Making the first two Mummy films seem like The Godfather I and II, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor finds undead-vanquishing adventurer Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and wife Evelyn (Maria Bello, cheerily assuming Rachel Weisz’s role and British accent) being shaken out of bored post-WWII domesticity by the resurrection of an ancient Chinese emperor (Jet Li) with designs to become immortal (via Shangri-La’s pool of eternal life) and conquer the world. Failing to rebound from the atrocious Stealth, director Rob Cohen’s third installment in this Indiana Jones-knock-off franchise features plenty of borrowed elements from that Spielberg-Lucas saga, such as a Shanghai nightclub sequence, harrowing airplane adventures in Eastern mountain ranges, people dangling from rope bridges, and primary characters staving off death thanks to fabled elixirs. Yet it’s the film’s original elements that prove truly ruinous, including but not limited to O’Connell and Bello’s cartoony banter, O’Connell’s preposterous paternal rapport with an adult son (Luke Ford’s Alex) who looks to be about 10 years his junior, Alex’s corny romance with an immortal assassin babe (Isabella Leong), the emperor’s irrational use of his shape-shifting powers, and every single word uttered by Evelyn’s campy brother Jonathan (John Hannah), most egregiously those directed at a barfing yak. And did I mention the Abominable Snowmen, who help Rick, Evelyn and Alex combat Li’s revived baddie and, after kicking one of the emperor’s many minions over a Himalayan gateway, victoriously raise their arms like an NFL referee signaling that a field goal is good? Attempting to wrap one’s brain around that insanely illogical-on-every-level sight is futile, as is trying to make heads or tails of Cohen’s borderline-unwatchable action sequences, which feature enough computer-generated effects, noise, spastic camera movement and groan-worthy quips to line the Great Wall of China. That legendary structure figures into the story’s finale, but the only history of concern here is the ignominious type being made by Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which—after the high watermarks of WALL-E, Hellboy II and The Dark Knight—returns the summer movie season to its customarily crummy, empty-headed, disposable comfort zone.
- Rob Cohen
- Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
- Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Michelle Yeoh, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
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