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Thursday, 24 July 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - Movie Review

Director: Rob Cohen
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah
Running Time: 112 minutes

Score: 6/10

This review from Billy Bob

Surprisingly, "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" isn't as bad as both its marketing and the long period without an installment suggested.

Despite a seven-year hiatus and the loss of one of its leads, the 'Mummy' franchise jumps right back into the action without many problems. It's willing to change up the story a bit, giving us a new Mummy character and setting as opposed to one featuring that Egyptian guy from the first two, but it also manages to retain all the things about the earlier films that made them popular - that is, a proper mix of action-adventure and a light-hearted tone.

Brendan Fraser is back as Rick O'Connell, the Indiana Jones-inspired hero from the original films, and by this point, he really has his character down. In fact, I think he was much more comfortable here than he was in the original films, maybe because he has improved as an actor over the past seven years, or maybe because he doesn't try to make his character any more than it should be, and it's a refreshing thing to see. Returning to the role of Jonathan Carnahan, Rick's brother-in-law, John Hannah is just as strong a source of humor (and in reality, that's all that his character is supposed to bring to the table) as he was in the past.

Which leads us to the big third member of the party: Rick's wife, Evelyn. As you may know, Rachel Weisz was the actor who portrayed her in the old films, but because she was unwilling to make a third film, they had to replace her, something that often has awkward results in movie franchises. However, I must say that Mario Bello truly rose to the occasion, capturing a nearly identical voice to Weisz's, and playing the part like she isn't new to it at all. And when we first see her character, a clever joke about feeling 'like a completely different person' eases the change. There is nothing about this trio that I could find any real faults in, and this helped make the film very enjoyable.

Another bonus to waiting seven years in between installments in our digital age brings another advantage to the film: much better special effects and action sequences. And believe me: this film definitely capitalizes on this, as both a chase sequence in China early on in the film (sorta reminiscent of the Shangahi sequence in 'The Temple of Doom') as well as the final battle at the Great Wall blow away any action sequences you saw in the first two movies. So in terms of action, you'll definitely get your fair dose of awesome effects. They definitely put that reported $175 million to good use.

Sadly, everything else about this movie doesn't begin to compare to the returning stars and the action sequences (luckily, these two components make up much of the film). The Mummy in this movie is played by Jet Li, who isn't at all as cool as one might hope he'd be (he's basically Jet Li's usual martial arts master, with some occasional superpowers thrown into the mix). The film crafts his story so similarly to the background story in the first 'Mummy' movie that there's even a point where the dialogue overlaps ('Nobody is to touch her'). It was disappointingly obvious that his story existed purely to create conflict for the protagonists and to set up some awesome action moments.

But the disappointments don't end there. Joining Rick, Evelyn, and Jonathan on their quest to stop the Mummy are Rick and Evelyn's son, Alex (Luke Ford), and an immortal woman named Lin (Isabella Leong) whose job is to protect the contents of the very tomb that Alex inadvertently helped bring back to life. These two characters form a romance along the way, setting up some great moments for both Fraser and Bello as their son's curious parents. The only problem is that these two lovers are played by some very weak actors, especially Lin. Alex comes across as more of a playboy than an adventurer (which doesn't make sense when characters comment on how much he reminds them of his father), and every time Lin spoke, my friend and I had a bit of trouble holding back the laughs.

Another problem the film faces is that some of the time, things just don't make sense. I won't get into details, but there is a scene where Lin calls upon some yeti-esquire creatures to help them fight the Mummy (who conveniently come in handy later on in ways that she couldn't have foretold), Lin speaks of giving away her immortality for Alex's love even though they have known each other for a day or two, and the characters continue to think that simply shooting a mummy with a gun will destroy him, even though past experience has been evidence enough that there's no use.

So while on one end we have a film bringing back three very enjoyable characters and upgrading the action sequences to fit modern-day standards, we also have a movie with a boring general plot, weak supporting characters, and a few too many 'WTF' moments. However, this is mindless summer entertainment, and you ultimately have to forgive such problems to an extent, as long as it delivers on the right levels, which this film does. It's much better than 'The Mummy Returns,' and just as enjoyable as the original. Even though there are a lot of things I would have changed, I can't say I was expecting it to turn out as well as it did.

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Anonymous said...

Sounds like Tomb of the Dragon Emperor met everyone's expectations... Brendan Frasier tries too hard to act, so you can tell he's acting