It’d been years since screen had seen a rousing adventure movie that the whole family could enjoy and by the time The Mummy shot its way into theaters in 1999 and it seemed to be just what moviegoers were hungering for. With Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz headlining the film, audiences were treated to a new on-screen couple as well as a rousing action film that utilized (then) state-of-the-art CGI to bring to life the villainous Mummy Imhotep, played by Arnold Vosloo. Within a day of opening, Universal Studios phoned director Stephen Sommers that they wanted a sequel…and with good reason. While not a critical success, the film raked it in at the box office and subsequently made quite a handsome sum on the home video market.
Deep within the Egyptian desert, American treasure hunter Rick O’Connell (Fraser) is hired by Evelyn (Weisz) and Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah) to take them to the ancient city of Hamunaptra. Racing against another group of treasure hunters, group find nothing but trouble once they arrive, as members of both O’Connell’s group and the other hunters teams die within the first day of camping in the area. Soon a fierce evil is unleashed and begins to go after both groups, wreaking havoc across the land. With the evil, known as Imhotep (Vosloo), ten plagues return to the land and begin to ravish those who inhabit it.
It’d been years since I saw The Mummy and by the time I popped this Blu-ray release in, I’d almost entirely forgotten the characters and story progression. It was as if I was watching it again for the first time and I became wrapped up in the film almost immediately. It isn’t a film that you’ll write home about to your friends, but it’s simply a fun adventure movie that packs in equal amounts of funny and adventure and is stirred together to form what is essentially the perfect popcorn movie.
Much like the National Treasure series, the plots of The Mummy movies aren’t entirely based in reality, but they’re just so much fun to watch that it’s easily forgiven. While I didn’t care so much for the sequel, The Mummy reminded me why I enjoyed it so much as a kid and why it has earned its place in my list of favorite action films. It combines my fascination of archeology with my love of comedy and action movies into a mix that has only been met once before (Indiana Jones) and simply makes for a hell of a good time in front of the TV.
What I liked most about The Mummy was the characters. Fraser and Weisz played a terrific duo and had great chemistry with one another, never becoming too unbelievable and delivering the corny one-liners at all the right moments. The overreaching story of the Mummy flows effortlessly and Vosloo plays a magnificently evil villain here, often silent but always intimidating. Not to mention John Hannah’s role, as well as Oded Fehr’s, became the more memorable supporting characters in the film…not to mention Benny. Ah Benny, you were such good comic relief.
While I can see where people fail to connect with the film on the same level that I have, I simply remind myself that it’s a mindless and fun popcorn flick and nothing else. There’s no incredible depth to any of it and once you start poking around in that area you’re going to become very disappointed with the results. It’s a very superficial film, but when you’re just looking to kick back and enjoy yourself for a couple hours, this is a very simple and smooth ride.
I was surprised how well the special effects held up on this film after all the years; sure it’s just flying sand for the most part, but it still looks good and never once jumps out at out with “Hello, look at my CGI!” moments. Everything about this film still looks good, whether it’s the ancient artifacts or the structure of Hamunaptra, everything looks as good as I remembered it when I was twelve years old watching this film in theaters.
Overall The Mummy is a fantastic summer action flick that still manages to entertain to this day. It leaves you eager for more, but unfortunately, for me, the sequel and subsequent prequel ended up putting a sour taste in my mouth. Highly Recommended.
Venturing into the Blu, Universal brings out its first wave of Blu-ray’s with the Mummy trilogy (as well as a few other films, if you want to be over anal about it) and they didn’t skimp on these releases at all. Along with these Blu-ray’s are new Deluxe Editions on DVD, so the new extras and video transfers on DVD are ported over to the Blu-ray, with absolutely fantastic results in the audio/video department. First things first, however, is the packaging for this release: a reflective foil slipcover slides over a standard Blu-ray case with another reflective foil insert underneath. Inside the packaging is the disc itself with its own shiny reflective disc art and an insert for other Universal Blu-ray’s coming out (woo, Serenity at some point!). There’s also a ticket (or rather a code for a ticket) to the next The Mummy movie, so if you purchase this you get a free ride to the next one. Not a bad deal. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and utilize a “blade” system similar to that of the XBOX LIVE service.
The video for this first film is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and is encoded with the VC-1 codec. Detail is crisp and clear, although the image does get a bit softer as the film wears on, before finally kicking the detail into overdrive as we reach the final act. The glistening book made of gold and O’Connell’s exciting fight with Imhotep look terrific and the sound mix accompanying the film is just as impressive. Arriving in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, this English track is absolutely thunderous at times and really utilizes the surrounds quite well. Also included are French and Spanish DTS 5.1 Surround tracks and English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Moving onto the extras for the disc we get the host of extras from the DVD edition but also some Blu-ray exclusive extras as well. “U-Control” plays special features while you’re watching the movie via the picture-in-picture mode. I’m not totally sure what, if anything, was new for these picture-in-picture segments or why anyone would want their film repeatedly interrupted by the extras, but I guess someone might want to check it out. I will say I was pleasantly surprised how well this worked, although it was a bit confusing to get set up at first. This is clearly a format for the tech savvy, as I can’t imagine trying to explain this U Control system to my parents. They’re still struggling with DVD menus.
All extras presented here are in 480i/p, so we don’t get to see any behind-the-scenes footage in HD glory, but there are still some features here worth checking out. The first collection of extras is a trio of commentaries. Yes you read that right…there are three commentaries for this release. The first with writer/director Stephen Summers and editor Bob Ducsay, a second with Brendan Fraser flying solo and another with Oded Fehr, Kevin J. O’Connor and Arnold Vosloo. Each one of the tracks have their enjoyable aspects, though I wish Fraser would have been paired with someone else as his constant whispering makes it seem as if he’s worried he’s going to disrupt someone’s viewing of the film. The group commentary with Fehr, O’Connor and Vosloo is the best, as they play off each other quite well, while the Summers and Ducsay track has its own share of highlights. All of the tracks are worth checking out, but the Fraser track may need to be listened in sections, as it can get a bit dry at times.
New to this (and the Deluxe DVD) release is the The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Sneak Peek (3:01) as well as the “An Army to Rule the World: Part 1” (4:02) and “Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy” (8:07) extras. They’re all rather light on content, but worth checking out for the fans of the film. I had hoped we get a few more retrospectives with more actors involved, but I guess not everyone wants to sit down, even if it has almost been ten years since The Mummy adorned screens.
Returning from the previous home video releases is the Visual and Special Effects Formation (City of Themes, Scarab Burial, Serious Trouble, Imhotep Eats Scarab, Rick Rescues Evelyn), a selection of scenes with varying stages of CGI implementation and “Building a Better Mummy” (49:55), a lengthy documentary on the CGI used in the film. Storyboard to Final Film Comparison (Seven different sequences) is another set of comparison sequences, while Photograph Montage is a simple gallery of images.
That wraps up the extras for this release. Between the three commentaries and smattering of extras, there’s plenty here to check out and keep you busy for a few hours after watching the movie. This is definitely the ultimate edition of the film to own and as such it comes Highly Recommended.
The Mummy: Deluxe Edition is now available on DVD and arrives on Blu-ray on July 22nd.