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The Mummy (1999)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/22/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/11/2008

I don't know about you, but when it comes to purchasing new technology, especially new technology which is still pricey, I get anxious. Although I do my homework, I still wondering if I'm making the right choice. Once I get it home, I wonder if it will work properly, or even worse, as it's new to me, how will I know if it's working properly? I faced this dilemma when I made the jump to Blu-ray Disc. After years of working with DVD, would Blu-ray blow me away, or would I even notice a difference. After months of going back and forth on this, I'm now at peace about Blu-ray Disc, thanks to the release of The Mummy. This is what Blu-ray is all about.

I know that I'm doing this in the opposite order from my typical reviews, but let's start with the sound. The Mummy has the best audio that I've heard thus far on Blu-ray Disc. Period. The Disc contains a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects throughout the film. This track accents every minute sound in the film and the stereo and surround channels are active throughout. The stereo separation is excellent and the on-screen sound perfectly matches the speaker placement. The movie contains a great deal of action, and as the action moves across the screen, the sound travels with it, side-to-side and front-to-back. The subwoofer is also quite active, as each explosion, punch, and roar is accented through the LFE channel. All of these things should be expected from a lossless 5.1 track, but few deliver in this way. Actually, this track made me angry that more tracks don't sound like this. This is what I expected from Blu-ray sound. Even when I was watching the movie at low-volume simply to check the levels, the surround sound was impressive. I now have a new demo disc.

The visuals on The Mummy Blu-ray Disc are good as well. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only trace amounts of grain in some shots. Given that much of the film takes place in the bright desert, the lack of overt grain is very nice. The colors like red look good against the beige, sandy landscapes. The image has a nice amount of depth and is very detailed. Skin tones look realistic and the black tones are rich. I noted no defects from the source material and no video noise. Overall, this is an excellent Blu-ray Disc presentation.

As for the film itself, The Mummy has held up well nearly a decade after its original release. Although, nothing will top the first time that I saw the film. It was May 5, 1999, and I'd been able to score tickets to a preview screening. My wife was 9 months pregnant with our first child, and it had to be at least 90 degrees in the packed theater. Thus, the heat in the audience seemed to mirror the desert landscapes in the movie. My wife claims that experience placed her in labor, as she gave birth two days later. The movie was nearly as memorable as the moviegoing experience.

The Mummy opens in ancient Egypt, where high priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) has a forbidden love for the pharaoh’s wife, Anck Su Namun (Patricia Velasquez). When their affair is discovered, Anck Su Namun commits suicide and Imhotep is buried alive. Cut to the 1920s, where foreign legionnaire Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) stumbles across The City of the Dead, where Imhotep is entombed. The City is said to be both full of riches and cursed. In Cairo, museum employee Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) and her brother, Jonathan (John Hannah), learn of Rick’s discovery and urge him to lead them on an expedition. A group of American’s is also looking for the lost city, and soon a race across the desert begins. Once the two groups reach the site, they accidentally release Imhotep, and he seeks to wreak vengeance on Egypt and to resurrect Anck Su Namun. It’s up to Rick and Evelyn to stop him.

With The Mummy, writer/director Stephen Sommers has used the original Boris Karloff movie as a jumping off point to create a movie which is part monster-mash, part Indiana Jones. The movie is a non-stop whirlwind of action in which various creatures from ancient Egypt attack the living. Without every resorting to gore, Sommers has packed the film with icky images (such as Imhotep eating a scarab beetle) and some “jump” scares. The movie doesn’t come close to being family friendly, but it’s about as safe as a horror movie can be, and should be enjoyed by tweens on up.

While the action is well-done, the story often wanders into the realm of the silly and the dialogue is full of action movie cliches. Thankfully, the game cast help to overcome these pitfalls. Brendan Fraser, who had vacillated between serious roles and goofy fare like George of the Jungle, proves himself to be a true action hero, as he handles the physical stuff and the groan-inducing one-liners with aplomb. Rachel Weisz, who would soon become too serious for her own good, is refreshing as the wide-eyed Evelyn. John Hannah provides comic relief, and Oded Fehr is good as the strong, silent type.

There’s no doubt that The Mummy is big, dumb fun, but the important part of that statement is that it’s fun. The action is impressive and the monsters are creative. Some of the special effects look dated, but the movie still holds up well. Universal clearly chose this as their first Blu-ray Disc due to the forthcoming release of a new Mummy movie. But, Universal, who was the last major to join the Blu-ray movement, has proven themselves a true player with this impressive debut.

The Mummy Blu-ray Disc contains a wealth of extras. We begin with three AUDIO COMMENTARIES. The first features Director Stephen Sommers and Editor Bob Ducsay. The second has Brendan Fraser. The third offers Oded Fehr, Kevin J. O'Connor, and Arnold Vosloo. The film can be watched with "U-Control", which provides picture-in-picture extras which focus on various aspects of the movie. An icon appears on-screen to alert the viewer that these extras are available. The Disc contains 3 DELETED SCENES which run a little over 2 minutes. The three scenes are brief, but the third contains some good action and explains a plot point from the finale. "Visual and Special Effects Formation" contain five sub-chapters, each of which focus on a specific topic: City of Thebes, Scarab Burial, Serious Trouble, Imhotep Eats Scarab, Rick Rescues Evelyn. For each of these how the plate photography and visual effects elements were composited to create the final shot. "An Army to Rule the World, Part 1" (4 minutes) has Sommers and Ducsay discussing the look of Imhotep versus the classic look of the bandage-wrapped mummy. This stereotypical look was used for the priest mummies who were a mixture of actors and effects. "Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy" (8 minutes) examines the history of Universal monsters, specifically the mummy, and then looks at the new movie and how it relates to the classic version. "Building a Better Mummy" (50 minutes) is an in-depth look at the making of the film, most of which focuses on the special effects and visual effects. We see concept art, the creation of the CG effects, motion capture, and how all of these were integrated into the film. This piece looks at nearly all of the memorable effects scenes in the film. We get "Storyboard to Final Film Comparisons" for seven scenes. The final extra is a "Photograph Montage" (4 minutes).

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long