Written by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
Directed by Rob Cohen
Running Time: 1:52
for adventure action and violence.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was a far cry from the popcorn, mindless enjoyment of the first two movies in the series.
Thousands of years ago, a Chinese Emperor was cursed by a scorned woman and he and his entire army was turned into stone. Or clay. Many would argue this was a good thing, yet in the mid 1940s, a current member of the Chinese army decides it would be a good thing to wake up this powerful Emperor and have him take control of the world once again. In comes our favorite archeologist Rick O'Connell and his wife Evie. And as it turns out, the Emperor was found by none other than Rick and Evie's son, Alex. Once again the O'Connell family must rise up to save the world from a Mummy.
Not everyone liked The Mummy or The Mummy Returns but I thought they were both entertaining fluff films that had a lot of action and a lot of humor. I liked the cast, I thought the stories were decent, and the special effects were good. Sure it was mindless entertainment, but sometimes that's all you're looking for. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor didn't have any of the heart of the first two, nor did I care for any of the characters. In fact, I really disliked a couple of them. Let's start with the good stuff though. The action sequences were pretty well done. When the Mummy comes back to life, there is a huge chase sequence through the streets of China that was filled with a lot of bangs and explosions. Later on there's a battle that involves Yetis (seriously), and then an all-out war with the undead fighting the undead. All three major action scenes were fairly strong. It's just that everything that happened in between was kind of boring.
First there was the cast. Rachel Weisz played the wife in the first two movies. I understand she didn't want to come back for the ride once again and I have no problem with that. But why simply recast the role? Couldn't they have written a simple story where she's gone and a new woman appears? The only thing that having a new actress play the same role did was allow one single joke to be made at the beginning of the film. Otherwise it felt very odd. And Maria Bello's fake British accent was extremely grating. Have her be Rick's new wife, or his sister, or his wife's sister... don't have her take over the character and the butcher it. Luke Ford played Rick's son Alex. The character was introduced in the last film, and is now college age (while Brendan Fraser hasn't aged a bit). I'm not 100% sure who Luke Ford is and I don't recall ever seeing him before, but I didn't like him at all. There was nothing about his character, or the way he played his character, that made him at all appealing. Every line he had sounded forced and his romance with a young (sort of) Chinese woman was laughable.
And that brings us to Jet Li. Jet Li is obviously a major star and was brought in, I'm guessing, because the producers didn't feel that another Mummy movie would be sold based on its own merits. But tell me what the point is of having Jet Li in your cast, then completely underusing him. For 75% of the film, he's CGI. And then when he is real, he has only a couple of random fight scenes which were so poorly shot you had no idea what was going on. Rob Cohen, the director, has done action films before, which is why I think the action sequences were so well done. But I don't remember him ever doing a movie that had a lot of fight scenes and that was fairly evident. Everything was shot very close up and edited so quickly it was hard to make out what was happening. And then for some odd reason, he would use a slow-motion technique that felt like it was from an 80s movie. My only point is, if you have Jet Li in your movie, use him correctly.
The story was so-so - it is a Mummy movie after all. It just didn't feel all that strong. I've never associated China with mummies before so while I understand them not wanting to end up in Egypt again, putting the movie in China didn't feel right. It felt very cold and distant, especially once they end up in snow covered mountains. Then there were plot points that came out of nowhere. Why were there Yetis? Three of them?? That was just bizarre. And then there was the issue with the Emperor. For the first 2/3 of the movie we hear that he's a terrible guy and he has the powers of the elements, so he can control fire, water, etc. But out of nowhere, just seconds before he reaches this fountain of everlasting life, one of the characters has a throwaway line that says that the Emperor can turn into all sorts of strange creatures. A few seconds later, he turns into a three-headed dragon. Where did that come from? Why can he do that? And why was it never mentioned before? I enjoy mindless movies as much as anyone, but once in a while, something has to make sense.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was kind of a swing and a miss. As much as I liked the last two movies, this one didn't live up to the series. The action sequences were good, but everything else was a mess.
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