Reel Shorts | The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

1 08 2008

With all of the big movies that have been released this summer, “The Mummy” franchise has flown far below the radar. Returning to this character for the first time in seven years, the rust is apparent in this Indiana Jones-lite adventure, “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”

Much like the story-telling device used in “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army,” this film begins with an ancient fable showing the rise of ruler Han Emperor (Jet Li). After vanquishing his enemies and mastering the elements of the universe, the ambitious Emperor seeks to master death. When he fails to keep his promise, a sorceress (Michelle Yeoh) places a curse on him and his army placing him in suspended animation for all of eternity.

Fast forward two centuries and young archeologist, Alex O’Connell is leading an expedition in search of the disposed Emperor’s tomb. Without his knowledge he discovers that he has been double-crossed, used to find the location so that his adversaries can attempt to raise the Emperor from the dead and restore him to power.

Now retired and growing restless, former explorer Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) now spends quiet time alone with his wife (Maria Bello). The two are offered an opportunity to for one last mission and wouldn’t you know that they would cross paths with their son – who just happens to need their help.

Before very long the group is off on the ultimate family adventure which will have them doing battle with the undead, abominable snowmen and other evil forces.

Borrowing the tone of “Indiana Jones” coupled with a story that resembles the plot of “Hellboy 2” featuring a tiny sprinkle of “Casablanca,” this film is nothing but “the raiders of the lost art.” (Side note: For goodness sake, would someone tell the film’s producers that it would have been nice to have an actual mummy in a film with the name in the title. An emperor encased in stone is not a mummy – I’m just saying!)

Who would have guessed at the beginning of the summer that Fraser’s best film would be “Journey to the Center of the Earth?” While he is not the greatest actor in the world, even he needs SOMETHING to work with. This unimaginative, tired, boring tale is the ultimate “popbore” movie that made me wonder other than another payday why this film was made in the first place.

The major problem with this film is not just that Li is so much more compelling than Fraser, but that Li is almost typecast playing a character that by this stage in his career he could almost play in his sleep. As much as I like and respect Li as the ultimate wuxia artist, he is now three years into his “retirement” from making martial arts films. As popular as he is in his country, is the ONLY actor that can play these roles? Even the always-brilliant Yeoh’s talents are wasted in this overly familiar action-less adventure.

In short, the producers of this franchise should just . . . STOP IT! After two films, even former co-star Rachel Weitz elected not to come back for a third go around. Take that as a sign that if you won’t save your money at least save your time. Here’s hoping that this film lives in suspended animation only to be resurrected in another 2,000 years to put another unsuspecting audience to sleep in the future.

Grade: D




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