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from the trenches
Movies: Mummy Moviegoing Volume 60 Number 6, November/December 2007
by Eti Bonn-Muller


Take ancient Egypt, place it under a larger-than-life magnifying glass, project it on an enormous, domed screen, and you'll get the IMAX movie, Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs. Featuring scenes that zoom up to within centimeters of the rotting eye sockets and desiccated fingertips of millennia-old Egyptian corpses, the film promises to "unravel an ancient mystery on a grand scale." Instead, it focuses on three well-known topics: how ancient bodies were embalmed, what scientists have learned through research on a recently mummified body ("A Thoroughly Modern Mummy," January/February 2001), and the late-nineteenth-century discovery of 40 royal mummies in a tomb near the Valley of the Kings.

Mummies provides some interesting tidbits--frankincense and myrrh were key ingredients in mummification--but it appeals more to younger audience members like the little boy sitting next to me, who switched seats with his brother to hold his mom's hand during a gigantic close-up of the head of Ramesses II, whose remaining strands of colorless hair were popping straight up. "Weird, very weird," he whispered. Reactions, however, were mixed. Five teenage girls a few rows up enjoyed it; they left the theater giggling and dancing to the Middle Eastern techno music that gushed over the final scene.

Mummies features the eye-candy shots that only IMAX can deliver--such as swooping, bird's-eye views of the thirteenth-century B.C. temples at Abu Simbel--but it might be equally informative to turn on your average Egypt documentary, dim the lights, and sit really close to your TV. See for theaters.

© 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America