Plot: What’s it about?
Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) has been dead for thousands of years, but he’s about to return to the realm of the living. His mummified remains are hidden within a tomb that bears a warning, whoever disturbs him will unleash a curse like no other, but of course, no one listens to reason these days. So when a team of archeologists discover the tomb, they ignore the warning and proceed with the inquest, which means some bad stuff is bound to happen. Although he is a mummy now, Imhotep still kicks some behind and once he tracks down the team members and kills them, he will have his old body back. As he was killed for a forbidden love affair, he wishes to find a suitable woman and use her for his departed lover, through a special ritual he can enact. This woman turns out to be Evie (Rachel Weisz) and she has no plans to become Imhotep’s bride, so she relies on rugged Rick (Brendan Fraser) and her offbeat brother Jonathan (John Hannah) to protect her from the monster and his followers. But as Imhotep becomes more powerful and closes in on them, these three will need some serious plans to overcome this supernatural beast.
Universal has decided the original Collector’s Edition release for The Mummy wasn’t enough, so they issued this two disc Ultimate Edition, which packs even more value. This new release brings back most of the elements from the previous edition, but also packs in even more goodies, including some sneak peek materials for The Mummy Returns. So while specifics can be found in the technical sections, I wanted to take some space and explain what is different between the two releases. I know some folks want to make sure all the goods from the original can be found on this new edition, so that’s just what I’ll address here. This two disc set has both anamorphic widescreen and full frame transfers, as well as the same Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but this Ultimate Edition also houses a DTS mix, but only if you choose the widescreen version. In other words, full frame lovers with DTS will have make a choice with this release. As far as supplements, this release has most of the goodies from the prior edition, but a couple features have been scrapped, which is bad news. The first victim in this new release is Jerry Goldsmith’s isolated score, which was not ported over for this updated version. The other absence is the film’s teaser trailer, which is a small feature, but I would have liked to have had it included nonetheless. So if you’re a completist, you’ll need to hang onto that older disc, but I still think this new two disc edition is wicked and well worth the cash involved.
But enough about the discs themselves, as you can read more about the specs later on in this review. This is of course, a remake of the classic The Mummy, but this is not even close to the same vision, to say the very least. This updated version focuses on adventure, special effects, and fun instead of suspense and horror, with terrific results. This movie gets hammered at times, but I think it is great as far as fun flicks go and that’s all I ever expected from The Mummy. The film also never tries to be serious or groundbreaking, you can tell the performers are having fun and the whole production has a fun texture to it. Brendan Fraser turns in a solid performance and the supporting cast is also good, with such names as Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Kevin J. O’Connor, John Hannah, and Rachel Weisz. If you want some action and adventure elements, this is a prime choice, as the set pieces are well crafted and the special effects are excellent, very cool visuals all around here. Yes, this flick has plot holes and focuses more on fun than anything, but audiences flocked to the theaters then and now, the original disc was a smash success also. Now fans can add the definitive edition of The Mummy to their collection and unless you hate re-releases, this is one even casual fans of the movie should pick up, terrific work Universal!
I know he catches a lot of heat from critics and audiences, but when Brendan Fraser gets the right roles, he is a terrific performer. Although not usually in a classical sense, Fraser does have a lot of talent and if nothing else, he knows how to please an audience. In this flick, Fraser’s wackiness and sense of humor is used to effective ends, as he really shines and more than fills the boots placed in front of him. He delivers the one liners to perfection, handles the action scenes well, and of course, romance is never a problem with this chap. All in all, he gives a knockout performance and I think his turn had a lot to do with the film’s box office success, as he is in top charismatic form here in The Mummy. His goofiness won’t serve him well in all efforts, but it does just fine here and that’s all that counts for this review. You can also see Fraser in Bedazzled, Encino Man, Dudley Doright, Gods and Monsters, and of course, The Mummy Returns. The rest of the cast includes Rachel Weisz (Chain Reaction, Sunshine), Arnold Vosloo (Hard Target, Steel Dawn), Patricia Velazquez (Beowulf, Committed), Oded Fehr (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Texas Rangers), John Hannah (The Hurricane, Sliding Doors), and Kevin J. O’Connor (Steel Magnolias, Deep Rising).
Video: How does it look?
The Mummy is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame option included on the second disc, in case that’s your preference. These transfers are the exact same ones on the prior discs and as such, both look excellent and for this review, I am reviewing only the widescreen edition. The transfer here is superb in all respects, with no real reasons to complain, which leads me to score this one as high as I can. The colors seem rich and vivid, with no bleeds in the least, while flesh tones look warm and natural also. The detail level is strong even in darker scenes, thanks to well balanced contrast and accurate shadow depth at all times. I saw no source material flaws to discuss and no compression errors either, this is about as good as a visual presentation can be.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is where the disc gets a little tricky, but I will try to explain it in concise form to minimize confusion. Both discs have the same Dolby Digital 5.1 track as before, but the widescreen edition also features a new DTS option, which of course, rocks the house. I have no problems with the Dolby Digital choice of course, but as usual, the DTS cleans up in comparison and really enhances the experience. The track seems much richer and more natural, which of course, is reason enough to upgrade to this new two disc edition. But both tracks have a ton of excellent surround use and never come apart, so whichever you choose, your audio is in good hands. The first disc (widescreen) also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, and French, in case you’ll need them. The second disc (pan & scan) on the other hand has English subtitles, plus audio tracks in French and Spanish. Sounds a little strange, but trust me, it just isn’t that hard to understand.
Supplements: What are the extras?
In order to make this a little simpler, I am going to discuss the supplements in three sections here. This first paragraph will cover the audio commentary tracks, the second will cover the rest of the disc one extras, and the third paragraph will discuss the disc two and DVD ROM features. This release contains a total of three commentary tracks, which includes two brand new ones and the very interesting one from the original release. The returning track features director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Ducsay, who provide an informative and never dull session. The two have a real sense of humor and that adds a lot to the track, this is still the best of the tracks offered on this release. Next is a commentary with Brendan Fraser, who lets us know from the start that he won’t have much in terms of in depth information to share. He pretty much narrates the film and that is a let down, but his humor really perks up the experience and makes it well worth a listen. The final track features actors Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, and Kevin J. O’Connor, who have a lot to discuss in terms of the production. This is a relaxed and interesting track, as the actors talk about their experiences during the shoot and ask each other questions about their work, very cool track indeed.
But the three commentary tracks aren’t the sole supplements on disc one, as you’ll also find some other cool stuff tacked on. All of these bonus materials were included on the previous editions, but since we’re already here, I’ll provide a rundown on what you’ll find. The usual talent files and production notes are located on this first disc, but the main focus is on a couple more substantial features. If you want to learn more about the legends and symbols seen in the flick, you can visit the Egyptology 101 area, where you can read more about those elements and such. By the time you’ve read all the text here, you’ll be an expert on the stories, myths, legends, and facts shown and even just hinted at within the feature film. The real showcase piece however is Building A Better Mummy, a fifty minute documentary that allows us to take an in depth look at how The Mummy was made. This piece includes all sorts of cast & crew interviews, on location footage, behind the scenes montages, and of course, looks at the special effects techniques used inside the picture. A very cool overall piece and not even close to promotional fluff, this documentary is my choice as the finest extra included on this release.
But don’t relax just yet, as we still have the second disc to explore and it holds some good features as well. Although most of these supplements were found on the previous releases, some new extras also surface and that makes this section a little sweeter. A selection of three deleted scenes are found here and while not groundbreaking, it is good to have them included here. I like two of the scenes a lot and while I understand time issues, I think they would have played well within the final cut of the picture. A brief photo montage is also stuff in, which features various stills that flash while some of Jerry Goldsmith’s score is played. I like stills a lot and in this type of presentation, I think their value is enhanced. Next is a series of storyboard to film comparisons, a total of three and while not extensive, these still made solid inclusions in the end. I do wish more discs offered extensive storyboards however, as I find them to be highly interesting. Even more comparisons can be made in the Visual and Special Effects area, where you can view the process used to create the stunning visuals within the film. This disc also houses some information on the lineage of the Pharaohs, DVD ROM content, and the film’s theatrical trailer. You can also view a couple features about The Mummy Returns, but I am unsure why those elements were added to this release, as opposed to adding more film specific ones.