Wednesday, November 29, 2017
RECENT WATCHES: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)
a Rick O'Connell solo movie, presumably focusing on his pre-”Mummy” adventures. This project quickly morphed into a third “Mummy” movie. Stephen Sommers and Rachel Weisz both opted out but the project continued forward anyway, with “The Fast and the Furious” and “xXx's” Rob Cohen directing. “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” promised to relaunch the franchise. Well, the movie also made money but fans hated it, forcing Universal to put the Mummy on ice for ten years and finish this iteration of the franchise altogether.
Set thirteen years after the events of “The Mummy Returns,” Rick and Evey O'Connell are now retired from a career as World War II-era spies. Evie now writes romance novels based on their adventures while Rick, uneasily, settles into a domestic life. Their son, Alex, is now twenty and has grown into an adventurer himself. In China, he uncovers the tomb of the Dragon Emperor. The emperor built the Great Wall of China, mastered the five elements, and sought to become immortal but was cursed to become a deathless mummy instead. Naturally, a conspiracy awakens the Dragon Emperor, forcing the O'Connells to team up with the guardians of the emperor's tomb and save the world again.
Scripting-wise, “Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” is really no more or less silly or dumb than Sommers' “Mummy” films. The story is another lame MacGuffin chase that features successively bigger scenes of CGI-assisted action. There's even some conceptually fun ideas in the film. Such as Jet Li kicking a rocket into a trolley train. Some of the goofiness seems like a natural extension of the Chinese setting. Such as the field goal kicking yetis, the Terracotta soldiers, or the Dragon Emperor turning into both King Ghidorah and King Caesar. The execution of these ideas, however, leave something to be desire. As “The Mummy” trilogy went on, the CGI somehow got worst. The yetis look unnaturally light-weight. The Emperor's mummy form is stiff and doll-like. The various transformations are cartoonish. The army of good mummy soldiers that show up at the end look like Playstation 2 era cut scenes. How does a movie made in 1999 have better digital effects than a movie made in 2007? The mind baffles.
Expanding the “Mummy” franchise past Egypt is kind of a neat idea. This one covers China. The final scene promises a fourth adventure in Central America. You can envision a further sequel inspired by the bog mummies of Europe. Sadly, “Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” is a trite, weary affair. None of the cast members want to be there. The script is lame. The effects are terrible and the action is a mess. The sequel provides further proof that some things – evil mummies, over-the-hill action franchises – should stay dead. [5/10]