THE MUMMY (DELUXE EDITION)
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
In the ancient Egyptian City of the Dead, a cursed book brings to life a decayed nightmare - the powerful priest Imhotep, who's sole purpose (other than sucking the life out of Americans to make himself whole again) is to raise the spirit of his forbidden lover. To do this he needs to sacrifice a mousy English librarian named Evie. But the poor mummy doesn't realize that she's fallen for the fearless adventurer Rick O'Connell, who'll battle everything from mummy priests, 10 biblical plagues, carniverous scarabs and even the underworld itself just to save her.
Is it good movie?
I was raised on Universal monster movies, and for me, Karloff's The Mummy is one of the great classics of the genre. As well, I hate even the principle and the idea behind remakes, or reimaginings as they like to sugar coat their shit these days. But the original mummy flick was made in 1932, not in the 80's, so maybe it was ripe for the remaking? Hell yeah, was it ever! After repeated attempts to reboot one of their most profitable and interesting franchises during the 90's, Universal fielded a number of quality pitches for the new updated tale of Imhotep and his lost love (one that even came from George Romero! Imagine how cool that mummy would have been!). Finally they settles on Stephen Sommers and his Indian Jones-esque, action adventure take that greatly expounds on the simple story of the original, and ramps the effects into high gear. And the result is pure summer popcorn movie magic. I know a lot of people shit all over this movie, but it's been a favourite of mine for years.
The acting is dead on, and Brendan Fraser was a fine choice, because his deadpan delivery and comic timing are perfect. Plus it was about time someone gave him a "hero" role. His chemistry with a very fresh faced Weisz is what gives the movie its romantic charm (they are especially good when fighting). Arnold Vosloo does an imposing job as the mummy Imhotep. But a standout here is Oded Fehr as the mysterious Medji warrior Ardeth Bey (a nice nod to the original). While he really takes off in the sequel, he dominates the screen no matter what he is in. The story is much broader and action oriented, with more emphasis on the comedy and stunts than on horror, which was an interesting and fun direction to take the movie in. Not to say that it doesn't have it's fair share of horror moments (the zombie mummy priests and carniverous scarabs being the notable elements), but it is all wrapped up (pun intended) in a 1930's serial style pulp adventure which makes good use of Egyptian history and some truly gorgeous scenery.
But the biggest attraction is the effects. Outdoing the subtle mastery seen in the original, this mummy sported some pretty cutting edge effects for the time it was made. Sure, the mummy effects are now looked at as being a little too "typical" ILM, being so hot on the heels of T2's liquid metal terminator, but for when they were made, audiences couldn't believe that what they put on film was even possible. Even the use of Egyptian dialogue, and the now iconic face in the sandstorm, all add to the fun and, dare I say, wonder of this modern update to a classic tale. When all things came together, this was an awesome effort of adventure filmmaking, and an altogether fun and entertaining movie. Despite some very small flaws, the film didn;t misstep once, and paved the way for a less impressive but more entertaining sequel. This Deluxe DVD, while only adding more audio commentaries while recycling features from the earlier releases, shows off the movie in all of it's glory. If you're not a fan, you've at least seen the film. If you are a fan, you might want to go for the Ultimate Edition instead, if it's in your price range. For the rest of us, this release will do just fine.
Video / Audio
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen - 2.35:1.
Audio: English, Spanish and French (Dolby Digital 5.1) with subtitles in English, Spanish and French.
On Disc 1 there are 3 Deleted Scenes, which are the usual fare, and a whopping 3 Audio Commentaires. While they all have their strong points and funny moments, they do kind of overlap quite a lot. The first is by Sommers and editor Rob Ducsay. The next one is quite a laugh, done by actors Kevin J. O'Connor, Arnold Vosloo and my favourite Oded Fehr. The final commentary is probably the most insightful and entertaining, done by Brendan Fraser, who's soft spoken anecdotes are such at odds with his loud mouthed and larger than life character.
Disc 2 contains a shitload of features, showing that Universal really put some thought into the creation of this bonus disc, eve though most of them are recycled from previous releases. There is the very short "An Army To Rule the World Part 1", which is a quick look at the creation of the priest and soldier mummies, and 8 minute doc "Unraveling The Legacy Of The Mummy", which briefly touches on the evolution of the franchise from the Karloff original to now. It can also be found on the Legacy Series set for the Original, and the sequel to this movie. Following this is the 9 minute "Visual & Special Effects Formation" which looks at the plate-by-plate building of the impressively key effects scenes (like the awesome scarab eating gag), as well as a quirky 6 minute look at the "Storyboard To Final Film Comparison". It's neat how a lot of the scenes became more dynamic and fleshed out on set when compared to the storyboards. There is also the obligatory Trailer and Photo Montage Slideshow, but there is a fun and entertaining 50 minute documentary, "Building A Better Mummy", which aside from a going even further into the creation of the effects, includes some excellent making of footage. It's too bad that a lot of the information imparted in the commentaries on Disc 1 is repeated here in the features, but they are all short and painless. Following this are two test based history lessons, "Egyptology 101" which includes info on artifacts, gods, the immortals, plagues and even a map; and a short "Pharaoh Lineage" which traces family lines and historical tales through the three Kingdoms of Egyptian history. I love these kind of fun and informative features, don't you (and no, I'm not being sarcastic). Finally there is a 3 minute sneak peek at the third installment of the rebooted franchise, The Mummy: Tomb of The Dragon Emperor, which looks like just as much of a kick ass ride as the previous two, despite the absence of Rachel Weisz. But at least it has Jet Li, so it's all good.
Often corny and heavy handed, but always fun, this remade version of the classic Universal monster gave us some pioneering effects, even if the mummy was a little too "typical" ILM. The acting, action and comedy timing are dead on, and the two leads are likeable and have great chemistry (especially when bickering). And Oded Fehr is the kicker of many an ass, both here and in the underrated sequel. Sommers managed to make a mindless summer popcorn movie that, dare I say it, actually has a little substance behind all the showy effects and big action pieces. This isn't award worthy or anything, but it is one hell of a fun movie, making it great in my book, and the characters, while a little dirivitive and one dimensional, almost demanded a sequel or two. Loved the tone of this flick and where they took the story, probably because there's no kids or giant scorpion wrestlers. It's not a classic, but it is a damn fun flick, and it's a great update on the original character.