Revenge of the Mummy: Saving the Best for Last
Universal Studios Hollywood's new dark ride/roller coaster stands above the other attractions that have debuted in Southern California this year. But the ride lacks the length, and the heart, to become an enduring classic.
Written by Robert Niles
RIDE REVIEW: Revenge of the Mummy -- The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood offers a exciting marriage of roller coaster thrills with dark ride storytelling, producing a level of technical sophistication not previously seen in Southern California. Clearly, this is the most impressive of the new attractions that have debuted this year in region.Tweet
Within the walls of the former E.T. Adventure soundstage, visitors will find the most detailed queue Universal's ever offered in its Hollywood park. Take your time to stuff your hand in one of the holes in the wall, or, better yet, talk a squeamish friend into doing it instead. And don't rush past the preshow, even if you have the chance. The set-up you'll watch there will help you better appreciate and be thrilled by the effects that await you ahead.
Brendan Fraser, right, and Arnold Vosloo blow open the door to Universal Studios Hollywood's "Revenge of the Mummy – The Ride" on June 24, 2004.
Once in the heart's of Mummy's temple, riders board minimally-themed mining cars that whisk them through a what might best be described as a nightmare's version of Pirates of the Caribbean's grotto and treasure scenes. Decaying arms reach down toward your car as untold goo drips from the ceiling. As in Pirates, you pass the corpses to find immense treasure – riches that come with a curse. But unlike the Disney classic, you never find the "wink," that moment of self-deprecating humor that makes the attraction tolerable for young riders and perpetually amusing for the older ones.
Mummy takes itself quite seriously. This ride's as earnest as a state patrolman with a quota to fill. You'll find no dog with the keys to your freedom at the end of this ride. Nor will you find yourself accompanied by some smirking hitchhiking ghost. Not even Tinkerbell crashes into the wall, in a gleeful dig at Universal's competition.
Mummy does not relent, even for a moment, in its attempt to scare your bodily fluids from you. Bugs crawl around your car. Thunder blasts all around you. Skeleton Warriors drop from the ceiling (but to the car's sides, not overhead, as earlier promised) as linear induction motors accelerate your car into the roller coaster section of the ride.
With Disneyland having shuttered its Space Mountain, Mummy's blind curves and flashing apparitions, enhanced by Alan Silvestri's soundtrack, offer the area's only fix for coaster fans longing for a spin in the dark.
But Mummy falls short of providing the legendary experience that will endear it to fans throughout the decade to come. This two-minute trip's simply too fast -- and too short -- for riders to comprehend fully its narrative. And Mummy's sensory effects are not intense enough to overcome their brevity.
The relatively small soundstage Universal Creative engineers had to work with in Hollywood doomed this version to fall short even of its larger Orlando sibling. Two fellow riders who'd been on Orlando's version reported that the Hollywood ride simply didn't match the length and intensity of the east coast edition.
At least this Mummy concludes with an exhilarating effect, engulfing passengers in steam and fire. But why must this, and every other recent major new attraction, be so short? Riders who will want to get right back on board for another go on Mummy ought to do so out of passion for the attraction – not simply because they feel they need to get their money's worth.
Couple rising construction costs with designer's wishes to deliver more thrills for the ADD generation, and theme park fans are now left with rides that finish before they've had a chance to exhale. Disneyland trimmed its Tower of Terror. The action on Magic Mountain's X takes less time that the trip up the lift. Knott's Xcelerator hits the breaks before most drivers can get out of second gear. And Universal's Mummy packs tens of millions of dollars of technology in a ride that feels shorter than a movie trailer.
Enough. Designers, take a breather... and give us one, too. Please rent some Hitchcock and rediscover the art of anticipation. Show us again how nothing can be so much more terrifying than the sound and fury of $10 million in special effects. Give us the time we need to fall in love with the stories of these new attractions.
Kids looking for thrills won't care about such missed opportunities. This Mummy is fast. It's furious. Adrenaline-loving tweeners will declare it the coolest thing ever. (Well, until next summer's new thrill.)
Older, wiser riders will enjoy Mummy's impressive effects. With a few extra trips, perhaps they will grow in their respect and appreciation for the ride, as well. But it's doubtful that any but the most undemanding of those riders will ever fall in love with Revenge of the Mummy.
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