The Mummy: Ultimate Trilogy - Ultra HD Blu-ray
- Street Date:
- May 16th, 2017
- Reviewed by:
- M. Enois Duarte
- Review Date: 1
- May 23rd, 2017
- Movie Release Year:
- Universal Studios
- 373 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the three standard Blu-ray releases written by Peter Bracke. Specifically, Peter penned the "Movie Itself" and Supplements of all three movies while M. Enois Duarte wrote new Vital Disc Stats, Video, Audio and Final Thoughts sections. Links to the original reviews can be found in the title sections of the movies.
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Read the full original review by Mr. Bracke here.
The basic plot of The Mummy should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the iconic monster first made famous in Universal's horror yarns of the 1930s, although here he is given a bit of a postmodern spin. Brendan Fraser stars as the hapless Richard "Rick" O'Connell, an American serving in the French Foreign Legion. Assigned to an archaeological dig at the ancient Egyptian city of Hamunaptra, things start to get complicated when, along with the brother-sister team of beautiful Egyptologist Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and wisecracking Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah), O'Connell unleashes a centuries-old curse. Seems the high priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) once started a forbidden relationship with Anck Su Namun (Patricia Velasquez), mistress to the Pharaoh Seti (Aharon Ipale), and paid dearly for it. But now Imhotep is free from his eternal prison, and he's mighty pissed off. Rick, Evelyn, and Jonathan, along with a rival group of careless American adventurers, must now do battle with the ancient foe and save mankind from Imhotep's reign of destruction.
Sommers is a director who seems blissfully ignorant of the word "restraint." Though critics often cite T2 and Jurassic Park as being all digital flash at the expense of substance, compared to The Mummy they are intimate chamber dramas. Sommers' barrage of CGI effects is almost non-stop, with nary a scene that doesn't seem to end prematurely, as just another prelude to bigger action spectacle to come. Even the film's locations and sets seem pumped up and artificial, with backdrops painted on with CGI goo and half the props appearing to have been created by computer. This is a far cry from early digital-assisted pics like Jurassic and even Cameron's Titanic, which felt more like flesh-and-celluloid creations with a few CGI bits thrown in. That makes The Mummy the real precursor to today's anything-goes CGI era, as typified by George Lucas' dreadful Star Wars prequels and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man franchise.
Thankfully, the cast really saves The Mummy from Sommers' relentless overkill, providing the film with its only semblance of human warmth and emotion. Fraser himself is a fun hero — though he's physically molded to bear more than a passing resemblance to Indiana Jones, Fraser wisely plays him almost as a buffoon. He's closer to the bumbling Jack Burton that Kurt Russell created in John Carpenter's cult classic Big Trouble in Little China than the cool and composed Indy — and he's all the more likable because of it. I also admired how Weisz turns her beauty into an asset, turning Evelyn into a repressed bookworm type rather than just another variant on the standard, ravishing James Bond-type babe. And Hannah is great with his one-liners, which come off as genuinely smart and witty. They make a great trio, and (along with Vosloo's imposing Imhotep) rescue The Mummy from complete digital immolation. (Movie Rating:3/5)
The Mummy Returns
Read the full original review by Mr. Bracke here.
Typical of most desperate to please sequels, the plot of The Mummy Returns is a bit over-pumped. The tale begins with a prologue about the Scorpion King (The Rock) being awakened by the mummy-with-a-funny-name, the high priest Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) and his bride-to-be (firecracker Patricia Velasquez). […] Timid adventurer Richard O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) are now married with child (Freddie Boath), but still like to spend their time chasing down ancient artifacts and other fun family diversions. But when the remains of the Mummy are sent to a museum in London, a series of events will once again bring the Carnahans face-to-face with their old adversary. Also along for the ride is Evelyn's brother Jonathan (John Hannah, always great comic relief), plus Oder Fehr as Ardeth Bay, a vengeful warrior with his own agenda. This mismatched crew must once again banish the Mummy — this time, along the way they will battle legions of resurrected undead, survive multiple high-speed chases, pilot a giant hot-air balloon and even defeat a band of little CGI pygmy mummies. Indiana Jones, you had it easy.
The Mummy Returns is a lot of fun, although that doesn't necessarily make it a great movie. It is pretty derivative of the first film, which is amusing, since The Mummy itself was a rip off of the Indy Jones movies and every cheesy Saturday afternoon serial ever made. Yet if Returns is nothing new, it does impressively refine everything that worked in the original film. The Mummy Returns moves at a faster clip, is less dour and dark, and each of the cast members is given his or her chance to shine, so that no matter who your favorite character is, there is someone to root for. And returning director Stephen Sommers deserves points for investing every frame of Returns with genuine enthusiasm. Say what you want about the film, but he definitely isn't just cashing a paycheck — he really seems to care about his schlock.
Some aspects of The Mummy Returns don't hold up. I was shocked to see how dated the film's digital effects look only a few years after its release. I've never been a big fan of CGI anyway, but there are some pretty bad shots in this one, particularly the lousy rear-projection work and the way over-the-top climax. Returns also nearly makes the mistake of forgetting that its main characters are Fraser and Weisz, not the special effects and subplots. They are such likable performers that they can easily carry a movie on their own, and hardly needed a kid, the Scorpion King, and all this other stuff horning in on their action. But no matter. The Mummy Returns is all about fun, and the key to enjoying it is just to dive in and leave any high-brow pretensions at the door. If you liked Mummy on the first go-round, you may love the second even more. (Movie Rating: 3/5)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Read the full original review by Mr. Bracke here.
At first, it would seem that there is a good deal new in Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Gone is original Mummy helmer Stephen Sommers, replaced here by action director Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, Stealth). Also missing is Weisz, with Bello almost making us forget the absence of the now-Oscar winner. The filmmakers also seem to be priming Ford as the new heir to Fraser's lead role, which if nothing else brings a sense of youthful vigor to the franchise. Li and Yeoh also sport a healthy does of spunk as our new villains, sans the muscle-y brawn of original two-time mummy monster Arnold Vosloo. And there's a new milieu, too, with China stepping in for the Middle Eastern locations of the original films.
Unfortunately, a look beneath the hood reveals precious little in the script by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar that truly brings any fresh ideas to the Mummy franchise. Almost everything is a stand-in for the elements that worked so well in the first film (and, to a lesser extent, the second). Fraser continues to prove himself the most affable and purely goofy action protagonist in movies today, but he and a game Bello can't really do much with underwritten roles, especially as the Rick and Evie characters do little but volley sitcom-level banter back and forth. The addition of Ford also resolves itself into nothing by film's climax. Even the return of John Hannah, as Evie's sarcastic, money-hungry brother Jonathan, is about as inspired as a third-rate C-3PO. And ditto the new "Asian" milieu, which seems like a calculated (and desperate) attempt to bring a hip, modern flavor to a very American brand of supernatural mummy mythology that really has absolutely nothing to do with Eastern philosophy or mysticism.
So, instead of genuine inspiration, Cohen, plus Gough and Millar, seek to overwhelm us with bombast and a host of creatures and action scenes. This movie is so over-stuffed we not only get the athletic but unimposing Li (improbably cast as a menacing warrior) as the new mummy, but a horde of Terra Cotta soldiers, shape-shifting monsters, a visit to Shangri-La, and even abominable snowmen! Too bad that the effects in this movie are so piss-poor (it truly is mind-boggling how bad CGI has gotten over the years) that nothing here truly thrills — its just a cheap attempt to throw stuff at us, apparently hoping that we'll be too visually stimulated to notice the weakness of the story. It's all so over done that, ironically, nothing registers. (Movie Rating: 2/5)
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
In preparation for the new classic monsters reboot, Universal Studios Home Entertainment resurrects The Mummy Ultimate Trilogy to Ultra HD Blu-ray in a handsome and sturdy six-disc box set. The package opens in a gatefold style that closes with a magnet and each page shows artwork and details for each disc. Those same pages also serve as sleeves for each dual-layered UHD66 disc and Region Free, BD50 disc which slide out from the top. The inside is smooth and glossy to prevent the discs from scratching. At startup, each goes straight to an animated menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The CG horror adventure is raised from the dead and playing with the black magic of a strong and mostly satisfying HEVC H.265 encode. The results may not be as magical as hoped for, suggesting the same HD source was likely upconverted for this new release.
Thankfully, the 2160p video isn't all that terrible, showing an improved and wider color palette overall. Flesh tones appear natural and appropriate to the environment's climate, and although much of the cinematography leans towards warmer earth tones, primaries are richer and more dynamic, particularly in daylight exteriors. Definition also receives a welcomed uptick with finer lines in the clothing and the Egyptian architecture, but there is also a fair share of poorly-resolved sequences, most of which take place during poorly-lit interiors. Contrast is a tad brighter, but not by a significant difference. Good specular highlights reveal a bit more detailing in the brightest flashes of light while brightness levels provide darker, opulent blacks but sadly, at the sacrifice of the finer details in the dingy shadows. Still, with an attractive thin layer of grain throughout, the overall 4K presentation is pleasing and satisfying. (Video Rating: 3/5)
The Mummy Returns
The sequel is revived once more with a great-looking HEVC encode, offering an appreciable improvement over its HD predecessor. Fine lines and objects are noticeably more detailed, showing better clarity in the Egyptian architecture, the stitching in clothing and in the design of the more elaborately ornate costumes. Facial complexions are not only more revealing but also come with a healthier lifelike texture, exposing the tiniest pore, wrinkle and freckle in various cast members.
Contrast isn't dramatically improved, but livelier whites provide a crisper punch to the clothing and fluffy clouds while excellent specular highlights add a twinkle in the eyes, better detailing in the brightest flashes of light and a realistic glow from the sun shining on metal, faces and various jewels. Primaries remain about the same as before, but secondary colors benefit the most from the jump to Ultra HD, looking more vibrant with a wider, opulent array. Scenes in ancient Egypt are the real winners of this 2160p video, as the yellow-amber hue of the cinematography appears richer with a more authentic, natural shine in the golden statues, weapons and ornaments while the fiery glow from torches gives nighttime sequences a true to life appeal. Brightness levels also show a significant upgrade, delivering deeper, pitch-black shadows with outstanding gradational details in the various shades. Along with a stable, thin layer of grain, the 4K presentation is beautiful and cinematic, looking better than the Blu-ray except for the outdated CGI sequences. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
For the third horror adventure, the O'Connell family travels to China with a beautiful HEVC H.265 encode, making it the best looking title of the bunch, which may or may not be all that surprising considering its age. Although it's uncertain the studio remastered the original source for this release, the overall picture is significantly sharper, showing better resolution and clarity in nearly every scene. There is more visible detailing in the ornate Chinese costumes and the fabric from which they were made of, and viewers can make out the tiniest crack and fracture in the undead army, whether they're made of ancient clay or flesh. As for the living, flesh tones appear natural and accurate to the climate with excellent, lifelike complexions that are highly revealing.
Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, a brighter, more dynamic contrast delivers perkier, punchier whites, from the clothing and cottony clouds to the thick layers of snow and the fur of the Yeti trio. The 2160p video also comes with excellent specular highlights, providing an extra sparkle to each snowflake and superb detailing in every flash of explosion. Also surprising is the improved colors. Primaries are more energetic and lively, such as the reds in clothing, banners and the few bits of blood. The Shanghai street chase is a terrific highlight, not only because of the awesome fireworks display but also because the Dragon Emperor glows a fiery orange scarlet every time he cracks or his eyes steam with anger. Meanwhile, the rest of the palette radiates with splendid, vibrant saturation, though sadly, the cast, on occasion, looks a bit sickly and pale. Still, brightness is more dramatic and lavish, providing incredibly rich, luxurious blacks and outstanding definition in the darkest shadows. Again, Shanghai is the go-to scene for this because combined with an attractive thin layer of grain throughout, this 4K presentation is beautiful and cinematic. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Arguably, the better upgrade in Stephen Sommer's remake is the switch to a DTS:X soundtrack, which automatically defaults to a DTS-HD MA 7.1 track for those not yet equipped. But like the video, the jump to an object-based format doesn't offer the massive improvement one would've hoped. Directionality remains the same with many atmospherics occupying the sides and rears, which is not a bad thing since it provides action sequences with a generally satisfying and highly engaging soundfield. Quieter scenes are equally busy with clean, discrete effects that occasionally bleed into the front heights for an amusing half-dome wall of sound. However, the ceiling channels are fairly silent for a majority of the runtime, but a few panning effects convincingly bounce between the overheads. Much of the action, however, fills the front soundstage, generating a wide and spacious with slightly improved clarity and a fuller mid-range. Amid the noise and mayhem, dialogue remains distinct and intelligible, and the low-end provides a hearty, ample weight to each explosion, gunshot and sudden gust of Imhotep's sand-filled magic. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
The Mummy Returns
Like the video, the O'Connell family returns for another adventure against an army of the undead outfitted with an excellent DTS:X soundtrack that'll rock the house. Alan Silvestri's grandiose score unfolds across the entire soundstage with superb balance and warmth, enthusiastically flowing to the sides and into the front heights for a feverish half-dome wall of sound. The mid-range also shows a nice improvement and slightly better clarity during the loudest action sequences, of which there are many with the final battle against the Scorpion King being a tumultuous, satisfyingly immersive highlight. During that same final quarter of the movie, the room is filled with a variety of activity as noises and debris discretely fly into every speaker, and occasionally, they lightly move overhead. However, much of the action is maintained across the screen, leaving a good chunk of the runtime in silence and the ceiling speakers are rarely used. Nevertheless, the lossless mix is a great deal of fun with outstanding dialogue reproduction while the low-end provides the design with a palpable sense of presence and the action with an authoritative, wall-rattling intensity. (Audio Rating: 4.5/5)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
As with the previous two movies, the third installment in the franchise erupts on the screen with an exceptional DTS:X soundtrack that's every bit as good as its high-rez counterpart and then some. Just as on the Blu-ray, this is one highly enthusiastic and aggressive sound design, employing every channel in the system for a majority of the runtime. Action sequences deliver an immersive soundfield with outstanding panning and directionality. Much of this activity also travels into the overheads, as bullets and spears flawless move from one speaker to the next while the echoes of shouts and fireworks fill in above the listening area. Across the front soundstage and heights, the mid-range comes with slightly improved details and fidelity, exhibiting exceptional distinction during the loudest moments. A robust, commanding low-end provides an impressive impact and presence to each explosion and bullets, occasionally digging deep into the lower, floor-rumbling depths. Meanwhile, vocals remain distinct and precise amid the chaos. (Audio Rating: 4.5/5)
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
Universal Studios ports over the same set of supplements as before, and the audio commentaries are shared between both formats.
Audio Commentaries: Director Stephen Sommers kicks things off with a screen-specific audio commentary where he is joined by editor Bob Ducsay. Incredibly animated throughout, Sommers bursts with enthusiasm for every scene, and it is easy to see why he is able to attract such a-list talent to his projects. His enthusiasm on the commentary also easily trumps Ducsay, who aside from a few post-production nuggets seems to be purely along for the ride. But aside from Sommers' relentless optimism, I appreciated his insight into his conception of the material as action-adventure rather than horror and the choices he made in refashioning the Mummy character as more of a flesh-and-blood creation with a backstory, and not just some dead guy in bandages.
There are two more audio commentaries: one with actor Brendan Fraser, and the second with Oded Fehr, Kevin J. O'Connor and Arnold Vosloo. Why these two tracks weren't simply edited together is beyond me — Fraser is a very likable, earnest guy, but he struggles to hold a whole track on his solo shoulders, while on the other track only Vosloo has an interesting enough character to warrant a commentary appearance at all.
Picture-in-Picture Commentary: This PIP track regurgitates much from the documentary included as a standard extra, but also incorporates much that is new. The pacing is a tad slow (too many gaps of silence), but the PIP works very well for the behind-the-scenes footage, and the cast and crew interviews is well-integrated. Given the overabundance of audio commentaries on the disc, the PIP is preferable — we get the gist of the important points, plus the video. Not the greatest video commentary I've seen, but kudos to Universal for going the extra mile for Blu-ray.
Building a Better Mummy (SD, 50 min): This is a surprisingly meaty 50-minute documentary (well, at least if you are interested in CGI). Perhaps there is far too much focus put on the film's once-cutting-edge special effects, but I was surprised by the wealth of behind-the-scenes material, the snappy pace, and the better-than-average quality of the on-set cast and crew interviews. Sommers is again a one-man show, with seemingly boundless energy. What is also fun about watching "Building a Better 'Mummy'" is that no one involved was a big star yet, so there's an air of uncertainty surrounding the project that makes for good drama. A clear cut above your usual fluff-minded EPK.
Visual and Special Effects Formulations (SD): This offers four different selectable iterations of five different scenes, from raw effects rendering to the final complete sequence.
Storyboard-to-Screen Comparisons (SD): The comparisons are included for three additional scenes: "Hangman's Noose," "Scarab Run" and "Trouble In Cairo." The presentation is basic and not upgraded for HD, with a typical storyboard/final composite side-by-side format.
Deleted Scenes (SD, 2 min): Don't expect much here -- just a quick 2-minute montage of cut footage, and none very interesting at that. The quality of these scenes is also fairly mediocre.
Photograph Montage (SD, 5 min): Presented as a single video clip, this collection of promotional and publicity stills is set against an excerpt of the film's score. Only simple Play/Pause control is offered.
The Mummy Returns
Audio Commentary: Sadly, I found this the only real highlight of the supplements. The track features director Stephen Sommers and co-producer/editor Bob Ducsay, while they discuss fairly standard stuff for a commentary at least they are enthusiastic (if pretentious) about the film. Sure, both 'Mummy' movies were mega-hits, so I suppose it was easy for them to forget that none of their derivative movies were ever even remotely memorable five minutes after leaving the theater. Still, Sommers and Ducsay a relate a good share of on-set shenanigans, from surmounting the production challenges and working with all the effects to the chemistry between Brendan Fraser and future Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz. And like so many commentaries for blockbuster movies these days, all of the attention is on the effects, not the story. Still, a good listen overall.
Picture-in-Picture Commentary: This PIP track is both something old and something new. Some of the material is repurposed from the featurettes found in the standard suite of extras, but there are also plenty more making-of material and cast and crew interviews. Unfortunately, as with the PIP track on 'The Mummy,' the pace drags with too many dead spots. But if not the greatest PIP track you'll see, this is still a welcome exclusive.
Spotlight on Location (SD, 20 min): "Spotlight On Location" is just what it sounds like -- one of those extended commercials that play on HBO. All of the movie's main participants contribute congratulatory on-set interviews, including Sommers and Ducsay, plus special effects artist John Berton, and actors Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, Oder Fehr, Arnold Vosloo, Patricia Velasquez, and, of course, The Rock. While this is a slick-enough promo, the relentless back patting grates and there is a severe paucity of behind-the-scenes footage. In short, I learned absolutely nothing about the making of the film.
Visual and Special Effects Formation (SD, 20 min): Better than the EPK are these effects reels. Highlighting four sequences ("Imhotep Returns," "Pygmy Mummies Attack," "Anubis Warriors Rising," and "Scorpion King Revealed"), each can be viewed in five different iterations: "Conceptual Stage," "Animation Test," "Plate Photography," "Visual FX Elements," and "Final Feature Sequence." Berton narrates, and each subsection illustrates a phase in creating the sequence -- a bit confusing really, but informative enough if you are interested in this sort of thing.
Outtake Reel (SD, 5 min): Provides a few chuckles, but not much more.
Music Video (SD): Long before Chris Daughtry ripped off their act, alt-rockers LIVE contributed a song to 'Mummy Returns,' "Forever May Not Be Long Enough." I like LIVE, though why they agreed to be in one of those classic "embarrassed band jams in front of cheesy movie set with film clips thrown in" videos is beyond me. A long way from the glory days of "Throwing Copper," isn't it?
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Audio Commentary: Director Rob Cohen offers a solo commentary for his entry in the 'Mummy' saga. Aside from some vague comments on how he wanted to make this installment more "Asian," this is largely a technical track where he discusses the stunts, action, CGI, and working with the actors on such a complex logistical production. Needless to say, the story and characters get a bit of short thrift, but then this is a 'Mummy' movie, isn't it? A fine enough commentary.
Know Your Mummy.
The Making of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (HD, 23 min): Rather standard-issue, this is essentially a greatest hits of all of the disc's featurettes. There is much repetition, but it is a good starting point, especially if you don't plan to watch any of the other materials. Cast & crew interviews are provided with all of the main participants, plus behind-the-scenes clips, making for a nice extended commercial.
From City to Desert (HD, 15 min): The most interesting of the supporting featurettes, this takes a look at the film's production design and locations, specifically shooting in China. Most impressive are some of the truly gargantuan sets which, while augmented with CGI, are really quite startling.
Legacy of Terra Cotta (HD, 13 min): This takes a specific look at the Terra Cotta culture seen in the film, delving into its historical background, as well as how it influenced some of the the visuals effects work.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Other than the UHD Blu-ray with HDR10, there are no exclusive features on this release.
Almost 70 years later, Universal Studios revisits Stephen Sommers' remake of the classic Boris Karloff monster and turns it into an old-fashioned swashbuckling adventure flick. Although the first movie will never come close the atmospheric excellence of the original, Sommers makes it a wildly fun summer blockbuster. The sequel continued the excitement and heroism with the same level of enthusiasm but not quite as effective as its predecessor. The third installment, however, really drops the ball, feeling largely like a repeat of the previous two but none of the appeal or charisma. In preparation for the new reboot, Universal brings the trilogy to Ultra HD Blu-ray with great audio and video results, but the supplements remain the same. Nevertheless, the overall package makes for a satisfying upgrade fans and 4K enthusiasts will enjoy.
- Six-Disc UHD Combo Pack
- 3 UHD-66 Dual-Layer Discs / 3 BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs
- Region Free
- 2160p HEVC/H.265
- English DTS:X
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- English SDH
- Audio Commentaries
- Still Gallery
- Deleted Scenes
- UltraViolet Digital Copies
Exclusive HD Content
- Blu-ray Copies
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