Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

At the drive in as a double feature with The Dark Knight, was The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. I saw it with Jeff and Amber, and when they fell asleep, I was left as the sole witness in our group to the sad state of the Mummy franchise.

Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is as much worse than The Mummy Returns as that film was worse than the original Mummy. Thankfully, the Rock's The Scorpion King remains the low point in the series.

Brendan Frasier returns as Rick O'Connell, mummy slayer extraordinaire. His role hasn't changed, he still has a quicker wit than the character lets on, and an even quicker trigger finger.

Rachel Weisz does not return as Rick's wife, Eve. Instead, she's replaced by Maria Bello. I was not a fan of this move. Bello opts to abandon the clumsy stylings of the librarian out of her depth that Weisz conveyed, and replaced it with a kind of airheadedness more appropriate in an episode of the Hills.

Luke Ford plays the now 21 year old Alex O'Connell. He's in the midst of a struggle between himself and his father better reserved for a teenage character.

Isabella Leong plays Lin, Alex's crush, and an immortal Chinese ninja who's mission is to destroy the Dragon Emperor.

Jet Li plays the titular Dragon Emperor. The first emperor of China, who unified the realm, built the Great Wall, and mastered the five elements. Cursed to terracotta form by a witch, he slumbers with his army, awaiting the opportunity to begin his conquest again.

The movie opens with a recap of the life of the Dragon Emperor. The first emperor of all of China, he conquered everyone who stood against him, then cursed them to forever hold up his works, as he had them executed in a mass grave, and built the Great Wall of China upon their bodies. It doesn't take an engineer to tell you that the cursed corpses of the lost and the damned make a poor foundation material. He goes on to master the five elements, but soon realizes that there is one thing he has not yet mastered, death. As he ages, he sends Ming, his most trustworthy general to go find a witch, who supposedly has the secret to immortality. Upon finding her, she turns out to be a beautiful woman, and the emperor immediately declares that no man is to touch her save him. The witch claims not to know the secret to immortality, but she knows where to find it, in a hidden Buddhist monastery. The Emperor sends both the witch, and Ming to find this secret. As they search the many tomes together, they fall in love, and consummate their relationship. Returning to the emperor, the witch cast a spell upon him. Satisfied, he leads her to the balcony, where he asks her to be his wife. She refuses, and he reveals Ming, in the square below them, a quarterhorse tied to each limb. Ming is dismembered, and the witch flees. The spell she casts begins to take effect, turning the emperor and his army into Terracotta.

The film then jumps to modern times with an expose of the O'Connell's opulent home in Oxfordshire, England, earned as a reward for their actions safeguarding priceless artifacts in the Second World War. 13 years after The Mummy Returns, their son Alex is now 21 years old, and secretly conducting an archaeological dig in China, searching for the tomb of the Dragon Emperor. A British diplomat approaches Rick and Eve with one final task, taking the Eye of Shangri-La to the Chinese Government. Eve's brother, Jonathon, now owns a nightclub in China, the aptly named Imhotep. There they run into Alex, and the traditional father son spat ensues. As tempers cool, Alex offers to show his parents the exhibit he'll soon be opening at the very museum that the O'Connell's need to deposit the Eye.

While inspecting the sarcophagus of the Dragon Emperor, Alex's partner reveals a treacherous plan by renegades within the Chinese military to use the Eye of Shangri-La to resurrect the Dragon Emperor and establish China as the center of his new, worldwide, empire. As the emperor reawakens, he escapes, despite the best efforts of the O'Connells. Heading towards a remote monastery, the emperor takes the Eye of Shangri-La, which will unveil the location of Shangri-La, and the pool of immortality. It's up to the O'Connell's to stop him.

The visuals, acting, and story are all what you'd expect from the Mummy series. That is to say, great, sub par, and dumbed down, respectively. The plot is written more for the 10-14 year old demographic, so it seems a little slow for the older viewers. some of the plot points get to be a little excessive, especially when the yetis get involved.

Jet Li isn't nearly as impressive an actor when he isn't doing crazy martial arts stunts. Given his retirement from Wushu films after Fearless, this is disappointing. Brendan Fraiser is still the high point of the film, with his fly by the seat of your pants attitude of Rick O'Connell portrayed perfectly. I've already stated my issues with Maria Bello's job, and Luke Ford comes off as too whiny.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a mediocre film, sufficient for fans of the genre, but not for general audiences. The film is 114 minutes long, and was given a 31 on metacritic.
I give the film a 4/10.


Confused said...

Great review, so accurate!
I hated the replacement Eve!

The only reason I didn't completely and utterly hate the film was that a few hours before I went to see it a friend of mine told me it was the worst film ever made and all record of it ever existing should be wiped from the universe. So I went with such low expectations that there was no way it could have been worse.. ;-) (From that perspective it was a tiny bit better than I expected...)

Anonymous said...

The one star I plopped on this clunky bore-athon is due to the presence of the great Jet Li as the evil Dragon Emperor of the subtitle and the gorgeous Michelle Yeoh as Zi Yuan, a witch who's been on the Emperor¹s ass for over 2000 years.

Peter Travers
Rolling Stone _mummy_tomb_of_the_dragon_emperor

martial-arts superstar Jet Li triumphs as the mostly wordless evil Emperor Han of ancient China, a glowing magma spirit locked in a terra cotta shell.

Jane Horwitz
Washington Post 073100734.html

Still, Li makes a great villain, using his powers to create fire, ice and other elements.

Edward Douglas
Coming Soon

Toward the end of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh launch into a vigorous sword fight — and what a grand pleasure it is to watch these two world-class stars in action again...Their duel atop the Great Wall of China is a reunion of titans, an Old Timers' Day for two actor-athletes still in their sinuous prime. Forgive the effusions of an alter-kocker fanboy, but the flinty glamour of Li and Yeoh — buttressed by the stolid, sneering presence of top Hong Kong villain Anthony Wong Chau-sang (who in 1993 appeared in 15 films!) — is the best reason to catch this third in the series of Indiana Jones knockoffs.

Richard Corliss

A memorably badass Jet Li.
Nathan Rabin
AV Club