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THE MUMMY: ULTIMATE EDITION

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Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Kevin J. O’Connor, Jonathan Hyde
Director: Stephen Sommers
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Standard 1.33:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 125 Minutes
Release Date: April 24, 2001

“Is it dangerous?”

“Well, you probably won’t live through it.”

“By Jove, do you really think so?!”

Film ***1/2

Had it not been for the fact that Star Wars: Episode I was just a few weeks away its release, The Mummy may have not resulted in the huge box office hit that it was. The movie, which arrived in theaters just a few weeks prior to The Phantom Menace, gave moviegoers an eye-popping extravaganza to feast off of until Star Wars invaded the world again. I raced over to the multiplex on its opening night, and was absolutely amazed.  The Mummy is an outrageous and over-the-top triumph of adventure moviemaking and special effects, with a slight touch of a B-movie feel. Watching it, I was instantly reminded of the days of the Saturday Matinee serials of yesteryear, as well as the Indiana Jones movies. The Mummy itself is a remake of the 1932 Boris Karloff classic of the same name, but for me the new version should be credited as a solid attempt to bring back the entertainment style of the Saturday Matinee adventures. The plot of the movie is sort of corny to the point that numerous lines of dialogue come off as incredibly silly, but it never takes itself seriously, and there is so much energy, never a dull moment, and a lot of outrageously funny moments.

Set in Egypt in 1923, the movie follows a group of fortune seekers who journey to find immense treasure in the lost city of Hamunaptra, aka The City of the Dead, which is also rumored to be possessing a very deadly force, but of course that’s not going to stop our heroes from getting some serious loot, now is it? The hunt is lead by Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser, in a show-stealing performance), a disgruntled soldier of the French legionnaire, who’s assisted by the beautiful but clumsy Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), and her wimp of a brother, Jonathan (John Hannah).

Once in the lost city, the hunters do find what they were looking for, but they also make a big mistake in unintentionally awakening the mummified spirit of Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), who’s been dead for 3,000 years. The mummy, once re-awaken, is nothing less of a pure, rotting corpse, but then he grows back his human form after killing so many victims and devouring numerous organs, after which he releases from his mouth what appears to be the biggest swarm of flies ever composed; at least that what it looks like, hehe. Imhotep intends to conclude a ritual where he will attempt to reawaken the woman who was the love of his life, and his affair with her was also the reason for his execution.

Once the mummy is resurrected, the rest of the movie develops into a nonstop thrill ride, laced with some truly state-of-the-art, special effects. Director Stephen Sommers, who also directed Deep Rising, another fantastic creature movie, seems destined for a career of making exciting movies of this form. Sommers brings the best approach to an adventure, which is to make a big special effects or action sequence as big as the previous one. There are many action scenes in The Mummy, all of which add up to such an extreme amount of eye candy, that it’ll probably make you somewhat dizzy afterwards. Credit should also go towards the leads in the cast, especially Brendan Fraser, who prior to this was mostly known for playing either nice guys or likeable goofballs. Fraser’s Rick O’Connell is in the true adventure hero form, and is loaded with a terrifically sharp, humorous wit.

OK, so it’s not a movie that will make you think or teach you anything important, except maybe how to escape a collapsing ancient tomb in just under two minutes. The Mummy is a jaw-dropping, superbly crafted piece of entertainment, knockout special effects, and winning humor. A rollercoaster ride that you don’t have to leave the house for.

Video ****

The Mummy, as you may recall, was already released to DVD almost two years ago, and it carried perhaps Universal’s most terrific looking video transfer yet, and this newly released Ultimate Edition carries the same breathtaking picture quality. This is a 2-disc set, which features an anamorphic widescreen presentation on disc 1, and the standard, full frame version on disc 2. As usual, I viewed only the widescreen version, and I can’t even find the words to describe just how remarkable the picture quality is. Colors are consistently beautiful and vibrant, with desert scenes glowing with orange, and even darkly lit and nighttime scenes showing up terrifically. A perfectly illustrated example of how movies should look on DVD.

Audio ****

This presentation also boosts one of Universal’s most outstanding audio jobs ever. The 5.1 Dolby Digital presentation is likely to have your lower jaw to the floor. Musical score is picked up remarkably, striking a big impact, and distinct sounds, not to mention every possible all-around sounds, are picked up on speakers, which shows some tremendous effort from Universal. There’s also a DTS track, which was not included on the previous DVD release.

Features ****

What was once a Collector’s Edition release from Universal has now evolved into a milestone Ultimate Edition 2-disc set. Released to commemorate the upcoming release of the upcoming sequel, The Mummy Returns, Universal went back to the drawing board, and simply added some more outstanding extras to the mix, and the result is nothing less than one of the best discs of the year, and possibly of all time.

On disc 1, there are three separate commentary tracks, including one from Brendan Fraser, which gets my vote for best commentary track of the year. Fraser is consistently funny in the way he pokes fun at numerous parts in the movie, and even at himself. I was howling so many times at his comments, that it was actually difficult to detect when he wasn’t cracking jokes. The other two commentaries are supplied by co-stars Arnold Vosloo, Kevin J. O’Connor, and Oded Fehr on one track, and director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay on the other track. Also included on disc 1 is the making-of documentary “Building a Better Mummy”, as well as an in-depth look some Egyptian artifacts in a segment titled “Egyptology 101”.

Disc 2 includes a deleted scenes compilation, a look into the visual and special effects, storyboard and film comparisons, a photograph montage, trailers for both The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, and a special advanced look into the making of The Mummy Returns.

Summary:

The Mummy is as big and entertaining as adventure movies go. If you don’t take it too seriously, you’ll enjoy even more, as is the custom to movie of B-movie quality.