Image Entertainment // 2007 // 39 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // April 16th, 2011
Unravel an ancient mystery.
The ancient Egyptians, obsessed with the afterlife, devised a process of human mummification that modern day scientists still struggle to understand. Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs delves into ancient tombs and scientific laboratories to decipher the secrets of these human time capsules. Can scientists reclaim this lost technology and learn the secrets of immortality?
Exhibited in IMAX theaters across the country and narrated by Christopher Lee, Secrets of the Pharaohs is a film designed to stimulate your senses, not educate your brain. The film is big on sweeping panoramic shots of the Egyptian landscape, ancient temples and the Great Pyramids. And if you like corny historical recreations, then you've come to the right place, my friends. We have them in spades here. In 3D, no less!
The photography is spectacular here. You simply cannot make an ugly film when you march out an IMAX camera into the deserts of Egypt. The landscape, ethereal in its austere beauty, is impressive in of itself. We get some wonderfully detailed camerawork in ancient tombs and Egyptian ruins and temples, each hieroglyph perfectly realized in high definition, and lingering shots of real mummies, decrepit and ghastly in their endless preservation, vaguely reminiscent of beef jerky. Cool stuff.
Secrets of the Pharaohs works well as a quick way to spend an afternoon at a science center or movie theater out with your kids, but the lack of protein smarts when you shell out twenty bucks for it on Blu-ray. With a total running time of 39 minutes, this disc is simply too light on substance. We get a bit of science in regards to the composition of mummies, and how scientists struggle to find usable DNA samples, but that's about it. The rest of the film amounts to some time-lapse photography, an actor pretending to be Ramses and the dulcet droning of Christopher Lee's narration. It is all about the visuals -- the rest is just filler.
Nothing looks better than a Blu-ray filmed in IMAX and Secrets of the Pharaohs is no exception. The 2D widescreen transfer is superbly detailed. Black levels are strong, whites are pleasingly bright, and detail is sharp as a razor. A small amount of grain and the occasional spot of print damage pops up here and there, but nothing too detrimental. A few of the sequences are presented in a weird letterbox framing, with about half the picture devoted to a strange colored background. The feature is also available in a 3D presentation, but this Judge lacks the technological hardware to take advantage of it.
Audio comes in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, a sumptuous and all-encompassing orchestral score with narration by venerable actor Christopher Lee. What's not to love? Bass response is strong and dialog is clear, but Lee's narration sometimes gets lost in the aggressive mix. For a documentary, this is a rocking audio presentation, but the absence of subtitles is a drawback.
For extras, we get a twenty-two minute making-of featurette (also in 1080p and DTS-HD Master Audio -- sweet!) and some trailers.
Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs delivers a strong technical performance that captures the fantastic detail of IMAX photography and puts it squarely in your living room. Those with 3D equipment will get even more bang for their buck. If you're looking for an educational treatment of Egyptology, best look elsewhere -- this one is all about the eye candy.
Not great, but it looks too darn good. Not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2011 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Spanish)
Running Time: 39 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* 3D Version
* Official Site