The Mummy: Ultimate Edition
The Mummy, one of the big summer hits of 1999, was directed by Stephen Sommers, and stars Brendan Fraser (Rick O' Connell), Rachel Weisz (Evie), John Hannah (Jonathon), Arnold Vosloo (Imhotep), and Kevin J. O'Connor (Beni). Previously released on DVD, Universal has seen fit to re-release the film with added extras in anticipation of the sequel, The Mummy Returns, which is due out in theaters this summer. The two-disc set is packaged in a keepcase like Gladiator and has a shiny foil insert, like Jaws and Jurassic Park.
In 1290 BC, Pharaoh Seti the First, one of the wealthiest pharaohs in history, ruled Egypt. His high priest was Imhotep, keeper of the dead, and his mistress was Anck-su-namun, who he had forbidden others to touch. However, when he caught Imhotep and Anck-su-namun together, they killed him. Knowing that the Pharaoh's bodyguards would kill her eventually, and that Imhotep could resurrect her later, Anck-su-namun killed herself while Imhotep fled the guards. He then took her corpse to Hamunaptra, the City of the Dead, to perform the rituals. But before he could finish, the Pharaoh's bodyguards captured him and forced him to endure the ancient curse of Hom-Dai, a curse so powerful that it had never been done before. Imhotep would be undead for all of eternity; if he were ever freed from his eternal prison, he would be "a waking disease, a plague upon mankind, an unholy flesh eater with the strength of ages…[with] power over the sands, and the glory of invincibility." Much later, in 1923 AD, Rick O'Connell, with the legionaries, happens upon Hamunaptra, and finds a relic with a map hidden inside. However, before they can discover much of anything, most of his comrades are slain by the local inhabitants and O'Connell is forced to flee before he can uncover the vast wealth of Hamunaptra.
Three years later, Jonathon shows his sister, Evie, a relic he "found" and inside, they discover the map, which leads to Hamunaptra. But that part of the map is accidentally burned off, leading Jonathon to confess he actually stole it. They then hunt down Rick, who's imprisoned and sentenced to death for "having too good a time." Evie arranges his release if Rick promises to lead them to Hamunaptra, and he agrees. But when they get there, they accidentally set free Imhotep, who is still determined to resurrect Anck-su-namun. Rick, Evie, Jonathon, and Ardeth Bay, a descendant of the original bodyguards of Pharaoh Seti, must find a way to stop him before he brings death to the people of Egypt and to them.
I've seen the Mummy several times now, and I continue to enjoy it for what it is – a top-notch lighthearted adventure film. I also enjoy Brendan Fraser's acting; I think he is an effective comedic hero. Of course, enjoying the film also requires overlooking the logic in "cursing" Imhotep with all that power; that just doesn't make a lot of sense – why give your most hated enemy the power to rule the world? That aside, I really liked the film, and I can't wait to see the sequel.
The Mummy is presented in 2:35.1 anamorphic widescreen on disc 1 and 1.33:1 full frame on disc 2; the transfers for both are identical to the previously released versions. Both transfers are excellent, though the full screen version is, of course, cropped quite a bit. Colors are vibrant, flesh tones are accurate, and blacks are rich and detailed. The only flaw with the transfer that I noticed is a small bit of edge enhancement.
The Mummy is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 in English for the widescreen version of the film, and in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English and French for the full frame version. Both the DD5.1 and DTS5.1 surround tracks are incredible and incorporate lots of directionality with the surrounds. The .1 LFE is also given a workout in quite a few of the scenes. Differences between the DD5.1 and DTS5.1 tracks are slight; the DTS track does sound richer overall and a few of the effects sound clearer and more distinct. Dialogue in both tracks is crisp and clean, always easy to understand. The fantastic score from Jerry Goldsmith is worth a mention and is integrated nicely throughout the film. Subtitles are available in Spanish and French for the widescreen version of the film and English for both versions of the film.
The Mummy: Ultimate Edition contains most of the extras from the Collector's Series DVD and adds some new ones. The previously available extras that return include: a screen specific commentary with Sommers, the director, and editor Bob Ducsay; the fifty minute documentary titled "Building a Better Mummy;" production notes; cast and crew biographies; a featurette titled "Visual and Special Effects" which breaks down five special effects shots and details their evolution; three short deleted scenes, all worth checking out; Egyptology 101, which features text screens of background myths and facts that pertain to Egypt; and the film's theatrical trailer. The commentary with Sommers and Ducsay provides a lot of interesting background information about filming and they both have a lot to say about the special effects used in the film. "Building a Better Mummy" is hosted by J.M. Kenny and covers a lot of the work done by Industrial Light and Magic for the film's numerous special effects.
New extras include: a screen specific audio commentary with Fraser; a screen specific commentary with O'Connor, Vosloo, and Oded Fehr; an eleven minute featurette titled "Highlights on The Mummy Returns," which contains interviews with the principal cast and crew and does a great job of hyping the new film; a storyboard to film comparison feature for three scenes; a streaming photograph album of photos from the Mummy; a text timeline of the Pharaohs of Egypt, titled "Pharaoh Lineage;" and trailers for the Mummy Returns and the upcoming Mummy video game. I really found Fraser's commentary to be the most enjoyable all of three in the set, due to his humorous approach to the film; I do enjoy his performances as an actor, so I might be slightly biased. The other new commentary with O'Conner, Vosloo, and Fehr is also interesting and entertaining, as the three describe their experiences with the film.
However, as mentioned above, some extras on the Collector's Series DVD aren't present on this release. These extras are: Goldsmith's isolated score, the teaser trailer for the Mummy, trailers for End of Days and For Love of the Game that were in the Universal Showcase, and trailers for Gods and Monsters and Darkman II, which were hidden in the cast bios.
For fans of the film who have yet to purchase the Mummy, this is the version to get, as it has virtually everything the first release does, for the notable exception of the isolated score, and then some. Fans who already have the Collector's Series DVD might want to rent the Ultimate Edition to check out the new extras, as some of them are quite good, and then decide whether or not they're worth upgrading for. Fans of the film with DTS capabilities might also want to give this new edition a look. And finally, for those who have never seen the film, but enjoy lighthearted adventure movies, this one is definitely worth a look. Collector Series.