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The Mummy
Collector's Edition

review by Zach B.



Rated PG-13

Studio: Universal

Running Time: 125 minutes

Starring Brenden Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Johnathan Hyde, Kevin J. O'Connor

Screenplay by Stephen Sommers
Story by Stephen Sommers, Lloyd Fonvelle and Kevin Jarre

Directed by Stephen Sommers

Retail Price: $29.95

Features: Commentary with Stephen Sommers and Bob Ducsay, Building A Better Mummy Documentary, Cast and Filmmakers Bios, Production Notes, Egyptology 101 Deleted Scenes, Visual and Special Effects Forumlation, Theatrical Trailers

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French 2.0 Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Chapter Search

The summer of 1999 seems like it was last week to me, but it's hard to believe it's been a good while as of writing this since the new "Mummy" made its debut. I did miss it in theaters, and personally, I didn't know how well the film was going to do. It was an early summer release, but "Star Wars Episode 1" was right around the corner, and at the time Universal was releasing a string of box office bombs. However, "The Mummy" became one of the biggest hits of 1999, as it made well over 100 million domestically and earned some really nice reviews. I guess it also revived Universal in a sense, because they've been doing a lot better ever since. I was surprised it did so well, but I really shouldn't have been: there's a lot to like about this adventure.

I don't know if you'd even consider "The Mummy" a remake, I'd say, more of a franchise revival, something for the new generation. It's very loosely based on the original Universal film from decades a go. In this "update" or whatever you'd like to call it, Evelyn, a librarian and her brother Johnathon are fascinated by ancient Egypt and the like. Her brother ends up stealing a rare artifact of some kind from Rick O'Connell, who was once at the mythical city Hamunaptra. When the two go to ask O'Connell about it, he's in a cell being held captive and about to be sentenced to death. Evelyn convinces him to be released (it requires a bribe) and soon the three are off with the artifact to uncover ancient secrets, exploring and whatnot. They are joined by a rival team out to get some riches as well, and pretty soon they unleash the Mummy and it's all tied together with your predictable but very fun romantic chemistry between Evelyn and O'Connell, some trickery and incredible special effects loaded action sequences packed with suspense.

"The Mummy" is pretty much what summer movies are about, and it has a lot of factors that probably made it a big success. It's pure popcorn entertainment, it's kind-of "Indiana Jones" like (and many people did make comparisons to this film and that series). There's a good story with very good acting, some great directing from Sommers and a load of excellent, well executed action sequences that never got dull or boring. When you think the film may get slow, Sommers knows exactly what to do and something new happens, and it all picks up and you're entertained by it. It's not that the script and story is terrible, it's just pretty one sided and in reality, nothing new when you strip away the excellent Industrial Light And Magic effects, the exotic setting and costumes and interesting characters. Still, what you take away makes it what it is. It's a good story, but you don't see a movie like this for the story. You see it for a good old time, and that's what you get.

There is one fine ensemble cast in this movie. Brendan Fraser makes the leap from very likeable, goofy and charming comedic actor to the dashing, heroic leading man. Fraser, who I think has some great range and great timing is perfect as Rick O'Connell. He acts and plays it out the way the character should be: fun, cocky and like Fraser himself, likeable. Rachel Wiesz and John Hannah, Fraser's companions on the quest play off him really well, and with Wiesz, they have excellent chemistry. They do a fantastic job in establishing their characters. Arnold Vosloo, Oded Feher and Kevin J. O'Connor do some great work in more minor roles and are also great to watch (and all three are on a commentary track on this disc, what luck... but more on that later).

Stephen Sommers, who was responsible for such films as "Deep Rising" and some Disney family fare ("The Adventures of Huck Finn", the live action "Jungle Book") knows what he's doing here. He has some great direction and vision, and brings such an amazing world to life with his script and mind. The editing is great and so are the sound effects, as well as some very good camera shots. And of course, you have your ILM effects which you can't effect. Whether it is CGI mummies, bugs or battles, they are really impressive and make the movie even more fun.

"The Mummy" is a just a well rounded, fun movie. Grab the popcorn, crank up your speakers and enjoy the two hour ride.

The film is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and this still ranks as one of the best Universal transfers I've ever seen. Places where I expected artifacting and shimmering there was little to none. Colors are saturated really well, bringing the bright yellows and dark tones of Egypt to full life. Detail is also exceptional, and the black level is very consistent and constructed perfectly. Interior and exterior shots were really impressive too, sort of like a moving portrait. If there's any complaints, it's that there's some dirt and grain here and there, as well as some noise. Also, during a few scenes a line splits down the picture toward the left for only a few seconds, as the image remains a bit soft during that time. No doubt though, it's one fine transfer. A full frame version is also available, so choose which one you want.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is incredibly discrete, as "The Mummy" is an excellent movie to show off your sound system with. 5.1 was made for movies like this. There's plenty of great surrounds as an adventurous, bone-chilling atmosphere is created. During Chapter 2 there's some excellent dynamic range, as with all of the action sequences. From the fights, the screams, Mummys popping out, the insects crawling and the guns going off, everything here's a real winner. It's mixed with much creativity, and dialogue sounds very clear here. There's just a lot as far as sounds with the movie, because, it's an action blockbuster type of film. Jerry Goldsmith's fabulous score sounds amazing as well. There's a French 2.0 track and English subtitles.

A Commentary With Writer/Director Stephen Sommers and Editor Bob Duscay. Duscay has edited every Sommers film since they were in film school together, and the two seem to be pretty good friends. They are very relaxed and are really enjoyable to listen to. They make jokes, are very talkative and never sound dull. They share good production stories and do remember quite a lot about making the movie. This is how a commentary should be in my opinion. Very informative, but light in a nature.

Building A Better Mummy is an excellent documentary that lasts a sold fifty minutes (!). The documentary uses clips from the original "Mummy", behind the scenes footage, clips from this recent version and a whole slew of interviews. This is a very in-depth documentary that offers very good insight from the cast and crew. They talk about the original "Mummy", the story, the characters, the special effects and a whole lot more. This is really well made and a blast to watch, so if you liked the movie, give this a spin. You won't be disappointed. It's in full frame in English, but I was quite pleased to find English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Egyptology 101 is a really nice supplement to give background on ancient Egypt. In addition to some nice text reading about Gods, Artifacts, Immortals, Plagues and Maps, there's some nice pictures. Each section has a lot of information, so if you're into this kind of thing, you'll really like it. I personally got a lot out of it and again, it goes great with the movie. There's a lot to learn here.

Cast and Filmmakers gives filmographies and nice biographies for the cast and crew (duh) while the Production Notes give a great deal of information of the film. Each have nicely designed menus.

There are Three Deleted Scenes that are in non-anamorphic widescreen and two channel sound. It's easy to see why they were cut, and total two minutes and eighteen seconds. Not much, but still fun to watch.

Visual And Special Effects Forumlation is a nifty feature that's narrated by the film's special effects supervisor, John Berton. Five scenes ("City Of Thebes", "Scarab Burial", "Serious Trouble", "Imhotep Eats Scarab" and "Rick Rescues Evelyn") are here and in similar to some Disney animated DVDs, you go from an early stage of the production to the final. You can choose to watch the Plate Photography, Visual Effects Elements, Composited Shot and Final Feature Sequence for each. Nicely done and interesting.

Finally, there's the Theatrical Trailer and Teaser Trailer for the film as well as a Universal Showcase for "End Of Days" and "For Love Of The Game" (BOO!). Also, within the bios there's "Darkman II" (for Vosloo) and "Gods and Monsters" (for Fraser). Each is in full frame.

Another stellar Universal Collector's Edition. Great 5.1 and transfer, as well as good supplements. Be sure to check it out.

(4/5 - NOT included in final score)




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