The IMAX take on the mummies of Egypt occurs across three time periods, from reenacted creations of the Pharaohs, to their eventual discovery in the later 1800’s, and into the modern day for their DNA extraction. It’s a lot of information in a brisk 39-minute presentation, focused on the science, discovery, and of course the visual splendor afforded to the large scale format.
Christopher Lee narrates with force, keeping most of the actors who were likely cast for their looks totally silent. Shot across Egypt, the many sand dunes and ancient sculptures provide spectacular backdrops, keeping an audience member with little interest in the subject matter intrigued.
Released in 2007, nothing contained here will be a revelation for mummy followers, Secrets of the Pharaohs detailing the mummification process, and their eventual extraction at the hands of code breakers in a truly spectacular piece of modern history. For a mass audience, obviously what this is aimed at, the material is informative and educational.
The sights captured here, even on a smaller screen, carry weight and power. Many of the shots are from low on the ground, letting the towering temples and pillars appear on screen with all of their glory. The stuff inside the lab, although necessary for a narrative cohesiveness, doesn’t naturally suit the format. Still, the idea that a cure for Malaria can be discovered through preserved bodies is, at the least, an interesting topic.
Note: DoBlu is not equipped with 3D equipment yet, so this review is based on the 2D version only.
Image releases Secrets of the Pharaohs in single disc format, pushing both the 3D and 2D versions onto a BD25. Since the length is so meager, there are no overwhelming compression issues to note. Some minor mosquito noise can be spotted during the opening pans of the sand dunes, and only in certain shots. Brief bouts of banding are evident within a quick time lapse moon passover.
There are signs of the down conversion process here too, including regular halos around objects and a general harshness. Shots of the hieroglyphics look sharpened, as do rocky views of the deserts. Weirdly, others show no such anomalies, letting them breathe and showcase their incredibly defined glory. Typically, this one is all over the place, handling the fine lines of Egyptian architecture, then moments later failing to preserve the fine lines of a head dress.
Black levels are superb, the nighttime mummification rituals presented with outstanding depth, and no loss of shadow detail. Colors are warmly saturated, appropriate enough considering the location. Contrast seems slightly elevated, possibly accounting for the loss due to the 3D effect.
Human characters appear somewhat muddy, skin flat and lacking definition. There are no close-ups, much of them filmed via medium views, the effect wholly digital. Like the halos, this doesn’t seem to be the result of any dramatic tinkering (the finest layer of grain is sporadically visible), but the nature of cramming such a high resolution image onto a 1080p format.
The score is what dominates much of the film, captured in each channel via this DTS-HD mix. The wrap-around effect is spectacular and natural, rear speaker use genuine, not artificial. Christopher Lee’s voice is rich, one of those deeply concentrated affairs that is preserved with the utmost clarity here.
Sound effects are few, and thankfully avoiding a cheap, stock approach. Rain and thunder surround two thieves as they dig for tombs at 22:17, and a total collapse of another 34:15 is awesome in its low-end power. The same goes for a statue falling to pieces at 16:35, the subwoofer providing a blunt impact to the viewer.
A making-of runs for 22-minutes, these IMAX BTS pieces always detailed, this one no exception. Trailers and Image BD-Live access remain.
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