The Mummy (1999)
Directed by Stephen Sommers, Greg Michael
Starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Kevin O’Connor, Arnold Vosloo
July 22, 2008
The Mummy, which hit multiplexes a while back in 1999 with a dazzling array of CGI effects, is a movie that if you saw as a child, chances are that you loved it, and if by chance it is airing on the fifth Starz movie channel at 2:30 in the morning you won’t switch stations. It is the kind of film that offers ‘fun’ first, that you just want to abandon the sense of all reality and immerse yourself in the presence of death defying stunts that are sure to excite.
The Mummy recalls a magnificent time I had the last time my eyes laid upon it. That was some time ago. Now, with my knowledge of film and the respect that I have for it and the much more enhanced CGI work that has passed us the recent years, I was a tad hesitant to enter the movie at an older age. But what’s not to love about mummies that are thousands of years old, flying swarms of killing locusts, evil curses, love stories, good sidekicks, enemies, and those battles between corpses and archaeological human beings?
What saves The Mummy from falling into the waters of mediocrity is its loving, funny, and down-to-earth characters. The main star, Brendan Fraser as archaeologist Rick O’Connell, has “more balls than brains” and that results with him carrying out actions in the manner that the everyday guy would carry out. He’s charismatic but just the right amount, as he still realizes that he isn’t the greatest of all archaeological explorers. Then there are his sidekicks, a brother and sister pair. Rachel Weisz plays Evelyn Carnahan, a loveable librarian who can decipher ancient Egyptian symbols. Her brother, Jonathan Carnahan is played by John Hannah. He ignites a flame that keeps the movie at a nice pace as he offers a comedic character who is very likeable and believes he’s the greatest at what he does; little does he know.
After Rachel is able to spare Rick’s life from a prison in Egypt, the three of them embark on a journey through the land’s unrelenting heat, oceans of sand, and Arabian cops to find the dead city of Hamunaptra. They find more than they can bargain for as the plagues of the Bible come to be and the resurrection of a 3,000-year-old mummy claims lives to achieve his human form.
While viewers may get a dose of overkill due to the special effects, director Stephen Sommers establishes our three characters very formally. In a CGI-dominated film, he has faith that his actors will deliver more with their presence and witty dialogue. The Mummy, little resemblance to Boris Karloff’s version in the 1930s, is a sly action film that knows how to use its characters the right way.
Sommers combines nifty digital effects along with loveable characters. The outcome is some occasional scars, thrills, and laughs. All the better for making the movie zip right along, never really dragging. The Mummy is without a doubt a campy homage, but in the way Sommers initiates the effects (gorgeous sand monsters and swarms of pesky locusts), he catapults it above ‘camp’ into the airs of summer blockbuster. Not taking itself too seriously is what makes The Mummy not a waste of two hours. Delightful is its approach as a second-rate version of an Indiana Jones film.
DVD Bonus Features
The eye-squinting brightness that the vast and blistering desert is known for radiates off of the screen. Sand, pure blue waters, and massive pyramids all glisten with a transfer that ranks with the best Blu-Ray has to offer. The only quibble I have is with the epic battle scenes that look a little bit choppy. The Mummy was already along the lines of campy, but now it can boast about its luscious transfer, making it even more sumptuous to watch. Even if we are watching dead corpses, creepy crawlers, and blood-soaked rivers, they all look terrific.
The fanatic that I am with Blu-Ray, I was the same way with HD discs. The Mummy made an appearance on the latter format because it came from the studios of Universal, which was strictly HD before Blu-Ray won the format war. This being the first Universal film for me to watch on Blu-Ray, I have to say that I’m literally blown away by the entire package. What could’ve easily been a lackluster second-rate transfer, is a first-rate transfer by a studio who wants to dominate the Blu-Ray format. What was an exclusive extra to the HD player, the new version of The Mummy brings it to another level. That exclusive is labeled “U-Control” and is one of the finest achievements that high definition films are capable of. U-Control is an in-movie experience that elaborates more information for given scenes in the movie. The scene plays out as it should while a miniature screen is brought to our attention (picture in picture). The audio for the PIP is what we hear. An unlimited amount of info is produced with this feature, therefore really eliminating the other special features such as the three commentary tracks. The movie has multiple fight sequences and the in-movie experience takes advantage of this. It captures how the scene is first caught on tape, and the actors and director give their knowledge on filming it.
U-Control is the preferred feature for this disc. Everything that is noteworthy on the commentaries — there are three of them — can be found watching U-Control. The first commentary is with director Stephen Sommers who is very enthusiastic about his work. The next two are done by actors: one by Brendan Fraser himself (hard for him to carry an entire commentary), and the other by the ensemble cast.
Documentary: Building a Better Mummy
A 50-minute special documenting the film’s knowledge and use of CGI. With occasional appearances from actors who offer their understanding on how the filming is done and finally pieced together to get a final product.
Visual and Special Effects Formulations
Four different sequences elaborating on five different scenes. Showing how certain scenes start out from scratch and eventually finding their place in the movie.
Storyboard to Screen Comparisons
Three scenes are shown in their early stages of production and eventually presenting themselves in the final cut of the film.
Two short scenes that don’t mount to anything special.
Scenes from the movie are displayed on the screen in a slideshow manner.
Trailer for “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” The film opens in theaters August 1, 2008.
This Blu-ray disc comes with a free movie ticket to see The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, valid for the month of August.