The Mummy

Walking corpses, flesh-eating bugs, fire from the sky and enough Saturday matinee serial close-calls make “The Mummy” such a giddy, fun-filled adventure. Not for one second do you believe any of it, but this remake of the 1932 horror film is such a good time you’re willing to give in to its big screen charms.


mummy“The Mummy” has that distinctive old Hollywood feel, with glossy sets, colorful costumes, roguish heroes and smart heroines, and a monster that makes the old “Mummy” look like one of George Clooney’s bad “E.R.” pranks. Some may find this style a bit insulting, but for those of us who cherish it will come away more than pleased with the effort expended. As written and directed by Stephen Sommers, whose last film was the splashy “B’ monster movie “Deep Rising,” “The Mummy” has obviously been pieced together by all that came before it. It’s one part “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” one part “Lawrence of Arabia,” one part “Ten Commandments,” and one part “Jason & The Argonauts.” While it never reaches the heights of those films, “The Mummy” manages to entertain quite nicely on its own level. It’s a grand throwback to the original series, but thanks to some truly dazzling visual effects, the film manages to make the best of both worlds. “The Mummy” begins with one of those tried and true prologues set 3,000 years in the past, where a high priest named Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) is buried alive with flesh eating bugs for fooling with the Pharaoh’s flame, whom he unsuccessfully tried to resurrect from the dead. It’s pretty nasty stuff, but not nearly as having a red hot poker shoved up your nose until your brains dripped turned to soup. Yes, ancient Egypt had their Kenneth Starr’s as well. Flash forward 3,000 years. The majority of the action is set in 1925, where former French Foreign Legion officer turned mercenary Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser, with a grin so wide you know he’s winking at the camera) is involved in a skirmish outside the walls of the cursed city Hamunaptra. Left for dead in the desert, we find O’Connell in a Cairo prison three years later, where he is about to be hung for “having an extremely good time.” You had to be there. That doesn’t suit disillusioned librarian and fledgling archaeologist Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), who needs O’Connell to lead her to Hamunaptra, where she hopes to find an ancient book that will give her career credence. It’s not long before we’re on a steamboat up the Nile with O’Connell, Evelyn, her earnest brother Jonathan (John Hannah), the prison warden (he’s there to protect his interest), and a group of American treasure-hunters (all generic types, no mystery here) on board. The Americans are being led by O’Connell’s former friend Beni, played by Kevin J. Anderson with more eye shadow than Mimi on “The Drew Carey Show.” Even before the group reaches land, they are attacked by guardians of the tomb, who have kept the ancient evil under wraps all this time. Which only means it is a matter of time before someone unlocks the spirit of Imhotep, who then proceeds to eliminate those who brought him back to life by sucking the very life out of them. After he becomes whole, Imhotep then sets out to resurrect his dear, dead beloved. All he needs is a female sacrifice, so you just know that poor Evelyn is going to wind up in a deep, dark, dank sarcophagus with some evil looking bald dude standing over her with a knife as time slowly runs out. That’s what I really liked about “The Mummy.” It respects the source material while bringing enough giddy chills and thrills of its own to the table. Fraser does well as the wide-eyed hero who is quick with a weapon as he is with a snappy comeback. Even when he’s spouting some of Sommers’ bottom-feeder dialogue, you never sense that he’s taking any of this seriously. Same for Weisz, who is lovely as the librarian with a flair for adventure. She looks and acts the part, and you just know when she voices her disdain for O’Connell after a stolen kiss, the two will be together before the final credits. The remainder of the cast, especially Hannah as the errant brother, fill in the shadows nicely. Arnold Vosloo, last seen in the dreadful “Progeny,” fares much better here as the half-man, half computer generated monster who unleashes the ten deadly plagues on Egypt. Production values are generally acceptable, with some colorful but not very realistic computer matte shots, and a generous score by Jerry Goldsmith that is adventurous and spooky. Adrian Biddle’s gorgeous cinematography (shot in Morocco, standing in for Egypt) is a major plus, as are the physical effects that literally bring down the house. Purists might have a problem with “The Mummy,” but for those willing to give in to the film’s many delights and grand adventure, this film is a wrap.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Except for a line that runs through a portion of chapter seven, the digital transfer is exceptional. Sharp, vivid colors mix with impenetrable blacks to make a visual experience that is absolutely awesome. Delivered in the film’s original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, enhanced at 16:9 for widescreen televisions, the images are breathtaking. Color saturation is perfect, while flesh tones are so realistic you feel as if you can reach out and touch them. No compression artifacts or noise, while a pristine negative allows for pure whites and shadows. Depth of field is strong, while attention to detail is immaculate. Even the usually difficult to transfer images like sandstorms look sharp.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Extremely animated 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack (the DVD also features a 2.0 Dolby Surround French language track) not only puts you right in the middle of the action, but completely engulfs you in a sea of expressive sounds. The basses thunder, while the middle and high ends are so clean they purr. Stereo effects, especially left to right, are dynamic in all respects, while the front to rear spatial separation is some of the best I’ve ever heard. There’s a lot going on in the rear speakers, from spectacular ambient noise that fills the room like a Moroccan marketplace, to the terrific strains of Jerry Goldsmith’s adventurous musical score. Dialogue mix is superior, while surround effects are constant and effective. No noticeable audio hiss or distortion. Instead, you get one outrageous soundtrack that pumps new life into your sound system.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor

Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing.

COORDINATION: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

As promised, Universal Studios Home Video has packed the DVD of “The Mummy” with enough extras to keep you bust for hours.

check.gif (406 bytes) First up is the DVD’s striking main and scene access menus that run with the theme. A lot of work went into the menus, and it shows. They are a lot of fun to navigate.

check.gif (406 bytes) Next up is the full length, feature audio commentary with director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Duscay. Both men bring a wealth of information to the proceedings, especially Sommers, who is as animated as the DVD’s menus. I like an audio commentary from a director who is still hyped over the film. Some commentaries I’ve heard sound like everyone on the audio track was bored with the entire process. Not Sommers and Duscay, who delight in their accomplishments and aren’t afraid to express their feelings. A film like “The Mummy” literally screams out for commentary, and this one is worth a listen.

check.gif (406 bytes) I was thrilled with the lengthy documentary “Building a Better Mummy,” an in-depth look at the special effects that were created and used to bring Sommer’s vision to life. There’s extensive footage from the folks at Industrial Lights and Magic, and enough background information being dispensed that even a layman would understand how all of the magic was created. There’s also interviews with the cast, who discuss their involvement in the film, plus extensive rehearsal and special effects set-ups to show you how some of the trickier scenes were accomplished. The documentary runs 40 minutes long, and I couldn’t get enough. Nicely done.

check.gif (406 bytes) There’s also a section that allows you to put together several special effects scenes, from their original concept to the final shot. Some of this material is covered extensively in the documentary, still it’s fun to see how some of the film’s most amazing scenes were captured on film.

check.gif (406 bytes) Fans of the film and Egypt in general will appreciate the in-depth history lesson known as “Egyptology 101.” It’s here where you can learn about the various Gods, artifacts, Immortals and plagues of Egypt, plus there’s a map where you can click on various spots and read about such places as the Valley of the Kings and the Pyramids. There’s a lot of reading to do here, but it’s worth it for anyone looking for background information.

check.gif (406 bytes) There are also a couple of deleted scenes that add nothing new to the experience, but are still interesting to watch. Most are inserts, but there is one juicy scene in a tomb where the mummy’s guards come up from the ground and attack Brendan Fraser.

check.gif (406 bytes) Look for a healthy selection of cast & crew bios and filmographies. In this section, look for theatrical trailers for Brendan Fraser’s “Gods & Monsters,” and Arnold Vosloo’s “Darkman II: The Return of Durant.” There’s also lengthy production notes if you want more information.

check.gif (406 bytes) For more theatrical trailers, check out the Universal Showcase, where you will find trailers for the upcoming features “Ends of Days” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and “For Love of the Game” with Kevin Costner.

check.gif (406 bytes) The DVD also comes with two trailers from the film, including the original theatrical and a teaser.

check.gif (406 bytes) For DVD-ROM owners, you’ll love the Interactive Mummy Game, plus there’s two screen savers, electronic postcards you can send to friends, and web links to Universal Studio’s “The Mummy” Internet site.

PROGNOSIS: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

Just an outstanding effort from beginning to end. “The Mummy” lives!

VITALS: $34.98/rated PG-13/125 Minutes/Color/18 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#20636

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: THE MUMMY-COLLECTOR’S EDITION

BIRTH DATE: 1999

HMO: Universal Studios Home Video



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