General Release 2008
112 minutes approx
Rick O'Connell -
Evey O'Connell -
Alex O'Connell -
The Emperor -
Zi Yuan -
Directed by -
Written by -
Alfred Gough and Miles Millar
Rick and Evey O'Connell have settled down to a quiet life of luxury in Oxfordshire, free from adventures and Mummies. They are quite bored. When they are asked to take a giant diamond to Shanghai for the government, they agree as it will give them a chance to see Evey's brother Johnathan who runs a club there. They also discover that their grown up son has skipped college and unearthed an archaeological find of immense importance. It is the sarcophagus of the Dragon Emperor, an ancient warrior who united ancient China and tried to cheat death, but was cursed by a sorceress whose lover he murdered. Inevitably, the Emperor rises as a Mummy, but with power over all the elements. If he were to step into the pool of eternal life, he could raise his terracotta army and become invincible. It's going to take all the ingenuity of two generations of O'Connells, along with some new allies, to even attempt to stop him.
When the first THE MUMMY film arrived it was dismissed as Indiana Jones-lite, but turned out to be a free-spirited fun romp that was unexpectedly and thoroughly entertaining. when the second film appeared, it had lost all of the fun and replaced it with pallid reruns of the same story with amped up CGI sequences. The third film falls somewhere between the two.
Computer Generated Imagery is killing the action adventure genre. It's true that we were just as stunned by the dinosaurs in JURASSIC and thrilled by THE MATRIX's bullet time innovations, but the CGI there was a tool being used by master storytellers. When the tool dictates the story then things have gone sadly wrong. The Emperor here, once he has been into the pool of immortality, can turn himself into three-headed dragons and rhino-like beasties. Why? Because the CGI men can do it. It doesn't add to the plot and makes the menace of the man all the less.
Which is a shame because the film starts off so well with a backstory that lays down the history of the king who would be immortal, the witch who can make it happen and the general who would be her lover. A simple love triangle with a tiny bit of magic thrown in. It doesn't hurt that two of the main players are Jet Li, whose acting skills are yet to be proven but who can do martial arts badass like nobody else and Michelle Yeoh, who has shown in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON the depths of soulfulness that she can summon up. She's nowhere near that powerful here, but then the film doesn't deserve that anyway. Even amidst the CGI din of the final showdown, when these two come together in an all too brief sword fight it just makes you wish you were watching these two in another film.
Brendan Fraser returns as the immensely likeable Rick O'Connor, though the brawny adventurer to whom bad things happen seems to have degenerated into the kind of well-meaning buffoon that he has been playing in the likes of SPACE JAM 2 and the currently showing JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH coasting by on his own very strong charm. Maria Bello is given the thankless task of taking on the role of Evey left vacant by Rachel Weisz. We thought that her Evey was one of the less effective things about the original, but it turns out that we were wrong as we spent the entirety of the film wishing that she was back. Bello just doesn't have the same charisma level and struggles throughout with the underwritten role. Luke Ford's next generation O'Connell and Isabella Leong's Lin are both instantly forgettable additions to the cast. John Hannah should be ashamed at taking the money for his frankly embarrassing role as the inebriated Johnathan.
In a year that brought Indiana Jones back to us, THE MUMMY:THE TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR was always going to have to raise the game of the franchise in order to compete and it has done that, but it still sinks beneath its scattershot plot and welter of CGI, proving that nothing was learned from the experience of the first two films. Spectacular it may be, but its epic adventure by the numbers with no real charm or soul and precious little wit.
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