The Mummy Returns

chapter 3

2001posterreleased May 4th, 2001

Okay, now the summer is really starting. Crocodile Dundee, Stallone in a car, those were appetizers. This is the first bonafide Big Ass Summer Movie of ’01, with the advertising and the toys and what not. It opened huge, and eventually made more than $433 million worldwide. I don’t think I know anybody that likes it, though.

THE MUMMY RETURNS is the second one, the one where the mummy returns for a while, then leaves again. Like the first MUMMY it begins with a narrated prologue that’s better than the movie proper because it doesn’t have Brendan Fraser or a bunch of talking in it. This one tells a little bit about the legend of The Scorpion King (The Rock), a guy who led a bunch of warriors in trying to conquer the world, but they all died of heat stroke so he was bit by a scorpion or whatever, and magic. His part is less than 5 minutes, he speaks one line and it’s not in English, and his narrative purpose is to return as a shitty CGI bug monster at the end. Also to set up a prequel spin-off that’s way more entertaining than the mummy movies, in my opinion.

I never watched THE MUMMY RETURNS before this retrospective because I hated the first one so much. I just remember it being a bunch of loud noises and phony excitement with no sense of rhythm or build. This actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but sure doesn’t give me a reason to give part 1 a second chance.

mp_mummyreturnsAfter the prologue we go to 1933, a year in which Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz’s characters are now married and have a spunky son. They’re exploring an ancient tomb together as a family activity I guess. There are snakes in the cave and he’s not afraid of them, which is obviously meant as a huge ‘fuck you’ to Indiana Jones, and to call him a pussy and make him feel bad about himself, etc.

Anyway it turns out some bandits or tomb raiders are also there, the kid shoots a slingshot, he gets a magic Bracelet of Anubis stuck on his arm, the entire place collapses and that type of shit. The bandits are trying to resurrect the Scorpion King so he can wiggle around and lead an army of dogheaded warriorsb which means they have to first resurrect Imhotep, the mummy from part 1, played by Arnold Vosloo (the small screen Darkman and big screen Billy Zane), because of such-and-such, but what they didn’t count on was that Fraser was wearing a wristband in part 1 and when he takes it off it turns out there’s a tattoo underneath that proves he’s a Magi and by the way his wife is the resurrection of Nefertiti and the son is “The Chosen One” and the snake is probly the Chosen Snake but that never comes up.

I forgot that there was a cool guy with a tattooed face that knows all the ancient secrets and sword fighting techniques, he’s part of an ancient order trying to stop the mummy, and then there’s another ancient order trying to help the mummy I believe. Fraser says “Oh no, not these guys again!” which is the same thing I thought when I saw him and the other main characters. To be fair to the movie though they are far less annoying than in part 3. They play it mostly straight, and they’re supposed to be so in love that the audience should shout “Get a room!” in unison. At one point Fraser says, “If anything ever happened to you I would never forgive myself.” (Like what, if she turned into Maria Bello?)

But as long as Fraser’s not trying to do witty banter he isn’t that bad. Then again he’s not at all compelling in the Indiana Jones way he’s obviously supposed to be. It seemed to me like they also slimmed down the “comedy relief” participation of the sleazy brother-in-law character. He has a few lines like defending his innocence by saying “I haven’t done anything… lately!” (Ain’t I a stinker?) but mostly they force him to sit around and look serious while the other characters talk, which is a fair punishment for how annoying he was in part 1.

I kind of like that the kid leaves behind a trail of sandcastles that tell his parents which archaeological sites to go to next. They also fly around in a zeppelin, which I guess you gotta give some points for because very few movies have zeppelins these days, and they are an important form of travel. The pilot of the airship has an eyepatch at first but then takes it off because he doesn’t actually need it. That’s the kind of comedy that you can only make up on set. How magical.

I gotta acknowledge that Mr. Sommers does make some sincere attempts at human and/or mummy emotion, and there are moments and scenes that might be really cool if not surrounded by two hours of ridiculous bullshit and terrible CGI walls of water with spooky faces in them and that type of business. In this one the stand out “hey, this would’ve worked in an actual movie” scene is at the climax when the events contrast the relationships between the married archaeologists and the mummy and his girl. The boys are falling into a pit of scary fire or some stupid bullshit, I don’t remember what it was exactly and I’m sure no one involved with the movie does either. Brendan tries to get Rachel to run away to safety but she doesn’t, she risks her life and saves him. Meanwhile, the Mummy’s girl takes a look at him, then runs like a fuckin coward, or like Michael Caine’s employee in ON DEADLY GROUND who claims she has to go to the bathroom and tries to drive off.

And there’s a shot of Imhotep crying. Not because he’s dying (he’s been through that a couple times) but because he thought she was a keeper. In the context of a good story with good characters that would be a good scene.

THE MUMMY RETURNS tries to be a rousing, light-hearted adventure, but at its heart it’s a mystery, and the mystery is “how the fuck does a movie this big and expensive have special effects this terrible?” For the most part it’s a nice looking movie, a big production with lots of wide shots of digitally enhanced period scenes and ancient Egyptian palaces and what not. The effects going on in the background are fine.

But there are four different major types of digital characters in the movie and they all look preposterous. There’s the titular mummy Imhotep, when first resurrected he’s a hollowed out corpse. This is a case where it would’ve been nice if they had the motion capture because the way they animate this dumb looking guy has no relation to the personality or posture of the guy playing him when it switches to an actor. This is actually the opposite of the Boris Karloff MUMMY – the monster looks so stupid that it’s a huge relief when it becomes just a dude. There’s one scene where he’s still supposed to be rotten but he’s wearing what looks like an iron mask (turns out to be rubber – not sure why they did that) and he’s so much more of a compelling character that way it’s ridiculous.

Another terrible effect is the dog-headed soldiers of the Army of Anubis, who number in the thousands for huge LORD OF THE RINGS type battles. To be fair it’s more just how stupid the dog-headed cartoon warriors look that is the problem, not as much the fact that they look phony. So I guess I give them a pass. Good boy. You get a treat.

I’d heard for years about people hating the “pygmy mummies,” but I didn’t know why. Nobody told me they were little CGI gremlin guys bouncing around and jibber jabbering.

But by far the biggest offender is the “Scorpion King” character. I actually liked the spin-off movie THE SCORPION KING so it’s sad to learn that the Rock’s likable hero Mathayus not only turns into a one-dimensional evil scorpion monster, but that he fucking looks like this:


(I think I stole this screengrab from Chud’s worst CGI in history list)

For once it’s not exaggerating to say that he looks like a video game. In fact, here is The Rock in an actual video game:

This movie was released ten years ago, you’d think they would’ve finished the effects by now.

I found a quote from Todd McCarthy of Variety saying that the movie “bursts with visual goodies,” which would imply that to at least one professional these effects were considered acceptable at the time. But I remember the other movies that existed and I don’t buy it. This is Industrial Light and Magic, they had already done Jar Jar Binks, and regardless of his controversial politics and comedic style you gotta admit Jar Jar looks pretty real. They’d done digital characters in the Jurassic Parks, DRAGON HEART, MEN IN BLACK…  This was 5 years after they did MARS ATTACKS!, which intentionally looked goofy, but better than these fuckin mummies. I don’t get it.

At any rate, this is a good example of the Big Summer Popcorn Movie that only gets away with it because of our thirst for a Big Summer Popcorn Movie when May rolls around and the sun is coming out. It’s all expensive spectacle, no soul, no skill. If spectacle is all you got in your toolbox you oughta be better at staging it than this. Obviously it’s modeled after the Indiana Jones movies, but only in the most base, superficial ways. Clearly it learned nothing from those movies in storytelling or characterization. It’s embarrassing how much the setpieces in this completely hinge on impressing the audience with effects that weren’t even ready to be shown to the public. In a good movie of this type you could laugh or shrug at a dated effect and the scene would still work because of the way it was put together.

To me this goes in the category of expensive, terrible movies like TRANSFORMERS, BATMAN FOREVER and the works of Roland Emmerich. Some are worse than others, sometimes they’re funny to watch, and I’m not saying I’m not interested in seeing them. But to pretend that’s what we’re hoping for in a summer movie is an insult to movies. And movies will have their revenge on you by making you keep watching this type of crap.

* * *

legacy: in the decade since ’01 there’s been a tie-in movie ride, a cartoon series, a part 3, a SCORPION KING spin-off, a DTV prequel to the spin-off, another one on the way… I don’t think many people love these movies, but I guess they tolerate them enough to keep them alive. I don’t think there are any plans to return to the big screen, though.

Sommers is still doing these type of movies, but maybe slowed down a little. Back then he could probly get most of the projects he wanted off the ground, now he’s gotta fight for it. Fraser is still a leading man, but mostly in children’s movies (JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, FURRY VENGEANCE). Weisz chose not to come back for part 3, but has maintained a balance between smaller movies (ABOUT A BOY,  MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS) and the genre stuff (ERAGON, CONSTANTINE). And THE FOUNTAIN may or may not count as both.

Most notably of course, The Rock has since fulfilled the MUMMY RETURNS prophecy of becoming a big movie star.

datedness: Those effects look fucking terrible, but I’m sure they looked bad at the time too. Other than that it’s a nice looking production and since it’s a period piece it’s not dated. The scenery looks nice on blu ray.

2001-2011 connections: The Rock (now called Dwayne Johnson) has the standout role in the movie of the summer so far, FAST FIVE. It’s another sequel to a movie where he wasn’t in the first one, but this one really takes advantage of the personality and presence he had in his wrestling days, and lets him say words and shit. Business-wise he’s also spending the summer becoming the go-to “guy to add to sequels to crappy movies,” signing on for upcoming sequels to JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (originally starring Fraser) and GI JOE (originally directed by Sommers).

Would they make a movie like this today? Pretty much. Two summers ago Sommers directed GI JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA, which has all different trappings but the same kind of senseless, random pile of chaotic events, and even with effects that you assume were done on a low budget until you read otherwise. I guess that’s his trademark.


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118 Responses to “The Mummy Returns”

  1. It is a lame movie, but I don’t think the effects are that bad for the time it was made. It is to bad you did not watch this then Jurassic Park 3 back to back so you could have really compared the effects.

  2. I remember liking this more than part 1 too, but mostly because I really, really lowered my expectations. I watched it, because people assured me, this was actually good. It wasn’t. But I love those mini zombies. Everytime the movie is running on TV and I accidently tune in during that part, I watch it. And when I happen to catch the ending, because that one shot of Imhotep, realizing that he is better off in hell without his cowardly squeeze, gets me every time. Just like in part 1, Arnold Vosloo was by far the highlight of the movie. I wonder why he never became a huge star. From time to time I see him doing meatless guest parts in admittedly successful TV shows (I think the biggest part he played since the MUMMY movies was the villain in season 4 of 24. And just when he dies, they apparently ran out of budget and he gets the worst looking special effect of the whole series.), but unfortunately that’s all.

    BTW, the CGI mummy WAS motion captured! I remember a making off where they showed it and stuff. But it’s weird, the FX for part 1 were actually seriously good. I think it even was the 1st movie where an actor had CGI enhanced make up. But part 2 totally blew it.

    And John Hannah (the goofy brother) was unbelievable fucking awesome in that weird, Sam Raimi produced, 300-looking SPARTACUS series, where he played the villain. And WHAT a villain he played. I loved to hate him in every second that he was on screen. He totally made up

  3. I remember thinking, “Oh, Brendan Fraser and the mummy will have to team up to stop the scorppion king” because by all rules of what is creative or interesting, that would happen. So it didn’t.

  4. Yeah, but you gotta admit that what Imhotep does, as soon as the scorpion king appears, is one more reason to love that guy.

  5. I remember laughing out loud in the theater when The Scorpion King showed up. Yeah, the special effects were terrible back then too. It was around that time that all special effects, for some reason, took a step backwards. All of a sudden, movies from the late eighties and early nineties started to look better than movies in the early aughts. I don’t know how to explain it, except for a proliferation of CGI. People fell in love with the technology and pushed it farther than it could go. I think of it as a cautionary tale.

    I also agree that the pygmy mummies are totally worth it. It is perhaps the only part of the movie that put a smile on my face.

  6. I always thought Sommers seems like Johnny Depp’s version of Ed Wood: A really nice, positive guy who just happens to be completely and ludicrous untalented and unimaginative. But I sort of always root for him anyway.

  7. Originally, the Scorpion King in the end was going to be live-action The Rock with practical effects for the monster parts. But somebody fucked up and there was a scheduling conflict, so ILM had to scramble in the last minute to create a photorealistic representation of Dwayne Johnson – in the era when even a realistic CG non-human creature like Gollum was still a few years away. So yeah, it was never going to work.

    Maybe a perfectionist director with keen visual sensibilities could have salvaged the situation, but I’m thinking Stephen Sommers just doesn’t have the eye for visual effects. Or he just doesn’t care if it looks real or not. Because later on, he went on to do Van Helsing and G.I. Joe. Also films with some really shitty CGI in them.

    But I can’t hate THE MUMMY RETURNS. It does try to push its somewhat insincere and forced “look it’s a fun adventure!” mentality a bit too hard, and it does suffer from typical Hollywood blockbuster sequel bloat where everything has to be bigger, longer and flashier whether the benefits from it or not. But at its core, it’s still an adventure film with energy, glimpses of sense of wonder, and likable characters played by likable actors.

    And even with all its faults, I found it still to be a way better Indiana Jones movie than INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL was. That has count for something.

  8. I remember when this came out. This was the first big release for the independent theatre I worked at. I remember we didn’t have our shirts and the only thing they had were these shirts promoting Coyote Ugly. I felt like such a tool.

    I was actually looking forward to this movie. I liked the first one. I like Brendan Fraser. I dig Egyptian stuff. I like John Hannah and think he’s awesome in Spartacus. This movie was just awful. I could forgive bad CGI if the whole thing wasn’t boring.

    I think Vern makes some good points for movies that are older than this that had better CGI. One I would add is Starship Troopers. For me, that movie has some of the best CGI ever and really works.

    Even as much as I disliked this movie I remember not hating it as much as Planet of the Apes or Titanic 2: Pearl Harbor. Seriously, that movie had the same exact plot and emotional beats as Titanic.

  9. ThomasCrown442

    June 9th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I remember being horrified by the bad scorpion king cgi. I felt embarassed for whoever did the special effects for that. I don’t remember the rest of the cgi being that bad but that scene was laughable.

    I agree with CJ that John Hannah is fucking awesome in Spartacus: Blood and Sand. He seriously chews up the screen in every scene that he is in. You can’t take your eyes off him. I would dare say that he deserved some kind of emmy nomination or cable show award but we know nobody gives awards for tv shows where heads get chopped off and guys stand around with their cocks hanging out.

  10. Go back and think through all the scenes in this movie, what it’s about, what the characters are like, what the “exciting” parts are like. Do you truly, honestly think that captures what you love about Indiana Jones better than CRYSTAL SKULL, or are you just being spiteful because you were disappointed in that movie? It doesn’t seem to me like that’s possible unless the things that appeal to you about Indiana Jones are things like the color of the clothes he wears, the amount of sand depicted and the years shown on screen.

  11. The Mummy Returns is pathetic on all levels, mostly in the special effects department. The only good thing about the movie is The Rock (non-CG’ed version, that is) but he’s only in it for about a minute, so who cares? It’s sad to think that the putrid Mummy 3 is still slightly better than this mess.

    And I agree with Vern, The Scorpion King spin-off is way better than any of The Mummy Movies. Heck, I’ll even go so far to say that the DTV Scorpion King 2 is better than either of the Mummy sequels. In fact, the “Invisible” Monster at the end of SK2 is light years better than the Nintendo 64 monster from this movie.

  12. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of wrong with THE MUMMY RETURNS. But there were also mutant pygmies, a bus chase, sand armies, Rachel Weisz fighting having a neat knife fight. Yes, most of them executed rather poorly, with obvious CGI, but the effort was there.

    In contrast, CRYSTAL SKULL was just… dull. There is no energy, no drive, no heart. Even the set piece chase scene was slow moving.

    And being boring is the worst offense an adventure film can make.

    So yes, THE MUMMY RETURNS trumps CRYSTAL SKULL as a fun, pulpy adventure with at least an attempt to have the spirit of the Indy movies. Doesn’t hold a candle to RAIDERS, TEMPLE or CRUSADE, of course, but miles above the dullness of the fourth flick.

  13. I confess to really liking both The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, but I was still a kid and it was closest thing to Indiana Jones coming out back then, plus I like Egyptian stuff

    however even as a kid I thought the plot was pretty stupid in Returns (all the stuff about reincarnation and “Magi” and whatnot), I just enjoyed the action and the sets

    I hated the third one though, so I probably wont ever revisit the first two, I’m sure they haven’t hold up, probably best to let them remain a memory

  14. also The Mummy was the second movie I saw on dvd (though I saw it in theaters first) and the first director’s commentary I ever listened to, so yes Stephen Sommers was the first director I ever heard commentate a movie

    first movie I ever saw on dvd by the way was Fantasia 2000 and the third was The Sound of Music

  15. also, what would you guys say was the worst year for movies of the last 11 years?

    2003 was pretty rancid, I barely went to the movies at all that year

  16. I don’t think anyone’s going to crucify you if you like the Mummy movies. I actually think the first film has some charms, even if the second film is pretty awful (pygmy mummies not withstanding). I would even go so far as saying that Brendon Frasier can turn in some decent work if he’s given the proper material. I enjoyed George of the Jungle much more than I expected to.

    In defense of Indy 4, I think there are some incredible action sequences in that film. In fact, I would put the action in Indy 4 against any blockbuster of the past three or four years. The chase scene at the college is absolutely fantastic. I even enjoyed the opening action sequence, from the disguised Russians to the nuked fridge. It’s when Indiana is capture by the Russians that the film starts to fall apart. If the monkeys and the water falls killed the movie for you, then I understand. Those were terrible moments in the movie. But for me, the good outweighed the bad.

  17. I don’t understand how anyone could Indy 4 was boring, I thought the complaints was that it was too far fetched (nuking the fridge etc)

    but boring? come on…

  18. Boy oh boy, I can see how I’m going to be Negative Nancy again and again and again during this series of reviews. (Unless of course you were to WATCH AND REVIEW JUGG – oh, never mind.) Gotta say, though, I agree with Vern completely on this one. I saw it in the cinema and it was one of the worst experiences I can remember in a cinema that was just due to the picture. The volume was too damn loud and nothing interesting was happening. Total, vapid, senseless spectacle, signifying absolutely nothing.

    Poor John Hannah! One of the finest British actors of his generation, reduced to this. Damn, even “Alias” made better use of him than these films do. I’m not sure who gets the worse part of the bargain, John Hannah or Dwayne Johnson; but neither of them will be listing this one on their resumes, I fear.

    Indy 4 was ok, but it was kind of soulless. It didn’t really do anything for me. It says a lot that the best scene in it by far featured two elderly professors talking about the past.

    Although having seen and largely liked “Hanna”, I will say that “Indy 4” completely wasted the considerable talents of Cate Blanchett. In “Hanna” she was genuinely unnerving, largely because she wasn’t a monster, just extremely pragmatic and very recognisably human.

  19. Also let’s not compare “The Mummy Returns” to “GI Joe” please. The latter was preposterous, and Marlon Wayans was… well, let’s just say that whatever you happen to think of the Razzies, they got this one right. But “GI Joe” was great dumb fun, knew exactly what it wanted to do, and did it pretty well for the most part.

    (Although they missed one huge trick: they had a moment at which Christopher Ecclestone could’ve used the phrase “We’re going to EAT the EIFFEL TOWER!” but he didn’t. Seriously, if they’d have actually used that line, I think I would’ve orgasmed right then and there.)

  20. Grim Grinning Chris

    June 9th, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    Yeah, no way for a second that Crystal Skull was boring or had no heart. If anything it had TOO much going on and too much heart for its own good, which is what made it come off as goofy as it did at times. Still love it and think its better than Last Crusade.

    The Mummy Returns was suprisingly enjoyable. I really hated the first one and thought it dragged terribly until its climax. Returns was nonstop action and setpieces (almost to the point of overkill) so I was entertained. The CGI was all atrocious though. Just awful. And I still cannot understand the connection between the Scorpion King of this movie and the Scorpion King of… er… The Scorpion King… I mean they are the same dude and the same character but everything about them and their motivations are totally different from one movie to the next.

    The Revenge Of The Mummy ride at Universal is, however, one of my favorite things on the planet.
    I really wish Very would go to the Universal parks and “ride the movies”. I would fucking love his reviews of the tram tour, The Mummy, The Simpsons ride, Jurassic Park River Adventure… all that! Let’s take up a collection!!!

  21. I almost fell asleep during Indy 4 because I found it so unbelievably dull. Everyone single person involved with that seemed to be on autopilot. The fact that anyone could like it astonishes me actually. I honestly can’t think of a single moment in it that worked or felt genuine on any level. Also it’s really not all that different from a Mummy movie. It features the same terrible cg, same goofy infantile humor that Vern condemned in this very review(the shitty rubber snake bit and Shia getting hit in the balls 5 times with a cg cactus come to mind), same forced and unnatural exposition dialogue that the actors seem embarrassed to speak. Don’t get me wrong it’s way better than an abortion like The Mummy 2, I just find it funny that Indy 4 apologists continually use the Mummy franchise as a straw man. When you need The Mummy 2 to exist so you can feel good about a movie then you have a problem.

  22. re: Griff – worst summer movie season lately: definitely 2006. I remember hating it more and more as it went on. The awful “Superman Returns”, “Poseidon”, “Miami Vice”, “The Da Vinci Code”, the mediocre “M:I:III”, the worst X-Men movie “X-Men: The Last Stand”, “The Omen”, “Pirates 2”, “Nacho Libre”, “Click”, the sudden fall of Pixar with “Cars” (an enjoyable yet undeniably inferior effort that ended their golden streak), “Lady in the Water”, a string of generic, forgettable CGI animal comedies (“The Ant Bully”, “Over the Hedge”, “Barnyard”), “My Super Ex-Girlfriend”, “Step Up”, “Garfield 2”, the Wayans’ “Little Man”, “Snakes on a Plane”……..so dreary. As with any movie season there were a few gems (“Monster House”, “Little Miss Sunshine”, “The Descent”, “Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift” was pretty good, “Clerks 2” and “Talladega Nights” had their moments, I guess “World Trade Center” was okay), but none of those were really the big movies of that summer. I mean, even if people like some of those crappy movies I listed above, does anyone actually love any of them? At best a couple were not bad, and that’s about the best you can say of summer 2006.

    But then, I kinda liked “The Mummy Returns”, faults and all. And “Crystal Skull” is heavily underrated. I’m with Vern all the way on that.

  23. I refuse to see GI Joe because they didn’t reference any of the Fensler Films videos, how can you make a GI Joe movie not have a reference to those somewhere in there? “hey kid, I’m a computer, stop all the downloadin’!”

    Grim Grinning Chris – I love the Universal Studios parks, I’m assuming because of your name you’re a theme park nut too? (Haunted Mansion has always been my favorite Disney ride)

  24. Wow, Michael, 2006 sounds awful. I saw almost all of those movies at the theatre and remember them all being terrible. Actually, I think Mission Impossible 3 is the best of the series and one of the best big studio action films of the decade.

  25. ThomasCrown442

    June 9th, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Karen Allen was horrible in Crystal Skull. Every time she showed up on screen she made my skin crawl. The scene where she’s giving Shia fencing lessons during the swordfight with Cate Blanchett was shit. Actually, that whole scene is pretty much shit now that i think about it. Her character wasnt needed. I don’t think they had to go back to well on that one.

    Crystal Skull also had the worst bad guy of the series. I don’t really think its Cate Blanchett’s fault her character sucked. In the beginning she’s some psychic mind reader or something and then that character trait completely goes away for the rest of the movie. She’s such a one note mustache twirler that I don’t find her interesting at all. The bad guys from the other movies are somewhat multi layered and waaaay more interesting.

    All in all though, I liked the movie though. I personally think the first action scene is the best scene of the movie (including the fridge scene).

  26. Grim Grinning Chris

    June 9th, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Yes. Severe themepark junkie here, Griff.

  27. Casey – “Actually, I think Mission Impossible 3 is the best of the series and one of the best big studio action films of the decade.”

    I know I promised to never comment on this series again, but by gum, I feel the need to applaud Casey here and make it clear just how much I agree with him.

    You see, I originally thought the original “Mission: Impossible” stands firmly for me within the top five blockbuster movies of the decade, perhaps ever. Well it turns out my opinion was misplaced, and I now see how wrong I was. I’m happy that a lot of very smart people on AICN and elsewhere were able to correct me on that one, calling foul because it “betrayed the original series”. (Because we all know that movies that slavishly follow the pattern of a TV series work out so well. Who could forget the live-action movie of the hit TV show “24”?)

    Meanwhile a lot of other clearly very intelligent people mocked it for being “Mission: inpenetrable”. Because if there’s one thing you definitely CAN’T do in a blockbuster movie, it’s to challenge the audience’s intelligence! How dare they!

    Well, never let it be said that the producers and director of MI:3 don’t know how to fix the faults of the original film. They gave Ethan a hot fiancee and had her be kidnapped by the main bad guy. Also it turned out that the slightly ineffectual white guy who tempts Ethan back into his old ways is actually an evil traitor. THIS HAS NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE IN THE HISTORY OF FILM. We’re truly breaking new ground here people!

    But let’s look at some of the other ways that MI:3 improves on the first film:

    – Mission: Impossible had tensely-plotted heist and action scenes where everything was setup and the geography of everything happening was made clear. This is boringly predictable, so MI:3 went for the “don’t tell the audience where the two helicopters are in relation to one another, or how far the guard is from discovering the thieves” school of action direction. This leaves room for a lot of interesting ambiguity.

    – Conveniently setting aside that MI’s last action scene features a helicopter chasing a train through the Chunnel, all but one of Mission: Impossible’s scenes are gripping and tense. MI:3 has precisely one scene that works, and the director puts it at the very beginning of the film. Clearly this is a much more economical and therefore superior approach.

    – And do you remember how Ving Rhames had a likeable character and a backstory in MI:1? And how he’s somehow morphed into the “token supportive black friend” in MI:3? And how all of the other returning characters are somehow less interesting; while the new ones just appear and do stuff with no context, backstory or reason to care about them? This is a great improvement because, without any interesting characters, story or conflicts to speak of, the audience’s attention is kept focussed on what really matters in these films: Tom Cruise’s hair.

    Yep, there was me thinking “Mission: Impossible” was an under-appreciated gem that set up beautifully a fantastically-realised world of espionage, where a mask can transform you into a whole different person, and anybody can be a double or triple-agent or on no fixed side at all; and that the sequels were mindless pointless crap that completely fail to do anything remotely original or interesting, or show any spark of realisation of what great an opportunity has been squandered here. But THANK GOD I have people like you to show me where I’m going wrong.

    Casey, I salute you.

    (Although I will say that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was really good.)

  28. Sorry Vern, The Mummy is a great, fun ride while this is an absolute disaster. How can anyone not love Kevin J. O’Connor in the first one? Neither stacks up to the outrageousness of Deep Rising, but I trot out The Mummy every couple of months at least. Like with Independence Day I think you have some allergic reaction to dumb fun popcorn movies, or maybe “crowd pleasers” in general. Long live bombast!

  29. 2006 does look awful in retrospect.

    Going back a little further, I think 1998 would be an interesting case study. Deep Impact/Armageddon, the Lethal Weapon 4 improv show, Zorro, Baseketball, Mafia, Wrongfully Accused, X-Files, Snake Eyes, Halloween H20, Bulworth, Horse Whisperer (a bright spot to me), SIX DAYS SEVEN NIGHTS (ugh), The Avengers, and the surprise hit There’s Something About Mary (does it hold up?)

  30. caruso_stalker217

    June 9th, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Put me in the “INDY 4 is fucking dull” crowd. After I saw it the first time I knew something was off. It had its problems, but I wasn’t sure what the one big weakness was. So I went to see it again and I figured out what it was. The movie is boring. It was bad enough that it had a lot of shit I would expect to see in one of these MUMMY movies (in fact, the climax is basically the same as THE MUMMY RETURNS) but this is supposed to be an action/adventure movie. It shouldn’t be boring. The gophers and monkeys and shit, I could let that slide if it was exciting. CRYSTAL SKULL had me literally checking my watch. Not good.

    In my opinion, it’s easily Spielberg’s worst film.

  31. Well, come on, Caruso. You’ve seen 1941, right?

  32. Oh come on, Indy 4 is great! Miles and miles better than the bad FX filled father/son sitcom that LAST CRUSADE was!
    I don’t have anythign else to say this. Usually when the INDY 4 discussion comes up somewhere, I just link to Vern’s review, but I don’t think I have to do this on this websight.

  33. caruso_stalker217

    June 10th, 2011 at 12:17 am

    FTopel: Okay, you got me there. I haven’t seen 1941 yet. But of the Spielberg films I’ve seen, CRYSTAL SKULL is easily the worst.

    CJ: I agree with you on LAST CRUSADE, which is also boring. But at least Ford and Connery had good chemistry.

  34. this is interesting. vern says, “I’d heard for years about people hating the ‘pygmy mummies,'” but so far everyone who’s commented on them here has said they liked them. and actually, they were one of the parts of the movie that i liked, too.

    i’m not sure what to say about THE MUMMY RETURNS. i saw it opening weekend because i was really, really in the mood for a big summer popcorn movie. it was a hot, early summer day. i went to go see it in times square with my then lady friend, and the cinema was fuckin packed. i heard later that it had (i think) the biggest opening day in history to that point, or something crazy like that, and i felt bad about about having contributed to the record for such a retarded movie. but the fact is i actually thought it was all right. quite enjoyable in parts, laughable in others. but it did the trick for the day; it matched well with my giant popcorn and soda.

    i enjoyed the bus chase in the beginning and the scenes with the pygmy mummies. they had the kind of wicked sense of humor/fun that you also see in DEEP RISING (a movie which in its first half is much better than the mummy 2, mainly because of the comedy, but it gets kind of tedious in the second half with all the relentless mayhem). vosloo is as good as anyone can be playing a spooky face in a giant tidal wave (just joking, i know that was cgi obviously). and the tatooed badass guy who belongs to the secret mummy fighting order, played by that israeli dude oded fehr, is a cool character. and i like the scene of rachel weisz fighting the other hot chick (patricia velasquez?) in skimpy clothing, sue me.

    the cgi was definitely bad even for the time. i remember cringing in embarrassment more than one time, but of course most notable when the scorpion king shows up again in the climax. hard to believe FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING came out just a few months later.

    so, in the end, i was not looking forward to the movie but just resignedly chose it due to lack of options, and while i thought it was ludicrous and often cringe-worthy, it had some pretty enjoyable parts and did its job for me. i remember that day fondly. zero interest in re-watching it though.

    but don’t bad mouth GI: JOE! that movie was how a stephen sommers movie should be. all his movies are retarded, but as someone said above, it knew exactly what it was and what it was trying to do. if viewed as a comedy (which is how i view most of these types of movies), it totally works! so if GI: JOE is the best version of a stephen sommers movie, then VAN HELSING must be the worst. agree?

  35. I know this is a place for discussing hard hitting, bloody action movies and everything about them. And I really appreciate the fact that a movie like The Outfit will get more votes here than for example Transformers. But at the same time I do think we have to be a bit more careful with the “boring” sticker. If we start calling movies like The Mummy 3 and Indy 4 boring, then I’m afraid the next generation of directors will pick up on this and make everything look like Crank 2 in the near future. Just a thought.

  36. Wow, Paul, way to be a dick. I seriously can’t remember anything about the first Mission: Impossible movie. It’s been a while, but, yeah, whatever. I’m sorry my enjoyment of a film that is so obviously beneath you bothers you so much that it requires you to be a total asshole on the internet. At least it stopped you from going on about Juggernaut. You also managed to not defend your bona fides as a serious internet dude by referencing your love for Silent House. Good job! Still, you’re a total bore and quite easily the only bad thing about the posters here.

    As far as Indiana Jones goes I’m really only a fan of the first one. I’m not going to say I loved Crystal Skull but it didn’t seem to be any worse than Temple or Crusade. I think they all have their good points but I find them all to be really uneven. For me, only Raiders is great from beginning to end while the rest of the movies is a series of peaks and valleys that never really compare to Raiders.

    Wow, Mr Topel you paint 1998 to be really bad. I actually kind of enjoy Deep Impact and Armageddon, but I really dig that end of the world cheesiness epicness of both, but they’re not the kind of films I can defend, either. I’ve only seen It’s Something About Mary in Spanish and I remember thinking it was hilarious if for nothing else all the Spanish translations of the masturbation euphemisms.

  37. caruso_stalker217

    June 10th, 2011 at 1:08 am

    Woah, now. TEMPLE OF DOOM is off the hook.

  38. I thought so, too, caruso! For years all I remembered were the awesome mining cart chase scenes and the heart ripping scenes but I saw it recently and there were a lot of other scenes that just didn’t work for me.

    I think I misrepresented my feelings some on the series. I like all of the films, even Crystal Skull. I only love Raiders, though. I’m a little surprised by some of the hatred Crystal Skull gets because I think it’s just as uneven as Temple and Crusade. All the sequels have good moments but they all also have scenes that, for me, drag. I’m just not seeing how Crystal Skull is all that worse than the other sequels.

    Question, how is the third Mummy film? I never saw it because the second was pretty forgettable, seriously I only vaguely remember the airship and something about Rachel Weisz being like an Egyptian princess warrior person or something, and the commercials on television for the third Mummy film were so obnoxious and loud that I never even bothered. Does it compare well to the first Mummy film, which I liked, or is it more like the second?

  39. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    June 10th, 2011 at 1:25 am

    Kingdom of The Crystal Skull did have one of the best fist fights in the series. Shame about the ants crawling around them, but a damn good punch up though.

  40. Casey, Mummy 3 can’t really be compared to the first two. It’s a different type of movie. More in the style of H. Rider Haggard than the old serials Indy was based on. It’s quite British in tone, with some Chinese history thrown in for good measure.

  41. Shit man, all those talking about Indy Jones and The Mummy reminded me of that old Meat Loaf video, where he played a sidekick to an Indy-like adventurer, constantly risked his life to save the girl only to be out-heroed in the last moment by his “boss” over and over again. Anybody remember that? Must have been around 1994 or so.

  42. Casey – the third one is Rob Cohen instead of Stephen Sommers, so it’s a different style of stupid. The mummy effects on Jet Li are actually really good, but maybe as an homage to this one there are some terrible (and hilarious) CGI yetis. I think the action is better and the imagery is more varied from the first one, so in most ways it’s better than this one, but Fraser is expected to be funny throughout and at times doesn’t even say the lines correctly for the jokes to make sense, so in that way it’s actually more painful. Also now that I’ve seen Returns I realize that his chemistry with Weisz was actually pretty decent but not so much with Maria Bello.

  43. Man, when you’re wife changes her look like that, it takes more than 90 minutes to adjust.

  44. one guy from andromeda

    June 10th, 2011 at 4:18 am

    re: indy movies
    i cannot understand what anyone would enjoy about crystal skull, with its unfunny humor (the quicksand scene, my god), nonsensical action, tone deafness (i still can’t fathom if shia’s introduction, riding his bike looking like a kid who dressed up as “the wild one” for halloween, is supposed to be badass, funny, pathetic or what) and most of all sad scenes of this guy who is clearly too old to walk up stairs straight as it’s main action protagonist.
    but a thing that struck me when i rewatched raiders recently that should be brought to attention is that that movie is basically responsible for all the bad summer blockbusters since. dont get me wrong, its really good, but its aping the old serials/cliffhangers structure is what basically everyone has been doing since. 15 minutes of story – action scene! – 15 minutes of story – action scene! ad nauseum. jaws isn’t the beginning of the summer movie, raiders is.

  45. I actually enjoyed the first Mummy film but wasn’t that impressed with the second one once the story left England. So many things wrong with it – precocious blonde-haired moppet, Rachel Weiz suddenly becoming the reincarnation of an egyptian princess and knowing movie martial arts, the repeat of the Big Face (in water instead of sand so it’s completely different).

    The third Mummy commits the crime of wasting the talents of Michelle Yeoh, Jackie Wu and Russell Wong while forcing Anthony Wong into doing wire-fu. In it’s favour it did have Liam Cunningham…

  46. I don’t really like INDY 4 (it’s pretty good until they get to the jungle, at which point it becomes a calamity of annoying sidekicks all talking at once) but it’s better than either of these movies. Even without the terrible CGI and the criminal waste of The Rock (the fastest growing crime in America until FAST FIVE put a stop to it), I just cannot accept Brandon Fraser as an action hero. Movies like this require a straight man to provide a solid foundation for the ridiculousness to build on, but instead they got a huge goofball who overemphasizes his badass lines like a kid on the playground pretending to be Dirty Harry.

  47. Thanks guys for the words on Mummy 3. Not that it would have gone to the top of my Netflix queue or anything, but I was curious in watching it at some point.

    I still like Brendan Fraser and think he makes for a good hero for pulp style movies. He’s a big guy and has a stature like I always imagined Robert E Howard to have, and I guess what Vincent D’Onofrio had in The Whole Wide World. I also think he’s a pretty charismatic guy, but it’s obvious he needs to have good material to work with. I think he has the potential to fit a good pulp inspired adventure movie, but I think that ship has long sailed.

  48. Grim Grinning Chris

    June 10th, 2011 at 7:25 am

    Fraser is likable enough, he is just in so much crap. I wish he would do more movies like School Ties or Gods & Monsters. He’s got plenty of dramatic chops and charisma to spare when he’s not spouting awful dialogue in high concept crap.
    Though it was completely surface-level family adventure popcorn-fare, the Journey To The Center Of The Earth movie was far more entertaining, to me, than any of the Mummy movies.

    Let’s hear it again though for the Revenge Of The Mummy Ride at Universal (in which he cameos). Just a fantastic mix of dark ride elements and fast, whooshing (though relatively tame) roller coaster! The LEM launch is one of my favorite things in any ride ever.
    I took my former roommate to Universal for the first time several years back. He had only ever been to fairs and Six Flags parks… never to an actual themepark with high tech rides with special effects and themed queues etc…
    Revenge Of The Mummy was the first ride we rode and he was instantly converted- he has since spent every vacation day that he’s had from his job either in or on his way to or from themeparks all across the country.

  49. I agree on the Fraser-just-needs-the-right-material-theory. Proof: His three episodes of SCRUBS.

  50. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    June 10th, 2011 at 7:39 am

    I went to a theme park not long ago, and was horrified at how long I stood in line for. The ten second ride at the end of the two hour line just left me in a shit mood.

    To old for that shit.

  51. Jareth Cutestory

    June 10th, 2011 at 8:24 am

    FTopel: This might blow all of my credibility, but I watched the first X-FILES movie a second time just before the second one came out. It really impressed me, moreso than when it first played in theaters and I was all caught up in watching the unfolding plotline of the tv show. I thought it was a really well constructed film with good performances. Even Martin Landau’s stunt casting (thanks to ED WOOD he was all the rage that season) didn’t seem as out of place on a second viewing.

  52. VERN, did you ever see Deep Rising? I think that’s the best movie Sommers ever made, and a really solid B-flick. I’d like to see a review of that, I think you might actually like it.

  53. Grim Grinning Chris

    June 10th, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Ace, you need to learn to do it right. Most rides are in the 2 minute (most coasters) to 7 minute range (long dark rides like Pirates of The Caribbean, Simpsons Ride, Haunted Mansion etc…)
    I average about 15 days a year in themeparks and for about the last 7 years I have never waited in a line for more than 45 minutes- and generally swing waits closer to the 10-20 minute range.

    Longest I have ever queued was 2 full hours for ExtaTerrorestrial: Alien Encounter years back. However, that 2 hours was 100% worth the wait. For an attraction that was about 10 minutes long (including pre-show). And as soon as I got out of it, I got right back in line. It was THAT good.
    Sad it is gone (and replaced by the similar, but quite lame Stitch’s Great Escape) as it was seriously one of the most well thought out, creative, exciting and downright frightening themepark attractions I have ever experienced.

  54. I always thought TEMPLE OF DOOM was the weakest Indy, with the comparitive lack of an actual plot, zero development of character (Raiders was about Indy learning to believe in the supernatural, Crusade was about the relationship with his dad, Crystal Skull was about him growing old), and the most annoying love interest. Also, falling hundreds of feet out of a plane on a life raft and surviving is way more ridiculous than Nuking The Fridge. I still like it though, just think it’s the least good.

  55. Guys, pay for the front of the line passes at Universal. Totally worth it.

    CJ, was it I’d Lie For You And That’s The Truth?

    I happen to think Fraser is quite wonderful at these movies where he’s reacting to CGI. Something about him makes it work. I actually thought his Looney Tunes was a dream for a Looney Tunes fan to see it in live action. Not sure why people hated that. I actually kinda want to see Furry Vengeance for that, but don’t worry, I’d watch it ironically.

    The movies I like on my ’98 death list are Baseketball, H20, Bulworth and Horsewhisperer. Mary when I saw it but not really since, and The Avengers as a curiosity. Interesting stuff but no way it was originally intended to be 80 minutes long. What was the real movie?

    Caruso, see 1941 just to know that Spielberg is fallible.

  56. I like Crystal Skull for being a fourth Indy movie and crazy stuff like hiding in the fridge, but my favorite part about it was it made people stop hating on Temple of Doom. Temple of Doom was a great pure adventure. Why should all of Indy’s girls be tough? Sometimes he has to put up with a whiner, and great rack on Kate Capshaw. Cutting the bridge is totally badass, and great fight with the temple guard. The whole opening sequence from the club through the raft, yes! Crusade was my favorite though until I realized that Raiders was perfect, so now it’s that.

  57. I used to really like Brendan Fraser in the 90’s. Encino Man, School Ties, With Honors, and Airheads are all personal favorites of mine. He’s just a likelable guy. Haven’t seen many of his post Mummy movies because they’ve all looked like utter crap. I did enjoy the first Mummy though and Bedazzled was ok.

    On a side note, is it me, or does Rachel Weisz seem like she would make an awesome girlfriend/wife? There’s something about her beyond the usual superficial stuff that makes a woman appealing.

  58. Rachel Weisz does seem like a really cool person. I really liked her in The Constant Gardener, but that’s one of my favorite movies overall.

    She also seems like she will never age. Maybe she’s a Highlander?

  59. Raiders is a masterpiece.

    Last Crusade is a great film. I find it to be a bit anti-climatic, the final scenes don’t have quite the same punch as the rest of the film. But I still love it.

    Temple Of Doom is a very good film. It has a brilliant 1st act, meh 2nd act, and a very good 3rd act. So it’s half a great film.

    Crystal Skull is pretty good, but it just kind of sits there. For me a major problem is how passive Indy is in many spots of the film, particularly towards the end. This is a complete opposite of previous films. Indy has always been awesome because he is always driving the action, always giving it his all, always taking a beating. In Crystal Skull he got sidelined and became a passive passenger too often. Also, some of the action lacked punch – Partially because Ford was getting old, partially because there were cutesy cartoonish moments that lacked real life physics. Indy movies have been overblown before, but I have been able to buy into the reality of the films, because the action, the stunts, the pyrotechnics, had a sense of reality to them. Crystal Skull had some very good action moments, but there were also moments that simply took me out of the film. The action often lacked the “weight” that the previous films – And Spielberg action in general – tend to have.

  60. Mummy 3 has some of the worst action direction I have EVER seen (and I don’t use capital letters lightly). The final fight between Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh is offensively over edited and shot so close you cannot tell what is going on. To top it off you have Fraser’s son grown up to be an asshole but we’re apparently meant to be rooting for him and a romance between him and some girl that comes about from literally 2 scenes of interaction. And the CGI Yetis, holy crap. And the painful comedy forced into every scene with John Hannah mugging in every scene. I liked the idea of having a different mummy at least…

    Mummy Returns is stupid and builds on all the worst things about The Mummy (which I’d sum up with the word ‘likeable’) but it’s nowhere near as offensively terrible as Mummy 3.

    Though we’re forgetting the important thing, the best film of ‘The Mummy’ series is ‘The Scorpion King’. The Dwayne being all charismatic and well put together and varied action scenes. ‘Good time at the movies’ kinda film.

  61. i second/ third/ fourth the observation:

    “deep rising” is a must see. i put it in the same category as “tremors” in terms of fun

  62. I concur with Deep Rising. Just a fun, stupid, horror/adventure that knows it’s low budget but says “fuck it, i’m gonna be awesome anyway”. Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Wes Studi, Cliff Curtis, Djimon Hounsou, and the list goes on and on. Its a great group of badasses who talk a lot of shit but inevitably get their asses handed to them by a crazy sea monster. And the final explosion is fucking awesome. I think GI Joe worked for me because it was more Deep Rising and less Mummy Returns/Van Helsing.

  63. FTopel: Yeah, that was it.

  64. I remember seeing this movie back in ’01. I’m not even going to motivate myself enough to get angry or bothered about it, but what a load of shit. And trust me Vern, the effects were terrible then too. and not just the scorpion king part. The whole thing just felt….lazy. Like they were trying to distract you from the complete lack of story and narrative with ‘big bangs’ and ‘loud noises’. Just a horrible….empty movie.

    RBatty, you hit the nail above when you mentioned that era when CGI actually looked worse than what had been there before. It was like the studios were ‘getting off’ on CGI…..as if to show how much money they were spending on a film, they had to make sure that you could see it all up there, just incase you thought it was real. I look at the CGI in Independence Day, Starship Troopers and What Dreams May Come….all mid 90’s films that look bloody flawless to my eyes now. But at the turn of the millennium, they really went gonzo with it…..and this was one of the worst offenders. Just horrendous.

    Indy 4? I remember thinking I liked it at the time….but yeah, I have zero interest in seeing it again. I actually think the only part of that movie that worked was the start……upto the Nuclear Explosion. I love that whole sequence where Indy finds himself in the ‘test town’, with the countdown…….all very Spielberg, and Ford is on it there too. Love that beginning, actually, I think it had it just right. Nuking the Fridge? Hmmm. Let me see. I could’ve possibly gone a long with it if it had been blown so far up in the air, and such a long distance, only for Indy to roll out, like he’d fallen off the roof. If they had just played it ‘a bit’ closer to reality, I could’ve suspended my disbelief to bridge the gap. But come on, he should have been liquid, after an impact that big. The rest of the movie? I barely remember. Cate Blanchett….the only thing I liked about her, was that she was pretty sexy looking in the hair and uniform. Marion? What a waste. Pointless having her. John Hurt? Just stop the pain.

  65. One more thing about Brendan Fraser: Feel free to hate me for that, but I think he was awesome in GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE. He totally managed to capture that infantile tone of the film and not just ran with it, but totally made it his own. I don’t think anybody else could have done that. Maybe Nic Cage.

  66. Grim Grinning Chris

    June 10th, 2011 at 11:14 am

    George of The Jungle was actually a lot more clever than it had any right to be and Fraser was actually perfect in it. Not so much in Dudley DoRight.

  67. Ok, the GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE clause has been triggered. On to the next review, Vern.

    By the way, you are going to review the current summer crop as well, right? SUPER 8, please.

  68. yeah, we better get a Super 8 review, I’m gonna see that in just a few hours

    anyway I liked how in Indy 4 they gave Cate Blanchett a Ayn Rand haircut even though Rand is the complete opposite of communist

  69. also I saw George of The Jungle as a kid on VHS

    I remember absolutely nothing about it

  70. Grim Grinning Chris

    June 10th, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Although this would become grating in horrors, George Of The Jungle was the only one of the live action adaptations of Jay Ward to really capture the meta and self referential nature of the humor (which when the original cartoons came out- and even when this movie came out, was still a fresh and novel approach).

  71. I think Fraser actually has a unique kind of good-natured meathead charm, which is unfortunately (for him, anyway) very little in demand these days. He tends to get cast as a comedic actor, which isn’t quite right; he can be funny, but not funny enough to carry something comedic or (god help us) sell broad comedy. He can be leading-man charismatic, but doesn’t really work as a badass or a savvy cool guy. So mostly, his best work is in playing handsome but clueless doofuses in a variety of parts.

    For my money, his best work is in Phillip Noyce’s little-seen QUIET AMERICAN with Michael Caine, where he turns his aw-shucks good guy persona into a keen commentary on the dark side of American do-gooderism. He works nicely in GODS AND MONSTERS too, of course. But mostly these kind of roles are sort of rare. He would have been a king in the 50s screwball comedys, though.

  72. There is a huge of possibility that Vern will tear his hair out (if he has hair) when he reads this. I mean, more and more people on his websight dismiss THE DARK KNIGHT, while at the same time a GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE fanclub is getting started.

  73. Whoa Stu, I have to disagree with you on the character development in Temple of Doom. It actually has the most character development in the series. Because TOD is a prequel, Indy isn’t quite the selfless hero we know and love. Actually, it’s sorta like reverse engineering character development. The first half of the movie has Indy going after the idols for “fortune and glory”. He tells the old guy in the village he’ll bring the kids back, but he really just wants the idols. Only after awakening from the black sleep does he have a change of heart and decide to rescue the kids. When Short Round says, “Let’s get out of here”, Indy replies “Yeah, all of us…” It’s here where Indy stops being a gloryhound and becomes a true hero. This scene still
    gives me goosebumps.

  74. Actually, George of the Jungle is pretty brilliant. And got to give him credit for commitment. That must have been an insane workout/diet for a movie that wouldn’t get him an Oscar or even respect.

  75. Vern, pt 1 was actually decent. Not amazing, but much better than this.

    The CGI did seem terrible at the time, I distinctly remember that. It’s not just that it was bad, but it was bad, plus it pervaded the film. This is a huge issue: films where the environment feels like a green screen or cheesy soundstage and has no sense of a real, organic environment. For all the CGI, the Star Wars prequels and Indy 5 actually seem much less realistic than their 20-30 year old predecessors.

    Mummy 2 (and Stephen Somers in general) is like all of George Lucas’s bad CGI instinct but even more poorly executed

  76. I’m actually kind of pleased to see the George of the Jungle love. The movie is basically an introductory course on postmodernism, but for 3rd graders. As far as live action kids movies go, I think it’s pretty solid.

  77. Jareth Cutestory

    June 10th, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Darryll: My local newspaper described Abrams and SUPER 8 thus:

    “Abrams fashions Super 8 in such a calculating manner, with every element weighed both for maximum nostalgia value and ironic hipster cred, that it has an artificial feel to it. It’s like a birthday cake made of spun glass.

    Say what you will about Spielberg, but the man has never been anything but honest in his devotion to the aw-shucks pursuits of his mostly imagined Americana. He’d happily milk a scene of dewy-eyed moppets confronting lonesome aliens or restless dinos, but the sentiment came naturally to him. There’s a reason why he was often compared to Frank Capra in his youth.

    Not so Abrams, who is more of a magpie in his filmic influences. He collects them without necessarily caring about them, much like those infernal blue light flares he uses as an empty style exercise.

    The title of Super 8 is itself a construct. It refers to an extinct film format that Spielberg used as a kid and Abrams claims also to have employed, but his age (44) suggests he was more of a video weenie. He’s a bit like Bryan Adams, age 9 the summer of Woodstock, lamenting a lost love in “Summer of ’69.””

    Somewhere out there in Portugal AsimovLives is giggling his approval.

  78. *sigh* it saddens me that apparently Super 8 is gonna get shit on, but I guess that’s just a sign O the times

    also Fred, you like George of the Jungle, but not Super 8? ok then

  79. See my explanation in the Potpurri 3D thread. That’s exactly the conundrum I’m feeling.

    Actually, the film is getting a lot of love. No need to worry.

  80. I hope you do retrospective of summer movies every year now Vern, I’m loving these reviews.

  81. Grim Grinning Chris

    June 11th, 2011 at 4:54 am

    Well, that explains some things. Turns out Joel Hodgson and Nell Scovell did uncredited writing work on GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE. Never knew that, so there ya go.

  82. re: the meatloaf video you guys mentioned earlier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbdpXx-PHuM

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – how did Michael Bay NOT direct this video? it’s shot, framed, and edited exactly like his 90s work. And no, supposedly Simon “Con Air” West didn’t direct it either.

    And yes, I liked Mummy 2 better than KOTCS. I didn’t mind nuked fridges, etc… I just felt Mummy 2 was more fun and entertaining and I liked the characters better. The kid wasn’t annoying, the two leads had chemistry, the action was good. The aforementioned scene where a brave, just-human woman risks her life to save her husband while the Mummy’s supernatural girl ditches him, still sticks with me for some reason.

    And sure, I’ll be the guy who liked Mummy 3 better than KOTCS. Yeah the fight scenes with Li and Yeoh should have been better, but the whole movie was charming and I thought the relationship between Fraser and his son was warmer and better developed than LeBoeuf and Ford.

  83. Who directed this video? If it wasn’t Michael Bay, it could be Marcus Nispel.

  84. I now expect Vern’s eventual Tree Of Life review will be used by somebody as an excuse to start complaining about how much Indy 4 sucked, and how much they hate George Lucas.

    (Wouldn’t it be funny if Terence Malick attracted the same kind of irrational vehemence now as Lucas? “The New World is awful! I hate it! Terence Malick totally raped my childhood! I grew up watching Badlands and Days Of Heaven and y’know, ‘course they’re awesome, and Thin Red Line was like, okay, I guess, but then New World totally ruined EVERYTHING! It sucks! What the hell, Indians? Old timey costumes?! Who cares! It was so stupid! And then like, that ending made no sense! Why is she still the same age she was at the beginning? Who was the indian who like ran out the door? I hate Malick now!”)

  85. And when Harry Knowles reviewd Mummy 2, he said that the Scorpion King looked like he should be playing a saxophone in The Lost Boys. : )

  86. I checked, that Meat Loaf clip (which is if you ask me still very enjoyable) was directed by Howard Greenhalgh, who is apparently the only high profile music video director, who never directed a feature film.

  87. CC, your idea of fanboy backlash against Malick brought a big smile to my face. I love applying the patterns of one thing to something totally unrelated. :)

  88. Jack: re: TEMPLE OF DOOM character development. Ehhh, maybe. But it’s not very pronounced to me. I don’t feel that at any point in the movie does he seem like a callous uncaring dick. They establish that he’s sort of adopted a street urchin who tried to rob him. He’s polite and respectful at all times to the villagers, and points out to Willie she’s insulting them when she tries to turn down their food, and it’s not like anyone else argues with him about whatever his intentions are with regards to the idols/kids. There’s mostly just a few bits of dialogue to establish he’s out for some personal gain, but otherwise seems an okay guy. Even admitting that change of heart is there, it’s still a less SHOWN development than the themes of the other movies. Though TEMPLE kinda fucks up Indy’s scepticism in RAIDERS since you’d think having experienced voodoo-type stuff first hand he’d be a bit more openminded about The Powers of the Ark.

  89. wow, this kind of intense discussion about summer popcorn movies vis a vis the mummy returns vs. the indiana jones series is what makes me really love this sight. and we are still only in may 2001. can’t wait to see where this goes…

  90. oh i guess while we’re talking about it TEMPLE OF DOOM is indeed great! i’ve watched it as recently as two months ago and it is extremely entertaining. to be honest the sky diving raft himalaya bit still makes me cringe, but aside from that i love everything in this movie more or less. it’s got a really snappy screenplay fu2ll of witty banter (“you call him dr.jones.” “MY professional name.”). and it’s just a fantastic adventure movie. the bridge scene is absolutely iconic. as is the john williams march of the slaves music or whatever it’s called. if you don’t appreciate this movie (steven spielberg, i’m looking at you),then you don’t understand “fun at the movies.”

    what am i talking about? i don’t know.

  91. Casey:

    “Wow, Paul, way to be a dick.”

    Thank you. It’s what I do best.

  92. Really unexpectedly good Brendan Fraser flick: “Blast from the Past”. Featuring a cute-as-a-button Alicia Silverstone from before she got lumbered with the Batgirl moniker.

    I tend to agree with the guy who said he can act and has charm, he just needs the right material.

  93. I think one of the many lessons to be learned by comparing the Mummy films with the Indiana Jones films is the importance of changing tone and atmosphere from one scene to the next. I remember reading an essay by Sergei Eisenstein where he talked about his theories of film dialectic and how he not only wished for certain images to clash with one another but also wanted certain tones to clash with one another. So in Battleship Potemkin, for example, the exciting revolt on the ship is juxtaposed against his composition of men sleeping in hammocks or the somnolent image of a foggy harbor. The Indiana Jones films, especially the first one, had interesting shifts in tone. I love how the Well of Souls segment, with its eerie snakes and foreboding sky, are shortly followed up by the massive caravan fight scene. Spielberg knows how to temporarily pull back on the throttle in order to make the action set pieces even more exciting when they come around. The Mummy films (at least the first two since I haven’t seen the third) try to throw loud noises and fast movement at you all the time, and eventually the audience becomes immune to it. The entire second film especially just hits the same note over and over again.

  94. BLAST FROM THE PAST came out after BATMAN & ROBIN. And I agree, it’s very entertaining and uses Brendan Fraser’s less silly side well.

  95. Very interesting post, RBatty024. You made me think and aroused my curiosity. How dare you.

    Is the Eisentstein essay you refer to available online?

  96. They’re doing a SCORPION KING 3! What’s that: a sequel to a prequel of a prequel to a sequel of a remake? That said, the more S&S the better.

  97. James: be honest now. How long did it take you to work that one out?

  98. For the record, Bay got his start directing videos for Bat out of Hell II: Back into Hell. So, that video looks like Bay because the director was following his template.

  99. Yet weirdly, that video looks more overtly Bay than any of Bay’s own videos (most of which basically rip off David Fincher videos!) Speaking of, I’ve always been fascinated by Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through:


    A young Michael Bay directing a young Angelina Jolie, I’m kinda surprised they haven’t worked together again.

  100. caruso_stalker217

    June 11th, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Is that the video where Meat Loaf is a car? Or am I remembering that wrong.

  101. God, I love Meat Loaf. He’s my favorite musical artist. They used one of the less popular tracks from Bat III at the end of Drive Angry. Made me think, shouldn’t there be a Nic Cage mega movie scored entirely by Meat Loaf songs?

  102. Holy shit, another person who admits to liking Meat Loaf? And wait, Bat III got some airplay in Drive Angry? I was on the fence but I’m going to have to see it now; that album is underrated. (His last one was TERRIBLE though)

    And a movie/play scored by only Meat Loaf songs would be amazing. The next best thing, Streets of Fire, is actually playing on the big screen here on Wednesday. I can’t wait.

  103. I wouldn’t call myself a Meat Loaf FAN, but I like some of his songs, always had a soft spot for his bombastic music videos (is he still doing those?), think that he has an awesome voice and always like to see him as an actor.

  104. I’m not being churlish or catty when I say the video for I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR LOVE is easily the best thing Michael Bay’s ever done, and by miles. There’s a kind of artistry to the visuals which I would say has never been seen in his films.

    (Although I suppose it’s possible he made an even better music video I never saw)

  105. when my dad was in the Navy in the 1980’s there was a fellow crewman who would play his Meat Loaf cassettes constantly whenever he could until the captain himself told him to “turn that fucking music off”

  106. Darryll – I can’t remember the exact essay where I read about dialectic and tone, but Eisenstein discusses dialectic in almost all of his writing. I know I read the essay in one of two collections that I have, either Film Form: Essays in Film Theory or The Eisenstein Reader. They share a lot of the same essays, but I tend to like the former collection better. His writing can, like a lot of film theory, be like mush, and I can’t claim I understand what he’s saying at certain points. But some of the stuff is really interesting.

    CC – That Malick/Lucas Fanboy mash up is great.

  107. hey Vern, when are you gonna post the next chapter in this series?

  108. Admit? Why would anyone deny that? Thought I’ve gotten shit for it all my life, nobody can introduce me to any music that does more for me. You’ve got melody, harmony, layers, narrative drive. It’s almost like a movie. This of course is credit to Jim Steinman. Wish he were more prolific. Lot of his releases in the years since Bat II are reworkings of old songs (including Tonight is What It Means To Be Young reworked in Tanz Der Vampire.)

    Weezer is getting close. Red Album and Raditude do a lot with complex melody and harmony too.

  109. Bat out of he’ll Is a perfect record and wasted youth/everything louder than everything else is pure magic. I sometimes do wasted youth at poetry slams. Brings the fuckin house down.

    Bat III. Is embarassing. But I kinds like hang cool teddybear. California (isn’t big enough for me) has an AMAZIING chorus written by the dudes from the darkness and foxy shazam check them out

  110. I’m okay with Hang Cool for a totally non Steinman album. I like how Meat Loaf can barely fit his dick in his pants. Totally out of character for the guy who would do anything for love and sees paradise by the dashboard light, but sort of impressed they went there. And the last song written by Bon Jovi, I can honestly say a team up of the ultimate 70s and 80s singers is worth the whole album.

    I do wish Steinman would write more but you can’t force art. He was supposed to do a Mamma Mia/We Will Rock You style show of Bat Out of Hell for the West End but that never happened either. You’ve heard his Batman songs though, right? I was looking forward to Loaf singing Bad for Good but the mix is kinda wrong. You all have the original Steinman Bad for Good album, I assume. With the early version of Rock n’ Roll Dreams and Out of the Frying Pan? Awesome.

    Oh, the track in Drive Angry is “Alive.”

    Tawdry, you’re right Bat II is perfect. I remember when I heard Anything for Love and liked it, got the album assuming that would be the only good song like every other album I’d ever bought. Each time I heard a new song I was like, “Oh my God, this is good too!” Flipped the tape over (remember cassettes?) and the songs kept being good.

  111. I do have the Steinman Bad For Good album, and I just netflixed A Small Circle of Friends just b/c he did the score, but what are these Batman songs you speak of?

    And my favorite non-Bat out of Hell album is definitely Dead Ringer. Really underrated, and the first half especially is perfection.

  112. http://www.jimsteinman.com He was writing a musical based on the Tim Burton Batmans and released his demo tracks. Some became Bat III tracks. All are awesome.

    LOVE Dead Ringer. I know that’s the one where they had a rift and supposedly Meat’s voice was suffering from drug use, but it sounds good to me. Here’s how much I love Dead Ringer. I interviewed Cher and had a chance to get her autograph on anything Cher related. Witches of Eastwick, Moonstruck, that “Turn Back Time” album… I had her sign Dead Ringer. I don’t have Meat Loaf though. Saving Bat II for him.

    Bad Attitude is a good album with 2 Steinman songs on it (including Nowhere Fast from Streets of Fire) and other good ones.

    Steinman did a score? Thank you, Zod. (Warning: I’d heard he did the music for MTV’s Wuthering Heights so I watched that. Seems it was all the melody from The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be.)

  113. The Mummy Returns. First saw it on dvd. Man, that Scorpion King part… I had to rewind it a couple of times just to make sure my eyes just hadn’t gone funny for a few seconds. That was baaaaaad.

  114. Ftopel – Yep, here you go – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081528/

    The score is a prototypical “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, with a little bit of “Making Love out of Nothing At All”. I read somewhere those two songs dominated the charts and were #1 and #2 for a while. That’s alot of Steinman for the American public to take in!

    And yes, that movie’s directed by the same Rob Cohen we all know and love on here.

  115. Paul, when I was reading your response to Casey I thought that your opinions between M:I one and M:I3 were completely interesting. On the other hand, you were being a dick for no apparent reason. Did I miss a talkback on a review where you and Casey called your moms names or something? Just seemed to out of character for you.

    In other Super 8 news, it’s a very good to great movie that doesn’t deserve any vitriol what so ever. That movie reviewer sounds like the kind of asshole I know Paul isn’t.

  116. Well, either one of those elements would make me watch it, Zod. It’s definitely on my instant queue now.

    Were you able to find the Batman songs I was talking about? I’d hate to think there’s a Steinman fan out there who hasn’t heard them.

  117. Ftopel – thanks for the hookup, buddy – I found the Steinman Batman songs, and “Not allowed to love” and “We’re still the children we once were” are instant classics, just really beautiful melodies. The less said about the Joker song, the better though. :(

    Next up via Netflix is the Wuthering Heights you mentioned- I did hear it contains an early version of “If it Ain’t Broke (Break It)” – I still can’t decide if I like that song or not.

  118. Sternshein – yeah, I was being an asshole. Sorry ’bout that.

    The fact is, I fucking LOVE “Mission: Impossible”. To me, not only was it a truly brilliant film in its own right, but it had the potential to be the start of a long-running blockbuster series that was genuinely intelligent, well-plotted, and based in intrigue rather than brainless action sequences. The fact that the AICN reviewers ripped it a new one because it dared to be intelligent and to depart from the TV series in ways that they clearly didn’t expect… let’s just say that that was one of the things that made me look at AICN with a lot more cynicism than I’d had before that. I always felt that that kind of reception is what turned the series into what it’s become now. (In a word: mediocre.)

    Or to put it another way… not only does MI:3 represent everything that’s wrong with a certain subset of blockbuster filmmaking today, it also represents the final destruction of what I still think is one of the greatest opportunities for a movie franchise of the past twenty years. So I tend to view it, and its defenders, with maybe more vitriol than it deserves.

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