It's the old Hollywood bait-n-switch story: The Weinsteins baited arty Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, luring him to Tinsel Town to make a big-time blockbuster with all kinds of money and freedom. Wait. Scratch the freedom. They hired del Toro because they liked his style, then they cramped it, leaving him helpless as they brought in second unit directors to add a quicker pace and more scares to Mimic before releasing it nationwide in 1997. (Personally, I liked it — but then, what did I know? I'd never heard of del Toro before.) Cut to some years later, after del Toro has established himself as one of the hottest directors worldwide and Disney sold their Miramax label: viola! director's cut.
The story has hardly changed. It begins with a cockroach-carried disease that, after killing a cluster of NYC kiddies, is halted after two dedicated docs (played by Mira Sorvino and Jeremy Northam) come up with a counter-serum delivered to the bad bugs by the genetically engineered good creepy-crawlies. Fast forward to three years later when people start disappearing, dispatched by a mysterious, dark figure in a long black coat. It's the mimic: a ruthless super-roach that's evolved to resemble a human being but to retain its primal, one-track killing mind.
A creature feature imbued with beauty and elegance thanks to del Toro's graceful and gothic sensibilities, Mimic makes the most of suspense and atmosphere, (mostly) eschewing goo and gore. Limitations in the script (exposition, repetition, extraneous characters, cornball closing) hamper even the new director's cut; but for those who haven't already been Mimic'ed to the point of mental meltdown (I've seen it so many times, I am over it) the Blu-ray is worth a look. Or for del Toro fans, it may even be worth the purchase price just to catch his candid commentary and to watch some of the other special features.
There's a quick intro from del Toro on the whys and wherefores of this fresh presentation, namely that while some of his favorite things were never even shot (a different ending, for instance), it's still a move that "could be rescued" by excising most of the "second unit crap" and replacing it with his own "first unit crap" — hey, some of it may be "crap" but it's del Toro's "crap" and he says emphatically that he stands by it. He wholeheartedly and unabashedly "owns it."
In the separate feature commentary track, the filmmaker points out what the actors brought to their roles (especially Charles S. Dutton — who, del Toro points out, was a great ally in the 'suits v creatives' arguments — who came up with the idea that Leonard should sing when he gets nervous in order to add a little humanity to the otherwise gruff, 1-D character). He also talks about the creatures design, puppeteers, moments of CGI, his art deco inspired sets, and impressive use of color juxtaposition and saturation.
Featurettes are a mix between newly produced ones and 90s-era EPK footage (how much everyone's changed — especially chubby-cheeked del Toro, who looks so much more comfortingly like "himself" now).
In Reclaiming Mimic, running about 15 minutes long, del Toro talks about adding back some dialogue and cutting back on many of the second unit's jump scares. There are also deleted scenes, and an unfunny gag reel (mostly just a montage of the actors licking their lips). Rounding out the release (which also includes a non-Blu digital copy) are interviews from the cast and crew about what it was like to work with del Toro and what it was like to take part in the cockroach mayhem.
Overall, I recommend Mimic: The Director's Cut — not because it's much different from the original flick, but because it's the first time on Blu, and the brand-new, only a few holds-barred yak track is well worth a listen.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson