Cue record scratch sound effect. Don’t worry. The film only went downhill from there.
So, while The Mummy Returns was technically victorious, it also stopped a profitable franchise dead in its tracks. I blame the rehashed story, director Stephen Sommers’ campy, go-for-broke style, those really bad special effects, and the goofy family dynamic that all but usurped the original’s tongue-in-cheek tone in favor of cringe-worthy melodramatics. That stupid blimp didn’t help matters, either.
Yet, despite its gratuitous flaws, The Mummy Returns still managed to hit one significant, even radical milestone: this was the film that catapulted Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to Hollywood success.
Your view on that particular milestone may vary, of course, but you can’t deny The Rock as a pop culture icon. Sure, Johnson was a huge star during his professional wrestling days where a single eyebrow lift would send a legion of diehard fans into wild fits of insanity. Still, his leap onto the big screen somehow made his larger-than-life persona even larger — and it all started with a rather simple cameo at the beginning of The Mummy Returns.
In case you might have forgotten, Johnson appears in the film as the Scorpion King, a quasi-bad guy who, after failing to conquer the world with his grand army, waits for the survivors of his force to die in the desert before trading his soul for an even grander army consisting of the god Anubis’ jackal-like warriors. Naturally, once ole Scorpio has conquered the planet, or maybe just an obscure town in the desert, Anubis takes his soul to the Underworld, where he likely spends the rest of eternity wishing he hadn’t made such an erroneous deal.
The Rock only has a handful of lines in these early scenes — in another language, no less — but makes the most of his limited appearance and manages to show off a natural screen presence, even if said presence is slightly diminished by his poorly rendered CGI counterpart who appears during the film’s (admittedly) exciting climax.
So, on the anniversary of one of the more disappointing sequels of the last two decades, keep in mind that without The Mummy Returns, it’s likely The Rock’s trajectory to Hollywood looks a lot different, if it even happens at all.
And to think, all it took was Brendan Fraser outrunning the sun, Rachel Weisz experiencing reincarnation and resurrection, that stupid blimp flown by a pilot who doesn’t get shot in the ass, the greatest pygmy attack ever filmed and one of the poorest examples of early 2000s CGI to make it happen.
The Mummy Returns, we salute you!