• Mummy, The

    Released by: Universal Studios
    Released on: 7/22/2008
    Director: Stephen Sommer
    Cast:Brenden Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo
    Year: 1999
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    The Movie:

    About as far removed from the Boris Karloff classic as you can get, Stephen Sommer’s 1999 so-called ‘re-imagining’ of the beloved Universal classic monster film is never the less an entertaining action/adventure movie.

    The film follows a former French Foreign Legion member named Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) who discovers the whereabouts of a long lost Egyptian tomb containing a massive amount of treasure. When a sexy British Egyptologist named Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and her shifty but well intentioned brother named Jonathon (John Hannah) find out, they spring him from prison and enlist his aid in their quest. They take a boat trip up the river where a competing group of American archeologists make it clear that they’ll get to the treasure first and the race is on.

    What neither party realizes is that the tomb they’re about to raid holds the unhappy spirit of Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), a Egyptian priest who was put to death for messing around with the King’s wife centuries ago. When Imhotep awakens from his slumber, he’s pretty annoyed and only too happy to wreak havoc on anyone and anything around him in his quest to bring his beloved back to life to join him.

    While this picture pales in comparison to the original in terms of atmosphere and style, as a big event film, it’s not a bad film. Granted, the focus is on effects and grandiose sets rather than deep characterizations or intricate plot details but there story moves along at a good pace and the picture strikes a nice balance of humor, adventure and harmless chills. Brendan Fraser is a likeable enough lead and he does a fine job with both the physicality that the role demands as well as the more humorous side. His Rick is maybe a little too similar to Indiana Jones in some regards but he fits the part and plays it well. Rachel Weisz is easy on the eyes and even if she isn’t exactly the world’s greatest actress, she does fine with the material. John Hannah brings some enjoyable comic relief to his goofball supporting performance while Arnold Vosloo brings a wonderful sense of classy menace to the parts of the film where he appears as a human rather than a CGI beastie.

    The effects in the film were state of the art in 1999 and they hold up well almost a decade later even if they do show their age in some spots. The film is slick and clean looking throughout and the cinematography is fantastic as is the sound design used in the film. The problem with the picture stems from the fact that it doesn’t want to take any chances, instead it tries to please everyone. As a genre mish-mash meant for a family friendly audience it’s a perfectly fun picture but it’s absolutely not a horror film. Had the picture been named something else and not attempted to cash in on the legacy of the Karloff film, it might have met with a warmer welcome in genre circles as it’s entertaining as can be, but it’s really not much of a ‘mummy’ movie at all. Really, it’s a good natured adventure film in which Fraser and company square off against some obviously computer generated evil forces. Those expecting lumbering bandaged undead skulking around old tombs will probably be more than a little taken aback to learn that here the mummy can take on different forms and even control the desert sands around him. A horror movie, this is not, but as a blockbuster popcorn film, the movie is certainly enjoyable enough.


    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The anamorphic 2.35.1 1080p VC-1 encoded widescreen transfer for The Mummy is very nice, but you’re likely going to notice a bit of edge enhancement and, depending on your screen size, possibly some really mild macro blocking in a couple of scenes with really fast movement. Aside from those issues, which are minor, the picture quality is solid. Color reproduction is nice while black levels stay strong. Skin tones look dead on and both foreground and background detail is quite good throughout the film. There aren’t any problems with mpeg compression artifacts and any print damage that shows up however infrequently is minor. All in all, this is a very nice looking effort from Universal.

    The primary audio track on this release is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track in English. Optional French and Spanish tracks are provided in DTS 5.1 Surround Sound and subtitles are included in English (SDH), French and Spanish. The surround mix on this Blu-ray disc is quite strong with plenty of rear channel activity to heighten the tension when called for and nice, clear dialogue. There aren’t any problems at all with hiss or distortion and aside from a couple of spots where the sound effects are (likely intentionally) high up in the mix, everything shapes up very well indeed.

    As far as the extras go, this Blu-ray release is a mish-mash of previous releases of The Mummy with an exclusive or two thrown in for the high-def crowd. Let’s start with the commentary tracks, the first of which is comes from director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Duscay, with Sommers doing most of the heavy lifting. It’s an enthusiastic track that allows Sommers to move a full speed as he discusses the production in a lot of detail, starting from the idea of remaking The Mummy through to post and effects work. The second commentary finds Brendan Fraser flying solo talking about his work on the picture. There’s a fair bit of dead space here and it probably would have worked better had Fraser had someone to bounce off of but if you want the story of the making of the film from the lead actor’s perspective, here it is. The third and final track joins stars Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fahr and Kevin J. O’Connor to talk about their parts on the picture. It’s a fun discussion but it doesn’t go into the depth that the first track does and again, there are long stretches of dead air. Maybe Fraser should have joined these guys and the last two tracks could have been combined.

    Up next are a bunch of featurettes, starting with a selection of five brief segments that explain how the special effects were created for the City Of Thebes, Scarab Burial, Serious Trouble, Imhotep Eats Scarab, and Rick Rescues Evelyn scenes. These are pretty quick but they’re rather interesting and worth checking out if you’re into learning about effects work. An Army To Rule The World Part One is another short piece that covers the film’s special effects work, this time examining how Imhotep’s army was created using a mix of digital and practical effects. The second part of this featurette is included on the Blu-ray release of The Mummy Returns. Unraveling The Legacy Of The Mummy is a fascinating, albeit too brief at only eight minutes, look at Universal Studios’ legacy and history with the mummy character starting with the original Boris Karloff film. This could have easily been three times as long and remained just as interesting but it’s nice to see the original movie get some love here.

    The most substantial of the supplements is Building A Better Mummy, which is a fifty-minute look at the making of the film. Aside from a wealth of cast and crew interviews there’s a load of great behind the scenes footage that shows us just how much work went into the sets, costumes, props and effects for this picture.

    Exclusive to the Blu-ray release is Universal’s U-Control feature that allows you to basically watch the movie with or without a bunch of picture in picture style extra content. With this option enabled, a giant ‘U’ will glow in the corner of your screen and prompt you to hit a button on your remote to invite the content onto your screen. This actually integrates itself very nicely into the viewing experience and if you’ve seen the film before, it makes for a fun way to rediscover it.

    Rounding out the extras are a sneak peek at The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor (basically an ad for the latest film in the franchise), storyboard to film comparisons for seven scenes, and a still gallery. Also found here are some spiffy animated menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    If you’ve got the HD-DVD release you can probably stick with it but for those who want The Mummy in high definition, this Blu-ray release certainly does the trick as it’s quite a nice upgrade over the standard definition counterpart.