Coming in a super wide 2.35:1 ratio and encoded at 1080P using my favourite VC-1 codec, The Mummy Returns looks mighty fine indeed. No doubt there will be comparisons between this and the HD DVD release (as there were with the first film...) - once again, the Blu wins. But it's not as cut and blow dried as with the first movie...
The source material is in good order and on closer inspection, it seems as though we have the same source that was used for the HD DVD release - but where there were a few spots and scratches visible on that disc, they seem to have been removed for this release..
Particularly good are the outdoor scenes with vast undulating deserts that stretch as far as the eye can see to meet deep blue cloudless skies. Colours are bold and solid and the shadow detail in the sand dunes is immense. However, during some dark scenes, detail does appear to disappear into the shadows slightly. My one and only grievance is that skin tones are a tad on the warm side - however, while it may have caught my attention, it really only adds to the naturalistic tones of the dessert and jungle heat.
All in all then, a fine second outing from the blue box from Universal - if not the huge step up in quality as the first Mummy was over it's HD DVD version, the studio do seem to be using the format to the full as the bit rate on this 50gig dual layered disc is amongst the highest I've seen.
Universal seem to be following in the footsteps of Fox when it comes to the soundtrack of choice. For the first time ever, The Mummy Returns is presented with a lossless soundtrack in the shape of a DTS HD Master audio track - and what a track it is!
Straight from the off, as we're taken 2000 years into the past to watch the armies of Anubis take on all comers, it's stand by all speakers. surround channel action is almost non-stop and split effects going to surround right and surround left are the stars of the show. If it's not an ancient soldier throwing a spear that tears through the rear wall of your home cinema, it'll be a little pygmy mummy doing a Tarzan impression swinging from rear right to rear left - the track never really lets up.
Add to that trouser flapping bass and dialogue so clear and concise. Steerage is spot on between the front channels as well as the rear and it all adds up to one thrilling ride.
The only advice I can give you on this one is this - go next door to your neighbours and offer them the money to go and see the new Mummy film. Whilst they are out, turn it up to 11, sit back and enjoy - it'll be worth every penny. But make sure you fill your room first as this is 100% pure demo material.
ExtrasThe Mummy returns has been released on SD DVD in many guises in the past eight years - along with the HD DVD, these releases have produced some interesting extra features. The extras package on this Blu-ray disc are a direct port from the HD DVD version - with the addition of some Blu-ray profile 1.1 enabled PiP features and a shameless plug for the new mummy movie currently in cinemas. All extras are sadly presented in standard definition with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. First up is :
Outtakes (06.06). A short series of mildly amusing goofs set to music.
Feature Commentary with director/writer Stephen Sommers and executive producer/editor Bob Tuscay. Once again the directors' enthusiasm runs away with him and the editor has to fight to get a word in edgeways. It's a very informative piece and lovers of the franchise will enjoy this very much.
The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon sneak peak (03.01) which is a shameless plug from the studio and an overlong trailer for The Mummy 3 now in cinemas.
An Army to Rule The World Part 2 (05.59) is the continuation of the special effects feature found on The Mummy Blu-ray. To be fair to Universal, it's probably mis-titled as it doesn't really continue from the first disc and is a short featurette in its own right.
Unravelling The Legacy Of The Mummy (08.07) goes back to the golden age of cinema to visit the Universal horror movies of the 1930's.
Visual And Special Effects Formations on four scenes from the film. These are:
Pygmy Mummies Attack
Anubis Warriors Rising
Scorpion King Revealed
An Exclusive Conversation With The Rock who talks about his role in the movie as The Scorpion King and his transformation from wrestling hero to movie star.
spotlight On Location - The Making Of The Mummy Returns (20.03) which is the main meat of the extras meal and provides some interesting behind the scenes footage from the set of the film.
Storyboard To Final Scene Comparison on three scenes from the movie. These are:
Scorpion Kings Final Battle
Live - Forever May Not be Enough music video.
U-Control which requires a profile v1.1 enabled Blu-ray player to watch the PiP enabled features.
So - all in all, not a bad set of extras. Those of you that pick up this disc and the first film on Blu-ray will notice that some of the extras have been replicated on both. We can't really blame the studio as some people may want to but one disc and not the other...or can we?
VerdictIt's quite clear from this review that I didn't enjoy this movie as much as I enjoyed the first one in the franchise - but that's not too say it's a bad film. Very few sequels live up to their prequels - and this is one of them. The first two acts are spot on for a Mummy film - but when we get to the third act, things start to get a little silly and the finale leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
However, as a Blu-ray package, Universal have once again caught the ball on the fifty yard line and dashed over for a touchdown.
Superb picture and sound quality that elevate this disc to reference material is only half the story. The whole package just feels right - right down to the slipcase (that I normally hate with a vengeance!)
The extras are mostly ported from the several releases that this film has endured over the years. But the studio seem to have picked the best of them and packaged them nicely for us to enjoy in one go.
So - it's $50 000 question time again. Is it worth upgrading from the HD DVD release? Well surely only you can answer that. However, I had the HD DVD version and I would upgrade - but then I've never been happy with what I've got...or so my better half tells me. This disc does add the U-Control feature and has a slightly better picture and far superior sound quality - so there's the excuse you've been looking for...obviously if you only have the SD DVD version and have the ability to play Blu-ray discs, it's a no brainer - CLICK BUY!.
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