Written by Joe Lane
Published: May 21, 2004 at 6:35 AM
I arrived at the park at nine and took a shuttle, along with other members of the press, from the administrative offices in the back of the park to a press area just off the end of 57th Street, next to the New York Library back lot facade. We were soon brought into the park and directed to a spot directly in front of the attraction entrance. The old Pennsylvania Street Station has been transformed into the 'Museum of Antiquities'. The entire entrance was extensively decorated for a special presentation--Egyptian props cluttered the area and it appeared as if a large brick wall had been built to cover up the front
A number of Egyptian guards and princesses entertained the audience while music played. We were eventually greeted by an old archeologist character who announced that it was time to break into the resting place of Imhotep, but the wall was rather impeding progress. To stall, the archeologist introduced the mummy himself, Arnold Vosloo, who led the crowd in a rousing chant of "Im-ho-tep. Im-ho-tep."
As our host tried to figure out how to break in, an evil priest suddenly appeared, exclaiming that no one would experience the ride. Naturally, the villain was wrong, as up above we see Rick O'Connell with enough dynamite to blow the entrance open. There's a small explosion and the stunt O'Connell is set on fire as he rides a zip line down to the front of the attraction.
Then there's a series of larger explosions--fireworks, smoke, fire and confetti. When it's all over, we're greeted by none other than Brendan Fraser, who invites us all to join him and Vosloo for a ride.
Upon entering the building, we find ourselves on the set of the new Mummy movie. Video clips on monitors tell us, through a mock-umentary, that despite all the Hollywood magic, there are members of the crew that take the curse VERY seriously. Many of them wear the symbol of the Med-Jai, the symbol of those warriors that protect 'the Creature' from being found, lest it be raised from the dead. In the video interviews, Fraser dismisses the curse as some hokey nonsense. Naturally, being the adventurous thrill seekers that we are, we don't pay much attention either.
Deeper into the queue we go, encountering a number of interactive artifacts along the way--items possibly from actual tombs? Perhaps unearthed and brought on the set of the movie to make it look more authentic? Whatever the case me be, the props seem to do the trick. Not only does it look like we're wandering through an ancient Egyptian tomb, but it looks as if there may be more to this curse than meets the eye. A quick jaunt up a flight of stairs brings us to the loading area, where Med-Jai guards take us to our mine carts (the carts seat sixteen guests: four rows, four riders to a row). Two loading stations are available to expedite the loading process.
The ride takes us through a mummy-infested tomb. We quickly discover that these mummies are tourists and have been recently mummified! As we turn the corner, we find one of the crewmembers wrapped up, trying to warn us that the curse if VERY real, but we realize it's too late as the mummy bursts forth from his sarcophagus.
In the next room, Imhotep's face appears on the wall, and he makes us an offer: join him and receive vast riches or refuse and face a fate far worse than death. One moment, the room is lit up, full of chests of gold. The next moment, there are flames and six of Imhotep's guards suddenly surround the mine cart. We barely make it out of the chamber, dipping under a heavy stone slab. Suddenly, we've reached a dead end--and the room suddenly begins to fill with flesh-eating scarabs. Then, our mine cart rolls BACKWARDS and down a small hill. We briefly see the symbol of the Med-Jai before Imhotep's grotesque face appears again to taunt us. Our cart rotates around and the dark ride portion ends and the roller coaster portion begins. With a fierce cry ("You're souls are MINE!"), we are launched into the mouth of the mummy and into complete darkness, chased by evil spirits the entire time. The ending can be divided into two halves--the first half involves a phony exit station, which is a clever concept, and the ceiling becoming engulfed in flames. The second half, however, I will not divulge so as to let you folks figure out how it ends.
So, does Revenge of the Mummy live up to the hype, or is the attraction totally UN-dead? It's rather hard to say. The ride has some really fine points and commendable moments, but there are also a number of points where the ride could find some improvement.
The theming for the attraction is done very well, but confusion sets in right from the start. Are we on a movie set? Didn't we enter the 'Museum of Antiquities'? Are we now in a REAL tomb, or a FAKE tomb? A lot of this can likely be explained by watching the mock-umentary in the queue line (and chances are, you'll have a really good opportunity to do so). Once on the ride itself, it's easy to assume that the remainder of the attraction is a combination between Egyptian tomb and supernatural realm, but the real world movie set suddenly comes crashing down in the end and it's hard to say how or why. What the ride lacks, more than anything else, is a sense of closure. When it was all over, I was left with a sense of wanting.
While the roller coaster portion may not feature anything close to the caliber of Hulk's high speed or multiple inversions, the launch is nice, and there's real good hang time throughout the coaster portion. What makes the thrills unique, however, are the dark ride elements of the first half and those integrated into the coaster finale. The attraction creates a unique atmosphere in the beginning. Revenge of the Mummy has been dubbed a Psychological Thrill Ride, and in many ways, the title shines through. In truth, most theme park attractions utilize psychological elements to heighten the excitement. Different combinations of water and heat, wind and sound, lighting and pitch black darkness all combine in different ways to directly or indirectly cause sensations of fear and excitement. The human mind is easily fooled, but Revenge of the Mummy does this with full intent and offers no apologies.
Of all the special effects in this ride, the animatronic mummy blew me away. Imhotep hadn't been in place during the technical rehearsals, but seeing this animated figure alone was absolutely incredible, with fluid, realistic movements and it's interaction with the animatronic mummified crewmember is equally impressive.
I was, however, disappointed that the large mummy warriors that appear on both sides of the cart in the treasure room aren't animated. The speed in which they appear is great, but their frozen poses make them appear less threatening than likely intended to be.
I was rather apprehensive of encountering the scarabs at first. After a few test rides, I'm beginning to think that the experience with the bugs could stand some additional tactile effect to really achieve a level of creepiness. A combination of video, moving set pieces, water and audio make the encounter tense, but no worse beyond that.
Safety is a major point for many theme park attractions. Each seat has its own individual lap bar--but these are not standard T-bar lap bars. Rather they are connected to duel-arms that fit securely on both sides of the legs. I personally felt well contained and safe from harm, although the bar assured that there was no escaping the mummy and his minions! Perhaps my only other safety concern regarded the queue itself. Originally, Kongfrontation had a series of sloped pathways that brought guests to their second story loading area, but it seems the only way to the loading area is up a set of stairs. Whether this was done to make more room for the coaster itself is uncertain, but in the themed lighting, which flickers frequently, it could make it dangerous for guests ascending the stairs.
On a TPI scale of 0-10, it is with great difficulty that I give Revenge of the Mummy a very, very, VERY high 8-Commendable--just a scant hair away from a 9-Outstanding. Small details here and there cause the overall grade of the ride to suffer, but if Universal were to decide to make some changes here and there to some of the effects and bring about a nice, sturdy conclusion, they could have a real winner. Don't be mistaken, a lot of hard work went into the design and build of the attraction and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. My thanks go out to the Universal Creative crew and Scott Trowbridge, VP of design and creative development at Universal--as well as Stephen Sommers and his crew. Make no mistake, Revenge of the Mummy is the feel good ride of the summer... and, uh, that's a wrap! Until next week, folks, keep on ridin'!