Well, where to begin? The Mummy was a solid action adventure flick with great special effects for its day. The Mummy Returns, while cheesy, was very entertaining and also featured good effects. Overall, I enjoyed both these films, which is why I'm trying to figure out the best way to describe how they dropped the ball in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
Simply put, while it does have a few entertaining moments, this is a film that should never have been made.
If I had to put my finger on the biggest problem facing the film, it'd have the be the cast, and their complete lack of chemistry with one another, coupled with a weak script that gives them nothing to play off of. I honestly found Brendan Fraser's dry sarcasim funny in the previous films, but really, the man didn't have much to work with here, which is too bad.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor begins with the O'Connell's in retirement, trying to enjoy a quiet, normal life while their son, Alex (Luke Ford), is off in China digging around for the tomb of the fabled Emperor Han (Jet Li), who was cursed and imprisoned with his army long ago.
Right off the film tries to be funny with silly gags and one liners that are just executed poorly, and the lack of any charisma between Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn O'Connell (Maria Bello) really doesn't help much. Ultimately the O'Connell's come out of retirement to bring a priceless artifact back to China on behalf of the British government, and to visit their son, and even after Han comes back to (un) life, the film is just a bunch of wild chase and effect sequences with no substance or plot behind them.
One of the great things about the previous films was Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) himself. He was a villain that had presence and a sense of purpose as he went about his nefarious schemes. Emperor Han, on the other hand, is the basic "must crush, kill, destroy" kind of villain, who also happens to know kung fu. He can also conveniently shape shift, 'cause he's special that way.
Which leads me to the special effects. The Mummy and its sequel are films known for great special effects, but the CGI featured in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor feels much lower budget. The creatures aren't believable, and they have a slight cartoonish feel to them, which really kills any chance for immersion. There are also Yeti allies. That's right, abominable snowmen who help the good guys smash the bad guys, and they're just done poorly. It's one of those classic film moments where you groan and wonder what the hell the director's thinking, you know, like watching the works of Lucas and Speilberg (sorry, I couldn't resist).
Let's put it this way, once the Yeti come into action (and what is it with action adventure flicks and poorly executed CGI animal minions this year?), you're not gonna care about the film except to laugh at everything it's doing wrong. Yeah, it's that bad.
The O'Connell's, and a few of their side kicks of course, set out to stop and kill Han, so they travel to this place and that with silly gags thrown in, including a really poorly done puppet yak that likes to yak (as in hurl).
There is a hilarious massive battle sequence at the end where two undead armies fight,
I'm going to keep this short and brief since there's really not much good I can say about the film:
- Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh) and Lin (Isabella Leong) are gorgeous.
- Everything else.
If you're a fan of the series, I still recommend you just watch the trailer now and wait for a DVD rental at least, as The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a film better left buried beneath the sands. You won't find anything special in the film that isn't shown in the free online trailer.