Few blockbuster series are more perplexing than The Mummy franchise. The series helped launch Brendan Fraser into the stratosphere, and for a time made him the hottest commodity in Hollywood. While critics universally agree that these films are by no means, quality cinema, lacking the pastiche elements of movies like Star Wars or the charisma of Schwarzenegger's films, they still have done remarkably well at the box office, with each earning its budget back, multiple times over. No flick captures the essence of the phrase "popcorn movie" better than The Mummy films.
The series did wonders for Brendan Fraser, and was supposed to do the same thing for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, casting him as the villainous Scorpion King. The Rock would be joining an esteemed list of actors who managed to use pro-wrestling as springboard into the million dollar paychecks of Hollywood. What a lot of people forget though, looking at Johnson as the highest paid actor on the scene, is that his transition to the silver screen was off to a terribly rocky start, no pun intended.
In spite of Johnson not being able to do much filming, he still managed to show up in the film's prologue. He was still phasing out of the demanding wrestling world, after all. However these demands left him unable to be present for the final sequence, leaving computer-generated effects to fill in the blanks.
Now, CG still had a long way to go to get to the point that it is at now, but significant breakthroughs had already been made. Pixar popularized the genre of the 3D animated kids movie. The Star Wars prequels, while not much in terms of story, still helped set the standard for what CG visuals could look like. And The Matrix showed a number of ways special effects could enhance a movie's action.
The CG monstrosity that became the final villain of The Mummy Returns, somehow managed to do the exact opposite of all the good that those three previously mentioned films had done. The Rock's head looked more like The Pebble with how smooth and lacking in texture it was, and his hair flopped around with the physics of an early Dreamcast game. It tainted everyone's perception of The Mummy Returns and has been heralded by many film critics and graphic artists alike as one of the worst uses of CG in movie history. It's not even so-bad-it's-good; it's just horrendous.
This slashed the tires of the spinoff film that was meant to be The Rock's real coming out party in Hollywood, The Scorpion King, and forced the series into a seven year hiatus before returning with its third movie which would again fail to please anyone on a critical level.
Fans and critics have speculated as to what made the CG so far below the level of quality that the rest of the film had featured. While many have argued that it was simply a money issue, that position doesn't quite hold water. If the studio needed to buy more resources, they would have. The Mummy Returns was set to bust blocks and make a significant profit no matter what.
Instead, the consensus is that it was merely a time issue, with the special effects team needing more time to create an aesthetically pleasing design. Movie sequels, often being proven commodities at the box office, are under more pressure to meet release deadlines than new franchises, so the producers remained resolute in releasing on time, forcing the hand of the effects team, and leaving fans with the creature that ruined the series.
Seeing as The Sonic Hedgehog movie had to take a significant delay to fix the visuals on its CG, the notion still holds that good special effects time, more than anything, so that they can have the right amount of detail and design. Visuals like Dwayne Johnson's head plopped onto an uncanny scorpion abomination, like an action figure's head on top of a Bionicle figure, serve as a stern reminder to production companies that a delayed product is eventually good, but a rushed one is bad forever.