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With a New Setting and a New Director, Will The Mummy Franchise Hold Up?

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Novelist Scott Sigler’s horror column appears every Thursday.

There’s one thing built into any story involving the undead: They can’t really die, because, well, they are already dead. That means their decomposing posteriors always come back for more, and in Hollywood, “coming back for more” means sequels. A first sequel is no big whoop. It’s mandatory, and you can still evaluate each movie on its own merits. But when you hit that all-important second sequel, then you’ve got yourself a trilogy, and that brings on the opinionated analysis of the entire franchise as a single entity.

Case in point: The third installment in the Brendan Fraser Mummy series, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which hits theaters in August. We’re out of Egypt and into China, moving from the Pharos to the well-preserved remains of a Han Dynasty emperor (played by Jet Li). 

So, welcome to Uncle Scottie’s Highly Scientific School of Franchise Measurement™. Here at Uncle Scottie’s, we score a franchise on an 10-point index based on:
• Actors
• Overall Story Continuity
• Monster Factor
• Special Effects
• Movie Plots
Give each element a 10-point rating, average it out, and you’ve got your index score. This was developed by people at NASA, using computers and other advanced technologies. There might be some alloys and biotech involved as well — it’s technical — you wouldn’t understand… so just trust Uncle Scottie.

We will need to re-calibrate this score after Part Three hits the screens, but let’s take a look at a pre-emptive rating of The Mummy franchise.

Actors: 9
Fraser (as Rick O’Connell) is pretty kick-ass at his version of Indiana Jones. Arnold Vosloo was
absolute perfection as the High Priest Imhotep in the first two movies. For the third movie, can we give an early score? The baddie is Jet Li. Jet Li. Mummies are bad-ass enough as is. Now
throw in a spin kick and you’re queuing up potential greatness. Now,
could a spin-kicking mummy also be totally retarded? Sure. We’ll have
to wait and see, but did I mention, it’s Jet Li?

Continuity: 10
The third movie takes place 13 years after the
second (in plot time), which allows Rick’s son, Alex, to be fully-grown.
(A key detail, if they are to make the rumored three more sequels). Continuity is important in evaluating a franchise. Unlike a total nuclear meltdown of a sequel, something like Highlander II or Alien Resurrection ,
where it’s doubtful the script writers even saw the first movie or
bothered to crack open a copy of a Fisher Price My First Science Book
(yeah, Joss Whedon, I’m talking to you), The Mummy is maintaining story continuity.
Continuity Warning
: Stephen Sommers, who wrote and directed the first two Mummy movies (as well as The Scorpion King), is not back for Tomb. Rob Cohen ( The Fast & The Furious , xXx ) is directing. Part Three is written by the team of Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, creators of Smallville, and the writers behind Shanghai Noon , Shanghai Knights and — a strong contender for “Best Sequel Ever” — Spider-Man 2 .

Monster Factor: 7
The first film rocked the monster
factor, with cannon-fodder mummies, hungry beetles, and the evil
Imhotep. The series lost points in the second flick: Dwayne “The Rock”
Johnson put in a good showing as the Scorpion King, but that grand
finale CGI version of him looked like it came out of a dented box of
Cracker Jacks. For the third film, we can guess that Jet Li will go
from real ugly to really-really ugly for the big finish. A strong showing here could pull the Monster Factor back up to an 8.

Special Effects: 10
Unabashed and over the top, director Stephen Sommers turned on the money hose for The Mummy and The Mummy Returns . For this, I say “thank you.” The sandstorm-face in The Mummy?
Phenomenal. The fleet-footed anubis mummies in the second flick? Good
times. Cohen has his work cut out for him in the third film — you’re
not exactly going to see Mummy movies to experience the greater gestalt of the human condition, if you can smell what I’m cooking. But considering that Universal is shelling out $175 million for Tomb, I’m gonna get wild and give Cohen the benefit of the doubt here.

Plots: 6
I can’t score high here, because the Mummy
plots are total stock schlock, but come on, who really cares? The plots
of the first two films were fine. For the third film, we know Fraser
will live. We know his wife will live, his kid will live, the monster
will be defeated at the last second and the world will be saved. Extras
will die, things will get shot and stuff will blow up. The only
surprise waiting for you in the theater is what flavor of half-chewed
Gummi Bear is stuck under your seat.

Index Score: 8.4
That’s pretty strong. At least I think it is, this is the first franchise Uncle Scottie has evaluated. Unless you count that little-known Care Bears horror franchise (Care Bears Crackhouse, Care Bears II: Rabies! and Care Bears III: Cannibal Bear),
which scored a 3.1. Still, anything over an 8 means “See it in
theaters.” Come back and see Uncle Scottie after you do, and we’ll see
how well my predictions hold up.

scott75.jpgScott Sigler writes tales of hard-science horror, then gives them away as free audiobooks at www.scottsigler.com. Infected, hit stores on April 1, 2008. If
you don’t agree with what Scott says in this blog, please email him
scott@scottsigler.com. Please include all relevant personal
information, such as your address and what times you are not home, in
case Scott wishes to send someone to “discuss” your opinions.

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