Directed by: Rob Cohen
Starring: Brendan Frasier, John Hannah, Maria Bello, Jet Li, Michelle Yeoh, Isabella Leong, Luke Ford
Rated: PG-13 for adventure action and violence.
Parental Notes: The violence here is mostly cartoonish, offscreen, or against undead characters. This film is lighthearted and probably fine for preteens and kids who aren’t afraid of mummies, zombies, or similar monsters.
“The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” has exactly three major things in common with the first two Mummy films: the villain is a dessicated corpse, Brendan Fraser is in it as Rick O’Connell, and John Hannah is in it as Jonathan Carnahan. That’s it. New director, new location, new writers, new location, new villain, even a new actress as Rick’s wife Evie (Maria Bello, who is lovely but doesn’t quite nail the character).
It’s not a bad movie, it’s just not exactly good, either. Like 2006’s “Snakes on a Plane,” this is a movie where you can tell from the title if you’ll like it or not. If “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” is a title that makes you think, “awesome!”, go see it. If not, you should probably skip it.
It’s been some years since the events of the last film, and Rick and Evie are in retirement. Evie is writing books loosely based on their adventures and Rick is trying (and failing) to learn to fly-fish. The quiet really doesn’t suit either of them, and it doesn’t take much to get them out of retirement on a mission for the government, taking a priceless relic to China.
Meanwhile, Rick and Evie’s son Alex (Luke Ford) has dropped out of college yet again and gone on an archaeological dig. He finds the tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Jet Li), an ancient warlord who conquered all of Asia before he and his massive army were put under a curse. Some baddies force Rick and Evie to help them wake him (a process which involves the aforementioned priceless relic), and soon the undead emperor is off looking for an elixir to return him to his proper immortal state so he can revive his army and conquer the world. Rick, Evie, Alex, Jonathan, and a mysterious Chinese gal named Lin (Isabella Leong) team up to stop him.
The film is full of awesome special effects shots and some good martial arts sequences. There’s a scene involving two undead armies facing off which is fairly impressive — giant computer-generated armies are becoming rather commonplace, but this face-off between some half-disintegrated zombies and an army of cracking terra-cotta warriors is a rather new application of the technology.
Li and Michelle Yeoh (she plays the witch who cursed the emperor when he went back on a promise to her) do great jobs of being awesome, and Hannah and Fraser are as amusing as they can be with the mediocre script. Bello has big shoes to fill, replacing the wonderful Rachel Weisz as adventurous librarian Evie. She does her best, but fans of the first two movies may find her performance lacks the spark Weisz brought to the character.
“The Mummy” was better than “The Mummy Returns,” which in turn was better than “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.” The franchise’s slide is continuing. If you’re a big fan of any of the actors or of mummies in general it’s probably worth seeing, but otherwise, save your money.