Saturday, August 02, 2008

Review - The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Directed by Rob Cohen
Written by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Michelle Yeoh, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Running Time: 1 hour and 52 minutes

1 Star (out of 4)

Sometimes sequels outdo the original film in action, plot and furthering the "universe" of the original film. Such sequels ("Aliens", "The Empire Strikes Back", "The Godfather Part II") are also revered as some of the best films of all time. Then comes the inevitable sequel to the sequel, otherwise labeled as the third film in a series. Out of these films, there are very few that stack up to the originality that spawned the series. "Spiderman 3", "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End", "Scream 3" are a few of the recent flops that tries to parade themselves as part of the series but ended up being mere impostors. "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" is a shell of what the original Mummy movie was. This is not to say that "The Mummy" series is classic cinema, quite the contrary. But the series, up until this point, had B movie roots with a silly charm that captivated audiences (even if it was a cheap knock off of the Indiana Jones films). But this film sinks to new depths, completely tarnishing an enjoyable series.

The plot, at least what masquerades as one, involves a Chinese Emperor (Jet Li) that lived before Christ. He conquered most of China, yet is dissatisfied because he feels he has so much more to do which would require him to be immortal. He dispatches his general to find a witch (Michelle Yeoh) who may or may not hold the key to immortality. In typical fashion, the Emperor betrays his general and the witch, but he has unknowingly been betrayed by the witch who has cursed him to an eternity of being trapped as a clay/metal statue. Cut to present day where Alex O'Connell is digging up the Emperor's Tomb. After surviving booby traps, Alex finds the Dragon Emperor and brings him to Shanghai.

Enter Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn O'Connell (Maria Bello, who replaced Rachel Weisz in the Role). They are given the task of delivering a rare artifact to Shanghai, which they gladly accept to escape there pampered, boring life. After a brief union with Jonathan (John Hannah) and their son, the O'Connells are double crossed by an old friend who is in cahoots with chinese militants. The Dragon Emperor is set free as a result and seeks the pool of eternal life. Thus sets the table for a cross country race through Shanghai, into the Himalayas, to Shangri-La and finally ending up at the starting point of our story - the tomb of the Dragon Emperor's soldiers.

While this may sound exciting on paper, the translation to the screen is dull, boring and groan inducing. In between the listless action sequences that are saturated with horrible CGI, there are scenes with the main characters that bog down the story with useless and horrible dialogue. The chemistry between Fraser and Bello is nonexistent while both characters ham up the relationship and their individual scenes with grade school acting. Maybe this is the fault of the director, or the writers, or both. But the "witty" one-liners that the characters spot are neither witty or clever - They are just plain bad. The secondary characters, especially the Chinese militant group, disappear and reappear with no rhyme or reason while the motivations behind these characters (particularly in the climatic battle) are both unexplained and laughable. Jet Li is completely wasted. Li is barely in human form during the film while his martial art skills are not utilized nearly enough. The "big" battle between Li and Yeoh is little more than a grade school fight. When it starts, its nothing more than punches and kicks (it doesn't even seem choreographed) and it ends before it even gets going. Such a great opportunity wasted.

The action scenes in a film like this are supposed to be grandiose in both style and scope. Unfortunately, this film has neither. The action is smothered with CGI that looks like it was made using an outdated laptop. There is no tension or real danger while in the middle of some of these scenes, the viewer realizes that they are bored to tears. The film comes to a screeching halt so many times, it feels as if the running time may be well over four hours.

It seems as if the writers also ran out of new ideas for the movie and started stealing scenes from other much better films. There is a part of the film that a character is mortally wounded. What follows is straight out of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". All you have to do is plug in Sean Connery and Harrison Ford and you wouldn't know the difference. During the climactic battle, the undead soldiers start to pull routines straight out of "Army of Darkness". The Abominable Snowmen creatures look like oversized, all white renditions of Gizmo. Speaking of these "abominations" - they kick a bad guy in between two poles and one of them actually puts up his arms, signaling that the field goal is good. Really? Are you serious? It is vomit inducing.

I had some high hopes walking in to see this film. The first two were all in good fun, even if they were Indiana Jones wannabes. But "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" is boring, badly produced and just plain stupid. With all the other films that have come out this summer, Universal should be ashamed that they even greenlighted this sequel. The script should have undergone a major overhaul while the visual effects should have been fine tuned to make them less horrible. Walking out of the theatre, I had the feeling of being pissed off. Pissed off that I had been looking forward to this film and being severely disappointed. Pissed off that this film is now part of "The Mummy" canon. Pissed off that I paid money to see one of the worst films of the year.


At 8/05/2008 10:51 PM, Anonymous yay movies said...

Sounds like Tomb of the Dragon Emperor met everyone's expectations... Brendan Frasier tries too hard to act, so you can tell he's acting


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