The Bad CGI of The Mummy Returns


You'll recall that I recently did a post on the Top 10 worst CGI effects. At the top of the list was the horrible Scorpion King from The Mummy Returns (2001). Then I thought to myself, maybe I should give the film another chance? That scorpion thing had tarnished my recollection of the film to such a degree that I couldn't remember anything else from it. So, to make a long story short, I watched it again.

Oh my god. OH MY GOD. The film was.... well, clearly inferior to the first one, but the effects... Man, I had forgotten just how bad they were. When I was finished, my notepad was full of raving scribbles about bad CGI shots.

Now, I don't care if the visual effect studio ran out of time during post-production. Even if they did, it can only be part of the problem. If you compare with the effects in the original film, The Mummy (1999), the "old stuff" is superior on every level. I think the visual effect guys got cocky. And I think they were in the hands of a director, who had been given the keys to the candy store, and didn’t know how to stop eating.

That kind of thing happens often in Hollywood, and the only thing you and I can do, is tell anyone who'll listen about it. So without further ado, I present to you a list of the worst effects in The Mummy Returns.



10) The map bracelet thingy

This is mostly just badly designed, especially the beams when the map first appears. I'm reminded of the hand-drawn laser beams in old science fiction films, they are just as believable, and the poor kid struggles with the proper line of sight.

9) CGI armies of CGI beasts

Admittedly this marks one of the first attempts at crowd simulation. They get away with the human armies earlier in the film, but when the time comes for those "beast" armies it goes horribly wrong. Not only that, but every time a damn CGI creature is on screen it has to roar at the camera, exposing every flaw in a juicy close-up. Sigh.

8) Imhotep's warriors

Come on! You did it SO well in the first film. The warriors were just a little bit more agile than real people. They moved just a little more perfect than regular soldiers. This time they jump around like crazy, and crawl on the walls, unaffected by gravity.

7) The partially regenerated Imhotep

Once again this is a case of "worked better in the first film". Perhaps it's because the first film was better at hiding things in the shadows, perhaps it's because those shots were SO difficult to do that they only used them when they absolutely had to. On this one, though, the computer animators felt the need to stuff their inferior creations right into our faces every other minute. With predictable results.

6) The Palace Island thingy

Actually you have to see this shot in motion to truly appreciate how bad it is. It looks like they shot a giant turd and a swimming pool separately, and had a drunk intern put them together.

5) An oasis in the desert

Once again, this shot works best (erhm.... worst) in full motion. The animation of the growing plants is just completely off. They're going for a kind of time-lapse look. They achieve a "this is fine, let's break for lunch"-look.

4) Imhotep’s face in the water

In the first film they did that "the dust cloud has a face", so of course they had to top it here, with the sequence where our heroes are chased by a wall of water. This time the face looks HORRIBLE! Like it's some sort of temp animation, or pre-viz shot.

3) The zombie pygmies

The concept is probably mostly at fault here. The creatures shouldn’t be there. They add nothing to the film. But on top of this, they're badly animated. Really badly. Are we supposed to believe these are real, physical creatures? It's stuff like this that gives CGI a bad name. Anybody with balls should have looked the director straight in the eyes and said: "Zombie pygmies? Really? You know, you can't go back once you go there..."

2) The green blender

Screenwriting 101: Never end a film with a climax where everything gets sucked into a giant whirlwind, and all problems magically go away. It never works. If you think that's how Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) ended, think again. There was real drama in that final sequence, there was a story to tell, this - what we get in this film - just sucks, literally.

1) The Scorpion King

Well, unsurprisingly the Scorpion King takes the prize. I've said enough about this already. Just look at the images and tell me that's not the worst thing you've ever seen. Oh, and check out the effect featurette on the DVD, where the visual effect supervisor explains how great and realistic the sequence is!


Sorry for this rambling post. I just had to get this off my chest. I'll write something proper soon, I promise.

And now we return you to the regular programming...



  1. Gosh. You just somewhat killed my favorite movie on earth. :( One of them anyway. Mummy 1 is at the top :D

  2. @Carina Aaaw! I'm so sorry, that was not the intent. I just really don't like it.

  3. My 8 year old son LOVED this movie. Though I do appreciate your comments from a very professional, technical standpoint.

  4. Hehe! Fair enough Paul! I'm glad he at least had a good time!

  5. Meh. I understand all the visual and technical short comings. Still one of my favorite movies of all time. In my top 3 ever and I've seen a few.

    1. Rock on Andreas! Never mind me, have fun with it!