You were probably as surprised as I was when word got out that the third installment of The Mummy franchise was going to not only be in theaters, but also starred the aging martial arts superstar Jet Li. The dust and rust that eminates from this thrice-tried-and-true formulaic production makes it clear that the time has come for this “mummy” to go the King Tut and just rest.
Once again, Brenden Fraser must save the world after his now-18-year-old son Alexresurrects the Dragon Emperor Han (Li). Together with his wife, brother-in-law and a mystical century old sorceror named Zijuan, Rick O’Connell (Fraser) must fight evil and a really old and pissed off Terracotta Army.
After success of the first two Fraser starrers, 800 million dollars were grossed, but withTomb of the Dragon Emperor, the film comes off as D-minus grade movie and the seven-year long wait did little to reignite public interest in a once-popular concept. On the upside, though, the visuals may get a giggle and laugh from the kiddies, but it is a step down from the elaborate facial mapping of its predecessors.
Written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the minds behind Shanghai Noon andSmallville, the film leaves you wanting early on; with dreary family drama dialouge that offsets itself from the chaos surrounding the characters at times. Fraser returns with Maria Bello stepping into the vacated Rachel Weisz role of wife, Evelyn. Getting used to the domestic life seems bothersome to the former adventurer and quickly they jet-set to Shanghai, where they reunite with Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah) and risk-taking son, Alex (Luke Ford).
It’s almost as if The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a remake unto itself. You have the swarmy double crossing snake who looks to ride Han’s legendary coattails into the throngs of power, the “mystic” sage who has sworn an oath to protect the world from just this specific type of menace and a villain who can only be killed in one special way.
But just because you throw leftovers in the microwave, doesn’t make it a fresh meal. The stale setpieces strain to drum up that old magic and falls flat after the realization sets it that what has come before was oh, so much better. Director Rob Cohen, who gets more action out of automobiles insteads of mummies, misses the boat by shooting most of the action in medium closeups and provides a scant sense of proximity between characters. All this leads to minimum excitement for fans and foes, alike, it’s more incoherent than not.
The usually amped Tarzan-like, Fraser seems to hit-and-miss his mark, as he shares the spotlight with an overabundance of extras, er… I mean, co-stars. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a decrepid reimagining of its former self and hopefully now and forever it can remain entombed, never to ressurect itself again.