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The Mummy
Ultimate 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

Disc 1 - Commentary with Stephen Sommers and Bob Ducsay, Commentary with Brendan Fraser, Commentary with Oded Fehr, Kevin J. O'Connor and Arnold Vosloo, Building A Better Mummy Documentary, Cast and Filmmakers Bios, Production Notes, Egyptology 101 DVD-ROM: DVD Newsletter, Script To Scene, Screen Savers, Live Webcast from the Premiere Of "The Mummy Returns", Interactive Games, Wallpaper, Weblinks
Disc 2- Highlights on "The Mummy Returns", Deleted Scenes, Visual and Special Effects, Storyboard to Final Film Comparison, Photograph Montage, Pharaoh Lineage, Theatrical Trailer, "The Mummy Returns" Theatrical Trailer, Game Trailer, DVD-ROM

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1 (Widescreen Version Only), French Dolby Digital 5.1 (Full Frame Only), Spanish 2.0 Dolby Surround (Full Frame Only) English Subtitles, French Subtitles (Widescreen Version Only), Spanish Subtitles (Widescreen Version Only) Chapter Search (18 Chapters), Two-Disc Set

The summer of 1999 seems like it was last week to me, but it's hard to believe it's been a solid two years 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. While I thought Universal did a good job the first time around when releasing "The Mummy" on DVD, this new set has a lot more, though there are still things missing from the original DVD (not a lot). There's no doubt this is just to promote and hype "The Mummy Returns", sell a lot more discs with a new marketing campaign and whatnot. Still, this two-disc set is hard to resist.

For this new set, Universal has included both an anamorphic widescreen version of the film and a full frame version of the film. Even though I'm a giant fan of widescreen, I was pleased to see the full frame in this set. I actually like it when both versions are included on a DVD (or DVDs in this case), it really just makes a whole package complete. I also like to compare how badly some magnificent shots are cropped in full frame as compared to the widescreen (I really need to get a life). Still, films are often released separately in their respective ratios for space and whatnot. And while releasing both ratios on the same disc (or discs)s is nothing new to Universal, I would have preferred if they were both on the same disc, as Universal has done in the past. But I'm going to get into a whole schpeal about the way the video and audio is set up a bit later, but for now, let's discuss these excellent transfers.

The first disc has the film 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.

The second disc holds the film 1.33:1 full frame. Of course, I'm a widescreen advocate and it annoys me when films (especially with wider aspect ratios) are panned, scanned and cropped. "The Mummy" uses the same print as used in the widescreen edition, and as far as the transfer goes, it's about the same. I actually noticed a little bit more noise in some areas. And of course, it's full frame... some excellent shots are badly cut down and the film loses some of its visual marvel that way. Unless you absolutley love full frame, than this version is for you. Otherwise, do yourself a favor watch the widescreen.

Also for this set, Universal has expanded its audio options. However, I must admit I don't like the way they're set up, because the way it is you can't please everybody. But more on that a little later. Let me explain the options you have.

For the widescreen version of the film, you have a choice of English Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 and English, Spanish and French subtitles. Also, the commentaries are only for the widescreen version of the movie. For the full frame, there's English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Surround, but only English captions.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 (which is a new addition to this set) are neck and neck. Each are incredibly discreet, but in the end, the DTS edges it out by a tiny margin. "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 on whichever track you choose, but I prefer the DTS because it just sounds a bit sharper to me. Still, you won't be disappointed. But maybe you will if you want DTS on the full frame version... and my take on all of this next.

The first Universal Ultimate Edition is pretty loaded, as Universal brings us most of the Collector's Edition supplements as well as a lot of new goodies. However, before I begin, I will now rant about the video and audio.

I find Universal splitting the widescreen and full frame on seperate disc annoyings. My preference is to have a whole presentation on one disc, and extras on another with big sets like these. However, Universal didn't go this route. In the past as I earlier mentioned, they've included widescreen and full frame on one DVD. Still, we don't know for sure how much space it all takes up, since "The Mummy" runs for well over two hours. Maybe if two versions and all the tracks were on a single disc, it could have effected the video quality. It's a likely case, but again, no one knows for sure. Anyhow, besides on two seperate discs, what annoys me is that having all of it split up, you can't make everyone happy. Perhaps you like full frame and DTS. You can't get that combo here. Or French is your native language and you want to hear that track in widescreen... no can do here. Also, all three commentaries are on widescreen only. Again, spacing issues and such are a possibility, but it would have been really nice, for me at least, if both viewing options and all sound options were available on a single disc, and then all the extras on another. Oh well, at least the stuff is there and can be viewed and heard in some shape or form... I just hope some people see my point of view.

So let's see with the first disc. We have three commentaries, two which are new to this release. But let's get the old out of the way first. The first, 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.

New to this set is a Commentary With Brendan Fraser. Fraser is one of my favorite actors as of late, so I was very happy to see this commentary included. Fraser is very soft spoken here and nice to listen to. While of course he played a big part in the movie, he acts more like a fan of the film. He offers a very good perspective with a lot of light jokes, but with it, he does offer good stories about challanges, his thoughts and whatnot. Fraser seemed to have a very good time making the film and also seems to like the film a lot. If you like Fraser or want some cool production info, this is a great track to listen to. I really enjoyed it a lot.

Finally, also new to the set is another actor commentary, this time with three actors. The Commentary With Oded Fehr, Kevin J. O'Connor and Arnold Vosloo is another excellent track. I thought all three men delivered superb supporting performances throughout the film, so I was glad they packed them in a room together to record a track. They also seemed to like the movie and share some very good facts. There's a lot to absorb from this track as the men ask questions to one another and share very interesting stories. They are very lively and a lot of fun to listen to. Definently listen to this track, like the other two, it's really enjoyable.

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.

Finally, rounding the first disc off is some DVD-ROM matertials that include the usual newsletter and weblinks, as well as a live webcast to "The Mummy Returns" premiere, a PC game demo, wallpaper, screen savers script to scene and more.

Disc 2 houses a majority of the supplements. 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 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.

Storyboard To Final Film Comparison is exactly what it is. Three scenes ("Hangman's Noose", "Scarab Run" and "Trouble In Cairo") are presented against a background. The top has the storyboard and the bottom has the final film. Nothing new as far as features, but still pretty neat.

The Photograph Montage is played against Jerry Goldsmith's wonderful score and features stills from the film and production. It lasts a little over four minutes.

Pharoah Lineage is another text based supplement, and like Egyptology 101, gives a very good background on the movie that I found all very interesting. You can learn about Egypt from the Old Kingdom (2700-2200 BC), Middle Kingdom (2000-1800 BC) and New Kingdom (1576-1069 BC). Again, nicely done and a lot to learn here.

Finally, we have our promotional items. There's no doubt in my mind that this disc is promoting "The Mummy Returns", so you get the Trailer for that (in 5.1 and non-anamorphic widescreen) and a Highlights featurette that lasts eleven minutes. The featurette has clips from the new film as well interviews with Sommers, Fraser, Fehr, Vosloo Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and a few more. It gives a nice background to the film and it also has some behind the scenes footage. Expect to see both of these on "The Mummy Returns" DVD.

Finally, we have the Theatrical Trailer for the original "Mummy" remake in 5.1 and a Mummy Game Trailer. As well as DVD-ROM features.

So what's missing that was on the old Collector's Edition? Well, the teaser trailer is gone, as well as the isolated score which I was sad to see go. Also, the additonal trailers from the bios andUniversal Showcase are not included, and there's no Universal Showcase on this disc for anything new either. Still, don't feel too disappointed. Inside you get a Coupon to see "The Mummy Returns" as well as a nice insert that has some notes from Sommers, pictures and more and finally, a little ad for "The Mummy" game.

I just hate it when studios release a good disc the first time around, and then go off to re-release it again with even more. "The Mummy" was a fine disc in the first place, and this new two-disc set expands on what it had with some great new commentaries and features, as well as a DTS track. It's obvious that this new release is simply to cash in and hype this summer's sequel, "The Mummy Returns". For what Universal is offering, it's a great deal. Some may not be willing to spend another thirty bucks just for the new supplements and a DTS, but sound and extras mean a lot to you, I encourage you to buy it again. If you didn't get it the first time, what the hell are you waiting for?

(4/5 - NOT included in final score)




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