'The Mummy' awakens with more gore and faster action

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

A telling difference between the remake of "The Mummy" and the original 1932 version is length. The first edition clocks in at a snappy 72 minutes, while the new incarnation lumbers around for well over two hours.

Less isn't necessarily more, especially in the horror business. Show a 72-minute epic in any modern multiplex and ticket buyers would justifiably feel they hadn't gotten their money's worth.

But length isn't the only inflated thing in "The Mummy." The editing is quicker, the sound is louder, the special effects are more aggressive, and the violence is more gory and gleeful than audiences would have tolerated a few decades ago.

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The story involves an ancient Egyptian who suffered a dreadful punishment thousands of years ago, gets accidentally revived by 20th-century adventurers, and commences an evil scheme to regain power. His adversaries are a motley crew of archaeologists, treasure-hunters, and comical sidekicks.

Written and directed by Stephen Sommers, "The Mummy" is most entertaining when it's most old-fashioned. Oodles of money were obviously spent on the visual effects, yet the computerized panoramas look as hokey as the paste-and-paint backgrounds in the original version. Some of the mummy fights recall stop-motion sequences in bygone Ray Harryhausen fantasies. Despite all the mayhem, there's little blood in sight.

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg pioneered this new-yet-old approach in the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" series, and the formula is viable enough to make "The Mummy" popular with its target teenage audience.

*Rated PG-13; contains a great deal of violence.

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