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.

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Published: June 24, 2004 at 10:50 PM

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.

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.

Revenge of the Mummy Premiere
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.

Readers' Opinions

From Robert Niles on June 25, 2004 at 10:03 AM
I've categorized Mummy as a dark ride in the attraction listings because I feel that best describes the experience that this ride offers. Yes, there's a roller coaster track. But the show elements here are as noteworthy, if not more, than the coaster elements -- unlike on other highly themed coasters such as Space Mountain. But I'm willing to debate this, if anyone wants to argue that Mummy ought to be considered more of a coaster than a dark ride.
From Joe Lane on June 25, 2004 at 10:32 AM
It really is more of a hybrid dark ride/coaster. In that respect, however, Spiderman is a hybrid dark ride/simulator/4-D film. For the sake of simplicity, I think dark ride suits the attraction just fine--so long as people don't automatically assume Disney's Fantasyland-style traditional dark rides when they read dark ride.

Perhaps it calls for a different category of dark ride? Tame and Wild?

From Robert Niles on June 25, 2004 at 11:55 AM
Well, the height restriction ought to provide some clue that this is no kiddie ride. Which raises another issue I wanted to discuss... 48 inches? Is this the tallest height restriction anywhere on a ride that does not feature an inversion? I can't think of another. Readers?
From Robert Niles on June 25, 2004 at 12:03 PM
By the way, first-time TPI visitors should not miss our previous articles on "Revenge of the Mummy," in both Orlando and California:
  • Joe Lane Reviews Orlando's Revenge of the Mummy
  • Robert Niles previews the Hollywood version with Universal Creative's John Murdy
  • From Bill Lentz on June 25, 2004 at 3:14 PM
    Top Thrill Dragster requires 52" and doesn't invert...but I would say there is still a reason to the restriction...
    From Robert Niles on June 25, 2004 at 3:26 PM
    Okay, so Mummy's got the tallest height restriction for a ride that doesn't invert... and taht doesn't get 400 feet off the ground. ;-)

    Anyone else?

    From Robert OGrosky on June 25, 2004 at 9:55 PM
    Raging Bull at SFGAM has no inversions and has a 54 inch height limit and Apollo's Chariot has a 52 inch height limit with no inversions.
    From J. Dana on June 25, 2004 at 9:55 PM
    I rode the new Mummy coaster today. My was okay. I must say that it's length (or lack thereof) made me feel underwhelmed. However, lest you think I didn't like this ride let me assure you , I did like it. The dark ride segments of the mummy and the bugs and the smoke and effects were great. The backwards coaster was great (and a nifty way to take advantage of the limited space). If I had waited for hours, I would have been very upset. However, me and my friends used the single riders line and waited about 20 minutes as opposed to the posted 2 hours. NICE. It's a good ride and I hope it does bang-up business for the park...because maybe it will encourage further development of the type. I'm a new adventurer in the Universl Hollywood park (having just transplanted myself from Orlando), but I do like USH. I think it's much better than Universal Studios Orlando (not the whole Orlando resort, just the Orlando studio park). The Jurassic park ride in Hollywood is much better than the Orlando version. Waterworld is better than both lame-ass stunt shows staged in Universal's Orlando parks. But I'm getting off subject...

    The Revenge of the Mummy was a fun ride and one I will definitely ride again. And I'll tell my friends that it's a must-ride at the park. But I was expecting more. The theatrics were GREAT!!!!!!!!! They salvage the ride. The coaster part was fun. Use the single riders line. Who cares if your friends are in the same car....once you're going at high speeds in the dark, you don't know who's next to you...besides the bugs and mummies, of course.

    From Scott Carter on June 26, 2004 at 9:25 AM

    Robert,how can you honestly say this is the "best" of the 2004 so cali attractions?
    Tower of Terror at California Adventure runs circles around this thing,the story is a mess,its very anti-climatic,the faux fire is so fake its almost laughable.
    the queue is mostly outside and hardly themed.Im sorry I was very let-down...not exactly the mind blowing attraction Univesal promised.
    the best ride this summer hands down is Tower of Terror.
    From Joe Lane on June 26, 2004 at 11:20 AM
    Yes, RotM v. ToT. I can see the storm brewing already.

    I want to know how Hollywood Mummy and Orlando Mummy compare. We've obviously got different storylines for both attractions--USF is themed to be a movie set populated with Egyptian artifacts that bring the curse of Imhotep and USH is supposedly Imhotep's tomb the entire time. I'm also curious how the coaster portions compare--USH is obviously shorter and probably doesn't have as many sheer drops as USF.

    From Robert Niles on June 26, 2004 at 2:23 PM
    ToT offers nowhere near the level of technical sophistication nor the narrative development of RotM. ToT does do a better job of forcing riders' attention to the set-up video, but if you watch both rides', you'll find that RotM offers a more complete narrative arc, as opposed to ToT's delightful set-up that ultimately never resolves. In addition, RotM offers a dark ride, sensory effects, a LIM launch and forward and backward coaster elements. ToT offers a drop ride with one very cool visual effect. They are both good rides -- worth visiting -- but, of the two, RotM better advances the technology and technique of theme park attractions. That's why I called it more impressive than ToT.
    From Mostly Anonymous on June 26, 2004 at 7:37 PM
    Sorry Robert, but I agree with Scott.

    How can you call Mummy "fast" and "furious"? As a roller coaster, it was pathetic. As a dark ride, it's really good - until the coaster part gets started. What good is a roller coaster in the dark when you can see the track? With all the lights flashing, we could easily see exactly where we were going, even though we were sitting in the 3rd row. The launch was nice, but after that it seemed slower than Thunder Mountain.

    We had no idea what the story of the ride was until after we rode, when we read it on the internet. The video at the beginning just seems to be a bunch of film clips, not a preshow for the ride - although it's hard to tell, because the audio is so muddy. We thought the end of the ride was a letdown - the Mummy attacked us with a ball of flame, and then suddenly we were safe (no explanation of how we escaped) and getting off the ride. I've read that the ball of flame was actually Imhotep exploding, but we certainly didn't figure that out while riding.

    But it is a good ride, and I'm curious to go ride it again. I'm hoping that maybe things have been tweaked since we rode last Sunday. Al Lutz's review noted that the two times he rode it, the launch seemed to reach very different speeds - so maybe we just got a lame, slow ride.

    We think Jurassic Park is still the best attraction at USH.

    From Robert Niles on June 26, 2004 at 8:34 PM
    On my rides, I was impressed with how dark the show building was. I'd seen and walked the track before and still didn't know where I was going. And I heard pretty clean audio as well. Launch speeds were swift, too. But I can imagine that any ride this complicated would offer different experiences to different riders as glitches occur.

    I should also say that I prefaced my "fast" comment by talking about kids. I think the 8-13 crowd is the target for this ride. Kids wanting the illusion of much faster speed (thanks to the dark) and some non-ironic scare effects will enjoy it. Anyone under age 7 won't meet the height limit and some 7-year-olds will be a bit squeamish for the ride. Anyone past puberty will likely find the ride too tame and devoid of the humor that would otherwise make it worthwhile. Still, I find that with multiple rides, it grows on you as you pick up more of what you missed on a first ride.

    But don't get me wrong. This is no classic. None of the rides that debuted this year in SoCal blew me away. In fact, I thought Legoland's Fun Town Fire Academy was the most clever and entertaining one of the bunch. But it isn't as impressive as RotM.

    From Kevin Baxter on June 27, 2004 at 3:34 AM
    Let's all remember that this is the first official week of RotM and it can't be expected to be running perfectly. Which is why I never race to a ride so soon after opening. I rode Rock 'n' Roller Coaster only a couple months after it opened and it is not the same ride now that it was then. And some of the things I am hearing about RotM are the same I felt about RnRC: slow and not-dark. Well, it is much darker and the end isn't nearly as slow as when I first rode. Clearly this ride was thrown together as quickly as possible so it wouldn't open post-summer.

    So, it's good to get out grievances at this point so hopefully USH can fix problems we are having, but don't expect this to be the same ride now that it will be in six months.

    From Chuck Campbell on June 27, 2004 at 10:14 AM
    Robert Niles wrote: "But why must this, and every other recent major new attraction, be so short?"

    This is rather odd, considering that action movies are getting longer and longer. Somers's two Mummy flicks clocked in at two hours plus, as did his wretched Van Helsing, which lurched around like the monster in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man until it stumbled into an action sequence. At least the lousy Hollywood movies of yore had the good sense not to waste too much of the viewer's time.

    Big flicks super-sized like so much fast food--we're bloating our bellies while shrinking our brains.

    From Scott Carter on June 27, 2004 at 11:29 AM
    "Let's all remember that this is the first official week of RotM and it can't be expected to be running perfectly."

    well,Disney tested thier TOT for 6 months prior to the May 5th opening and its had very little problems.I think if Universal tested this ride for that long it would be much better off.
    and it would have been in Universals best intrest to provide a almost flawless run of this attraction,so it would get better reviews.The reviews for this thing have been horrible,alot of that could be contributed to the fact that the effects are so spotty.How many APers got off the ride thinking that was how the ride was supposed to be,then going and telling thier buddies how much it "sucked".Its not good for Universal.This thing should work almost flawlessly at this point,and the reason its not,its purely Universals fault.

    From Robert Niles on June 27, 2004 at 1:13 PM
    Amen, Scott. Universal *hustled* to make the June 24 opening for this one. And they were sweating it over the past few months, believe me. You'd think that Universal would have learned from the PR disaster that was the USF opening in 1990. But USH has premiered its last two major attractions to the press (Shrek and Mummy) without a public soft-launch. That's asking for trouble. (And kudos to Disney for getting Tower humming along before officially opening it. That ride's problems exist in the executive suite, not in the ops or maintenance departments.)

    That said, I agree with Kevin. Not so much on the issue of show quality, but on wait times. No attraction anywhere is worth a two-hour wait, in my opinion. Ninety minutes is the longest I'll go, and then, only for something great. Throw in the fact that engineers often can tweak show quality to make it better with a few weeks' experience, and 30 days after opening is often a much better time to visit a new attraction.

    From Ryan Traylor on June 30, 2004 at 9:13 AM
    So I was planning on riding RoftM in fall after the summer crowd disappeared. But I was lucky enough to get a free ticket that was going to expire today, so I went last night. I was able to ride it twice going on as a single rider.

    I was disappointed with the ride. No mummys appeared at the side of the car from the ceiling or floor. The decor and theme was nice. The ride operators were trained well and could move people on and off the ride in an efficient manner. My biggest problem was being able to see the door rise from the fire room revealing a well designed effect. (The smoke and fog hiding the rising of the exit door)

    And I was probably one of the few who did not applaud at the end of the ride when I came back into the station.

    It is too short and leaves much to be desired. Now I have to make a trip to USF and ride the Mummy there to compare.

    From Jeremy Pryer on July 6, 2004 at 7:21 PM
    Well, I really won't post a review for the ride... not because I hate it or anything but because I WORK ON IT MUWAHAHAHA! Either way, I was reading a few of the comments and thought I'd put in a few comments - as far as the length of the ride, it is short (very short) and I see it getting mixed comments about that. Truth be told, it would be longer if Universal picked a differnt building instead of E.T. (California's Mummy is 2.4 mins and Florida's is about 4.5) however some people love that it's short and one person I met road the Florida ride and says they prefer the short one because the Florida one "gets boring after awhile"... that SHOCKS me, I'm not going to lie I wanna ride Florida's sooo much.

    And in a more recent post I see someone say they didn't get any Mummies (I assume that's not counting Imohtep)... for the record, there are four - 2 just stand on each side and 2 jump down right before the coaster part begins but those falling 2 are not working and we are awaiting some new ones.

    From Todd Reicher on July 10, 2004 at 6:39 PM
    I visited Orlando July 8-11, and rode the Mummy a number of times. I recall many people on this, and other sites, saying how the ride broke down in the afternoon, and that many of the effects were not working. We rode at least 10 times in three days, and only on three rides did we notice one effect not working, which was the very beginning when the mummy came out of the coffin. Other than that, the ride was working perfectly. We stayed on an on-site hotel, and had the unlimited Express Pass, and waited no longer than 10 minutes each time. The stand-by time was about 30 minutes within 45 minutes of park opening and peak times about 90-110 minutes. I'll give a trip report upon my return with other rides and hotel stay.
    From marcos mintos on July 13, 2004 at 3:50 PM
    I recently visited Universal Studios in Hollywood. I purchased a "Front-of-the-Line" pass and was on my way. I was very eager to ride the RotM ride. I got in the fast line and it took 1 min to grt on the ride.--I was very disapointed about the ride. The beginning was boring with about no special effects. When the ride actauly starts it launches you but then slowls you down suddenly. I enjoined the ride and going backward was cool. But then as i thought the ride was just getting started it was over. I couldn't believe it! Thats it! You can NOT call that a rollercoaster. It is merely a joyride. From when u actually start going past 3 mph the ride is about 30 sec. long. How disappointing. All the Hupla abot it... its all garbage.

    The only other ok ride there is Jurrsasic Park. Thge only good thing about that ride is the drop at the end. The dinousaurs in the ride dont look real and is kind of boring. The only other things to see there are shows (mostly 3d--most of which are o.k.) Its ridiculous.

    O ya, the back to the future ride, wow, Someone just drop a nuclear bomb on the thing. Worst ride i have aver been on.

    Thrill-seekers u have been warned, Universal Studios is not what u think. Go to the one in florida, Please!!!!

    From Michael Han on August 29, 2004 at 7:47 PM
    I recently went on the Revenge of the Mummy the ride and I was wondering, if someone could tell me why they stopped doing the falling of the warriors?
    From Justin Cornwall on November 25, 2004 at 11:51 AM
    They did'nt stop them, They were probably just not working at the time.

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