MOVIE NEWS – The CGI rendering of The Scorpion King in Return of the Mummy was notoriously bad; now, the film’s VFX supervisor has explained why.
When it comes to lists of the worst CGI ever, The Mummy Returns often comes out on top because of the Scorpion King, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, although it was barely recognizable thanks to the horribly poor CGI. Okay, sure, in 2001, the technology wasn’t where it is today.
However, the film was released in the same year as The Fellowship of the Ring, and its computer-generated images – and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy in general – are still considered the benchmark, so it would be wrong to blame the weakness of The Mummy Returns on age alone.
In a recent conversation with the Corridor Crew for their VFX Artists React to Bad & Great CGI series, John Berton Jr, the film’s VFX supervisor, admitted that many missteps were made when it came to creating the digital version of The Scorpion King. Here’s what he had to say:
“It was a dark day in my life, when I went on the internet Google said ‘Hey check this out, here’s an interesting thing you might be interested in: the worst visual FX shot in the history of ever. And I’m like ‘But wait, that’s the Scorpion King, should I watch that video?’. But I watched it and I felt bad…”
“The biggest thing about the Scorpion King in this movie is that we didn’t have the reference that we needed.”
“This isn’t really an excuse, but it’s an explanation of the way things work in movies sometimes. We asked for that of course, we needed a day with Dwayne Johnson to photograph his face and eye detail and all the stuff you would do. Because he was busy with his incredible WWE career that was not possible. We had him for like 3 days maybe in Morocco to shoot his scenes…”
“I think if you had all that stuff, the animation would work better because it’s meant to be a little cartoony here and I think that informed our decisions about whether or not the shots were done and ready for the movie was that there was an expectation at the time of this needing to reach a certain level. The thing is with this sequence is there are a bunch of shots that are not looking great, but there are a bunch of shots that are looking great…”
“When you have something like this, you always have to get past the butthurtedness of it and think about what you learned, and I knew we needed reference but we couldn’t get it.”
The Mummy Returns was the sequel to Brendan Fraser’s hit film The Mummy, and although the film generally received positive reviews and grossed more than $435 worldwide, the film’s finale became legendary for all the wrong reasons. Although the film became Dwayne Johnson’s first big step in launching his acting career, it is probably not one of those moments he would put on the scintillating film reel.
The film did, however, spawn another sequel and a spin-off focusing on Johnson’s character, and overall the franchise is still fondly remembered by many. While the Scorpion King’s appearance in the film will never be a better sight, this commentary at least explains why it was so bad.