‘Mummy’ Not Worth Reawakening

by Ian T. McFarland on August 1, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
  • IMDB: link

Hollywood is always trying to reinvent and repackage the same movies, like Indiana Jones, over and over again.  It’s partially forgivable because the formula is a great one that, even when it gives out to tired premises and homages, can yield some decent thrills.  But on the flip side are movies like The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor that fail to create a single thrill.

It’s been ten years since the events of the last ‘Mummy’ installment – ten years during which main characters Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evie (Maria Bello, replacing a Rachel Weisz who wasn’t interested in returning) have miraculously not seemed to have aged at all.  They’ve given up the risk of their adventures in putting down ancient Egyptian pharoh Imhotep, deciding instead to live off of the riches made from Evie’s semi-autobiographical novels called ‘The Mummy’ and ‘The Mummy Returns’ (what, no ‘The Scorpion King?’)

They won’t say it aloud, but they’re itching to get out of retirement.  So when they’re asked to escort a rare diamond to China, they jump at the chance – because we all know how dangerous it is to travel on assignment from the government.  Little does anyone (except the audience) realize, it ends up being really dangerous, what with a Chinese government hell-bent on gaining outrageous amounts of power (why does that sound familliar? …), a trio of super-friendly yeti, and Jet Li as an Immortal Emperor that was somehow killed long ago, and is now brought back to life.

The First two pictures, The Mummy and The Mummy Returns weren’t much more than silly popcorn film fare – but at least they were entertaining.  Stephen Sommers, who helmed those two films before leaving directing duties on part three to xXx– and Stealth-mastermind Rob Cohen, is known for outragiously mindless fare like Van Helsing; but at the same time Sommers is always able to put out fun product.  Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is as much fun as a Nickelback concert that lasts five hours.

Cohen is just another director in Hollywood that, despite having recieved multiple budgets of over $100 million, has no idea how to assemble a proper action film.  Instead of actually employing proven methods of filmmaking, he just throws everything at you at once and gives you a split-second to take it all in.  It might work for kids with ADD, but how are we supposed to appreciate a film that refuses to give itself the time it needs to make itself work?  We give a lot of shit to Michael Bay for these kinds of antics, but at least Transformers kept my attention.  The entire running time of Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, I couldn’t help but wonder when the movie would ever end.  It is that pointless.

And while Cohen doesn’t have much to work with in terms of the script he’s been given; he clearly could have made a more enjoyable film if he simply had his priorities straight.  For one, he almost totally fumbles Fraser.  The actor is no Harrison Ford, but this sort of easy-going action fest is what he was born for.  Likable and charasmatic, Fraser can make any blockbuster leagues more watchable just by being himself.  But Cohen doesn’t give him a more than a few minutes’ worth of decent camera time through the entire in the two hour film.

Cohen also screws over his special effects artists.  They aren’t working technological wonders, but they do give us some badass monsters.  The three-headed dragon and Terra Cotta horses are a lot of fun to play with, not to mention the ridiculous and aforementioned Yetis that jump in at the last minute to help our heroes out in a battle of life and death.

It’s too bad The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor fails so miserably, because it brings down what was an otherwise strong summer of action movies.  What with Iron Man and Wanted.  Even The Crystal Skull haters out there have to admit it was entertaining.  Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, on the other hand, is going to go down in history as a joke.  If Universal had any hopes of the sequel reinvigorating the franchise, they’d better drop them fast.  I don’t know if we’re quite in Batman & Robin territory, but we’re damn close.

And speaking of Batman, you’d be better off if you just forgot this Mummy and saw The Dark Knight for the fourth time.

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