Movie Review: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

I don’t remember ever seeing a movie driven by so much cause and effect as The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. This film is inspired by the idea that a group of people should get in trouble over and over again and the only goal of the project is to get them out of said trouble until we all live happily ever after. Then, of course, there is always the argument that replacing a principle actor in the franchise is a distracting move, but it is typically a move we can live with (Maggie Gyllenhaal replacing Katie Holmes in The Dark Knight). However, it looks as if Maria Bello set out to prove that Rachel Weisz is damn near irreplaceable as she does her absolute best to distract you at every turn. If it isn’t her terrible English accent it’s her inability to seem genuine at any moment in the film.

I have said over and over again that I am a fan of the first two Mummy films. I enjoy them for what they are (popcorn trash), but don’t deny that they are flat-out stupid movies of which I can understand anyone not liking. I do think The Scorpion King is downright awful and it should have been the end-all of this franchise, especially when hack writer/director Stephen Sommers turned it down to make one of the worst movies of all-time, Van Helsing. Strangely enough, while Tomb of the Dragon Emperor isn’t as bad as Van Helsing, it makes the first two movies look like experiments in intellectual advancement.

Supposedly set in 1946, 13 years since the last Mummy adventure, we learn there is a Chinese general leading a small faction in an effort to bring back to life a 2,000-year-old Emperor (Jet Li) with the idea of global domination. Rick and Evelyn O’Connell (Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello) are unknowingly brought into the scenario as their son Alex (Luke Ford) just happens to be the one who uncovers the cursed mummy. Through a series of events the Emperor is brought back to life and brings to life his ancient Terra Cotta army with plans for global domination. His motto is become his slave or die. Strangely the general that brought him back to life is cool with this subservient lifestyle.

If you have seen a trailer you have seen it all, you just don’t know how coincidentally everything fits into the plot. What’s that, you need to get to Shangri-La in the Himalayas? Well, did you call on your friends the Abominable Snowmen (Yeti) yet? Dummy! You say the Emperor has an army of clay soldiers? Did you awaken the dead people buried beneath the Great Wall of China to help you yet? Well get on it!

A lot of Tomb of the Dragon Emperor could have been fun, but it all seems so uninspired. The trailer gives every single special effect away, but nevertheless those effects could have been dazzling if their reason to exist wasn’t so boring. Director Rob Cohen even manages to make a fight scene between Michelle Yeoh and Jet Li look tame. Quick cuts and no shot lasting more than a couple of seconds make the two seem slow and immobile, despite the fact they are two of the most dynamic on screen martial artists I have ever seen.

In terms of acting I know American actors are probably getting upset so many English actors are getting cast in American roles, but that is no reason to try the reverse and throw someone into a role that has no reason even auditioning. Maria Bello is a fantastic actress, but her English accent is so bad and she has so many lines of shitty dialogue in this movie you can’t help but hate it every time she opens her mouth. Midway through the movie you find yourself laughing at her performance as it comes off more as a spoof than anything legitimate. And Luke Ford as the O’Connells’ son Alex is about as cheesy and over-dramatic as they come and the script did no one any favors.

Rob Cohen may have finally proven he hit his niche with The Fast and the Furious and anything outside of fast neon painted Hondas is beyond his limits. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor should have never been made. It adds nothing to a franchise that was dead several years ago and should have stayed that way.


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