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'Mummy Returns' Visual and Special Effect Formations (2001)



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Credited cast:
Himself (as John Berton)


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Documentary | Short





Release Date:

2 October 2001 (USA)  »

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Did You Know?


The Visual and Special Effect Formations: Imhotep Returns, Pygmy Mummies Attack, Anubis Warriors Rising, and Scorpion King Revealed are featured on the Collector's Edition 'Mummy Returns' DVD, released in 2001. See more »


References King Kong (1933) See more »

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20 separate segments making up 4 special effect scenes.
24 August 2008 | by (Rijswijk (ZH), The Netherlands) – See all my reviews

Visual Effects supervisor John Berton explains how the special effects of the Mummy Returns work. Four sequences are dissected in turn: Imhotep Returns, Pygmy Mummies Attack, Anubis Warriors Rising, and Scorpion King Revealed. Each of these is split up into 5 separate segments that have to be viewed separately. There is not 'play all' feature, which is a bit awkward as some of the segments are very short. The 1999 Mummy DVD set featured a similar feature, but apparently they DVD authoring crew didn't learn their lesson, so keep your remote control handy.

Now I'm sure John Berton's a really nice guy, but the way he styles his hair is to say the least... unusual. Still, I guess he's happy with it that way. He introduces each segment during the 'Conceptual Stage' and narrates the following three clips. At this early stage we get to see some really nice conceptual artwork from the folks at Industrial Light and Magic that would have been nice to see as a separate feature elsewhere on the disc. Berton mentions how much the character of Imhotep has evolved since his previous escape from the the everlasting sleep (mainly because of the ever increasing wonders of computer effects). He also talks about 'feeling the vibe' on the pygmy Mummies from the first moment Stephen Sommers mentioned them to the ILM crew, crossing the Egyptian god Anubis with a Doberman in order to create an army of dog-warriors and trying to create truly memorable payoff character in the shape of the Scorpion King. Well, everyone who's seen the picture knows how that last one turned out. The conceptual art was fantastic, though.

Stage two: the Reference Plate is where we get to see Arnold Vosloo going through the motions on set filming reference material with Patricia Velasquez. Since Vosloo would eventually be replaced by a digital character, he didn't have to be completely shaved at this point and you can see stubble on his head as well as his body. This stage also features brief and amusing animation tests featuring the pygmies, the Anubis warriors and The Scorpion King, the latter being based on an intricate sculpture, which is then redrawn as a computer sculpture, and finally painted and textured.

The shortest segment is usually the Plate Photography. Here we see what Stephen Sommers (or more likely the second unit) shot with live actors: not a lot. We see Patricia Velasquez acting with thin air, two stunt-men pretending to be killed by tiny assailants and a desert filled with half tennis balls laid out in a grid, awaiting the Anubis army to arise. What we don't get to see is the guy on 9 foot stilts standing in for the Scorpion King, but if you pay attention you might spot him on the 'Spotlight on Location' featurette on the same disc. Visual FX Elements are added in the next go around. This means three dimensional grids are overlay-ed to all the important elements. Arnold goes through the movements once more in a motion capture suit accompanied by a stand in for Patricia V. while the completely computer generated characters are added in so-called 'plastic render' form, and sometimes even in Lego-block like from before being 'fleshed out' properly.

The last option on the list is to watch each Final Feature Sequence as they appear in the finished film. This is just what it sounds like, a clip from the film without narration. Going through these motions, one certainly learns to appreciate all the time and effort (not to mention money) that went into the creation of these effects. The way in which the process is presented on the DVD leaves much to be desired though, and I don't think many people will be watching these feature's again and again. As for the computer generated Scorpion King, well as a monster he's quite impressive and the face definitely looks like the Rock, but it's still not good enough for close ups. They would have been better off trying to stick the real life Rock's face on there instead of having to rely on a computer game version.

7 out of 10

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