Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Both films starring Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Kevin J. O’Connor
Both films directed by Stephen Sommers
Distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Now that the third film in the franchise, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, is right around the corner, the time is definitely right for Universal to revisit the first two films in style. And what better way to do so than to give them a royal treatment so filled with riches that even the boy king Tutankhamen would want them in his video collection?
Normally this would be the part of the review where I’d summarize the story, but I’m thinking if you’re reading this, then you are already pretty familiar with Rick O’Connell (Fraser) and his adventure seeking pals. Suffice it to say, these aren’t your granddaddy’s Mummy movies. Each of these modern-day offerings is packed to the gills with amazing special effects, cool creatures, high adventure, and enough action for ten other films.
Seeing them in full 1080p is nothing short of glorious. It’s movies like these that really make the Blu-ray hi-def format shine. Every single thing on the screen, every bit of dried and rotting flesh, every amazing landscape are all brought to life in what can only be described as stunning detail. If you ever thought to yourself that there wasn’t that much of a difference between standard-def 480p and 1080p, prepare to have your mind changed. You just cannot help but stare at the screen and smile.
As for special features, holy cow, are these releases packing! Most of the older extras from their DVD cousins make it back (except for some minor text-based stuff), there are a couple of things that appear on both of these releases, and then of course there are the Blu-ray goodies lurking about. First up let’s talk about what is specific to The Mummy Blu-ray.
Things kick off with not one, but three audio commentaries — one with writer/director Stephen Sommers and executive producer Bob Ducsay, and the other star Brendan Fraser, and the last with stars Oded Fehr, Kevin J. O’Connor, and Arnold Vosloo. If you’re going to listen to just one, make it either the multi-cast commentary or Fraser’s. They’re both full of laughs, and Brendan Fraser is nothing short of maniacal! Just like the film, these tracks are pure entertainment.
From there we have a few featurettes, the first of which is a near hour long look at the revitalization of the series called Building a Better Mummy. In addition to the usual behind-the-scenes shenanigans, the cast and crew get fairly in-depth about the lengths that had to be gone to in order to bring this series back to the top of the Universal monster hill! Funny and engaging, this is a great watch for sure. Next up is a four-minute featurette entitled An Army to Rule the World Part 1. Basically this is your run of the mill look at the film’s creatures and creature F/X. Nothing great, but certainly nothing bad either. From here we move on to a section called Visual and Special Effects Formation. This is a look at five set pieces/sequences from the movie broken down into four different stages: plate, visual effects, composited shots, and finally the final money shot. While kind of cool, methinks this will play a lot better for all the tech-heads out there than it will for Mr. John Q. Public. Things are capped off with your basic storyboard-to-film comparisons, a photo montage, and three deleted scenes that run about two and a half minutes combined.
Onward to what can be found specific to The Mummy Returns.
Now here is a film that hits the ground running so fast there’s not even an opening credit sequence. Before you can blink, we’re being treated to action, action, action. It’s fitting that the Blu-ray for this flick behaves in just the same manner.
The festivities begin with another audio commentary with writer/director Sommers and executive producer Ducsay. Being that there’s no cast commentary included here, now’s your chance to listen to these two wax on regarding all things undead and pissed off. Our chatty twosome seem a bit livelier than they were on the commentary for the original film, but another round with Fraser and company would have been more than welcomed.
First out of the supplemental gate is an outtake reel. Most times these things can be on the lame side of the fence, but this one is home to some genuine chuckles. It’s worth a quick look, and at just six minutes how could it be more than that? From there we get the second part of the An Army to Rule the World featurette that is a couple of minutes longer than the first one. Personally? The whole thing could have been about the Pygmy mummies (these things RULE) and I’d have been happy, but of course that pesky Scorpion King was sniffing about. Speaking of which, we also get a three-and-a-half-minute on-camera interview with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson about his brief appearance in the movie, which is lots of fun. The Rock oozes charisma. I’m thinking he’ll be making movies for a long, long time. That’s certainly not a bad thing. Then there’s the flick’s main behind-the-scenes featurette entitled Spotlight on Location: The Mummy Returns. Though a full twenty minutes shorter than its Building a Better Mummy supplemental cousin, a lot is made of its thirty-minute runtime. Comprised mainly of cast and crew interviews, this featurette plays like a fun family reunion. The affection everyone has for each other and the film itself really drives this one home. Good stuff. Before you know it, it’s time for another Visual and Special Effects Formation featurette which showcases four of The Mummy Returns‘ best sequences in the same fashion as seen on The Mummy Blu-ray. Then get set for more storyboard-to-film comparisons and even a music video by the band Live for their soundtrack song, “Forever May Not Be Long Enough”.
Now that’s a lot of stuff on both, right? But wait! There’s more! Both Blu-rays also feature a couple of things that are shared. Each has a The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor sneak peek, which is a three-minute quick look at the latest film that should serve to whet your appetite, and each also shares my favorite bit, the Unraveling the Legacy of The Mummy featurette. At nearly eight minutes long this is easily my most desired slice of supplemental goodness as it delves into the history of the Universal Monsters’ and in particular The Mummy’s rich screen heritage. When is someone just going to make a proper feature length documentary about these legendary baddies? How I wish. Both Blu-rays also come with a ticket voucher for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (which will make the possibility of it sucking definitely slide down a bit easier if we didn’t pay to see it) and full U-Control options, which of course are Blu-ray exclusive.
What’s U-Control, you ask? That’s Universal’s way of delivering supplemental material on the fly to make for a truly unique experience. U-Control features can be accessed pop-up video style at any time while the film is in progress. Once it’s activated, a small picture-in-picture graphic appears, and the viewer is treated to various enhancements or behind-the-scenes footage that is available.
If there is an Achilles heel to be found anywhere on these Blu-ray releases, it comes in the fact that all of the special features found here are in standard definition. That’s the only thing that keeps this bountiful haul from achieving a perfect score.
There’s no doubt the advent of Blu-ray technology is changing the way we watch movies. From the crystal clear, has to be seen to be believed picture quality to the amazing sound mixes and the overall depth of interactivity between film and supplement material, there’s just nothing like it. Whether you’re a fan of the series or you simply want to see what your shiny new player can do, these releases are a must-buy that you absolutely shouldn’t miss!
The Mummy Returns
4 out of 5
Special Features on Each Blu-ray:
4 1/2 out of 5 each
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