movie segments. It was okay for the genre but it did little for me. The four and a half minute piece also provided an ad for the soundtrack album as a whole.
I was fairly pleased with The Mummy Returns. The movie was a capable extension of the first film. I thought the original seemed fresher and more winning, but the sequel did well in its own right. The Blu-ray offered very good picture, terrific sound, and a smattering of generally positive extras. The Blu-ray delivered a nice rendition of a fun movie.
To rate this film, visit the 2001 DVD review of THE MUMMY RETURNS