Here's the scoop, from no other source than me:
Mummy Guy: "Hey, that 'Rock' guy is a big draw, let's work his ass into our big sequel script."
Mummy Guy #2: "Okay, sure... but the only part we have for him is this one line at the beginning and a bunch of CGI at the end, he doesn't even speak."
Mummy Guy: "So what? Bring 'im in, sucker the wrestling folks in to see this!"
Mummy Guy #2: "But... uh... did you rent that "Backyard Wrestling" deal? Those kids are nuts!"
Mummy Guy: "Ooh, yeah, you're right. We could get sued because a five-year-old might try to become a zombie himself. I know... to keep the wrasslin' nitwits happy, let's make a prequel... that's NOTHING but this Rock character. Spread the news to those rabid goobers... so when they only see about a line and a half, they won't feel gypped."
Mummy Guy #2: "And thus, won't attack us with steel chairs and flaming two-by-fours wrapped in barbed wire. Bitchin'. That'll work, Mummy Guy. Then we don't even have to make that movie if this tanks."
Mummy Guy: "You said it, Mummy Guy #2."
Although I had seen the first "Mummy" movie only once, I think, I did have the concept fresh in mind when watching this film. The first film was not a particularly great or clever film, but it looked cool, and it had the general feel of old-school swashbuckling adventure, but with a bit of a spirit about it that ain't usually around when other films try to have a by-the-numbers action movie plot. Something kids could dig as well - usually, 'something kids can see' gives me a general feeling of forboding, but in the case of "The Mummy," appealing actors and cool effects actually allowed me to get into it a bit and appreciate the fun of it. I went in to "The Mummy Returns" expecting more of the same, plus The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment.
I got what I expected, too. More golden-era adventure serial styled action, with elements borrowed from everything from "Star Wars" to "Braveheart." It's often ridiculous, particularly with a dirigible outrunning mystic tsunamis, but it's a fun time. The moments of tension aren't all that effective because of this - and because of things like Weisz having her hands and feet bound, but nothing keeping her hands from reaching down and untying her feet. However, the fact that I was laughing a lot instead of groaning a lot means it was a good time, fun stuff all around, enough to forgive the obvious Darth Vader-thing that Imhotep had going for a while when talking to the kid.
I always like Brendan Fraser, to the point it tends to surprise me when people I know express vehement hatred for him. I guess I can see where people would hold stuff like "George of the Jungle" and "Blast From The Past" against him, but I tend to think of fun like "Airheads" and good stuff like "Gods and Monsters." He's an entertaining guy. I've also got a burgeoning whosie-whatzis for Rachel Weisz - it ain't always there, since I distinctly noticed it vanishing during her dumbfounded stares into space during her 'visions,' but it came back during the Egyptian-bikini sai-fight scene. Let's just say it was pleasant to see lots of low-cut-shirt running-around. Yes... unfortunately, titillation is a factor. Freddie Boath does a good job - and it's hard to be a 'precocious kid' in a film without being annoying as hell, but he was decent enough. The Rock was impressive-looking in his miniscule part, but there's no way I'm buying the 'he impressed us so much we gave him a prequel of his own!' story. It's a money ploy, plain and simple.
I hope the "Scorpion King" prequel somehow manages to work in Randy "Macho Man" Savage.