The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is an all-action, all-adventure epic that races from ancient China to neon-lit Shanghai and high into the frozen Himalayas. Brendan Fraser returns as mummy-battling explorer Rick O’Connell, joined in this allnew adventure by son Alex (newcomer Luke Ford), wife Evelyn (Maria Bello) and her brother, Jonathan (John Hannah). The O’Connells must combat their deadliest enemy yet: a resurrected Emperor (Jet Li) and his unstoppable legion of 10,000 warriors, woken from a 2,000 year-old curse and hungry for brutal world domination.
This Mummy might succeed… unless the O'Connells can stop him first!
The original Mummy series directed by Stephen Sommers were loud, fun, engaging and most of all, thrilling. In an attempt to milk the last drops out of the cash cow, Universal roped in Rob Cohen (Stealth, The Fast and the Furious) to revive the franchise after a seven years gap. The end result has none of the above mentioned merits with the exception of being a lot louder.
"The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" tries to duplicate the success formulas of the first two but failed miserably. More CG sets and explosions no longer are the ingredients needed to create a successful popcorn blockbuster. But for the casual viewers, Dragon Emperor should make the first viewing worthwhile. There are enough loud noises to numb your senses.
Written by the creators of Smallville, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" has the offspring of the O'Connells, Alex who unearth an ancient evil Emperor Qin (Jet Li) who is bent on dominating the world with the help from a General (Anthony Wong). The O'Connells, a mysterious sorceress Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh) and her daughter, Lin (Isabella Leong) must unite to destroy the cursed Emperor and his legion of undead warriors.
Theoretically, terracotta warriors are statues constructed to protect Emperor Qin in his afterlife but legend has it that real soldiers are buried beneath layers of clay which explained their life-like features. Perhaps this explains how Gough and Millar came up with this preposterous idea of having Chinese 'mummies' roam the earth.
On the other hand, when you have CG Yetis at your beck and call, the Chinese 'mummies' are nothing in comparison. Armed with a bland screenplay, Cohen's only solution is to up the stakes in the action and pryrotechnics department. The adrenalin begins to pump furiously with a frantic chase sequence on the streets of Shanghai to the Yeti rescue in the snowy Himalayas occasional stopping for some lacklustre dialogue exchanges between Alex and Lin/Rick and Evelyn Connell to the huge finale in the desert.
Brendan Fraser looks slightly less enthusiastic here as his original on-screen wife played by Rachel Weiz has been replaced by Maria Bello despite the latter’s best effort to build up the chemistry. Jet Li who appears in CG mummified form for most of the movie duration (and thoroughly wasted here) has a clumsily choreographed fight with Michelle Yeoh near the end. The only surprising thing is Isabella Leong’s near perfect English in her first Hollywood outing. Otherwise, the whole cast looks pretty much tired under Cohen’s uninventive directions.
There are over 10 minutes of Deleted and Extended Scenes with a bunch of them action-oriented and with all CG effects done. The last deleted scene will point to you where the next instalment is heading to if there’s one more.
The feature-length audio commentary with Director Rob Cohen is filled with production anecdotes and bits of Chinese history. Cohen in real-life is a fan of Chinese culture thus the interest in bringing the whole production team to China for the filming.
Trailers from upcoming Universal releases round up the Code 3 single-disc DVD.
Presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, the visual is endowed with a brownish outlook which could be done on purpose to go with the storyline. Overall, images look rich except for some very obvious CG sequences and backgrounds. Mentioned earlier, Dragon Emperor is best viewed with a loud, boisterous Dolby Digital 5.1 sound system. The ambient sound effects such as weapons/traps unlocking and battle sequences are some of the highlights.
Review by Linus Tee