"You people are mummy magnets! -- Jonathan
There are a lot of people out there on the RevSF boards and other less important places who had problems with the last Mummy flick. I enjoyed it. The pulp-style action/adventure yarn is one of my favorite forms of entertainment, and both Mummy movies and The Scorpion King, were full of that pulpy goodness. I also have a great love of wuxia kung fu flicks, so when I saw that the The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was mixing the styles, I was hopeful I'd get the movie equivalent of a Reese's Cup. Or one of those chocolate oranges.
So here’s the skinny; the movie opens with a “long ago in China” story that’s similar to the “long ago in Egypt” bit from the first movie, but with Michelle Yeoh filling in for Oded Fehr. We learn about ancient sorceror Emperor Han (Jet “Hero” Li) who built the great wall, and was obsessed with defying death. So he found a witch who could cheat the reaper for him, which would be Yeoh.
One love triangle later, the general is dead, the witch stabbed and the Dragon Emperor and his army cursed into petrified undead mummydom. When are magic types going to learn a curse that stops their foes, instead of ones that give them near god-like powers when their victims are freed?
The movie flashes forward to post- WWII, where we catch up with Rick and Evelyn (Maria “filling in for Rachel Weisz” Bello) O’Connell trying to enjoy retirement. Rick’s not doing so well, and Evelyn’s written two books about her adventures with Imhotep.
Meanwhile, son Alex (Luke Ford) is now all grown up and pursuing the family business of archeology, trying to find the tomb of the title, and brother Johnathan runs a club in Shanghai. As in the last two flicks, Johnathan’s a welcome comic relief.
After plot complications involving rogue Chinese army officers, the Dragon Emperor is awakened, determined to regain control of China with his undead army.
M:TotDE borrows quite a few elements from the first two Mummy movies. But adding Chinese legends, along with some globetrotting to the Himalayas for fun with Yetis, keeps the movie from feeling like a retread. I hope if they continue this series, they stick with using other cultures' mummy-style legends.
I miss Weisz as Evelyn. Bello does a serviceable job, and I like seeing a movie couple that stays together, but I think she and the flick would have been better served with her playing a new love interest for Rick. Ford’s Alex is a chip off the old block, and Fraser was born to play strong-jawed pulp heroes. Li spends most of the movie as a CGI effect, but a much better one than The Rock's pathetic Scorpion King monster, while Yeoh delivers another top-notch performance.
The special effects are fantastic, and the final battle between two undead armies is a lot of fun. As a visual spectacle, the movie was worth my cash. I enjoyed how Emperor Han was cursed to be a clay pottery version of himself, and bits cracked and fell off, only to reform in a very cool fashion.
Once the flick gets going, the plot zips along, but not so fast that you don’t notice the rough spots. The two genres also don’t completely gel, adding to the uneven tone.
M:TotDE is like the other flicks in the series: flawed but fun. If you like wuxia flicks and/or ancient Chinese sorcerers, you’ll like this movie. While it’s not quite chocolate and peanut butter good, it’s a fun way to spend a late summer afternoon.