Several years have passed since "The Mummy" (1999) and "The Mummy Returns" (2001) had made decent box-office outings. The second sequel (arguably unneeded sequel) to the action-fantasy franchise has a different director at the helm, in the name of Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious). If the first two films were any indication, Stephen Sommers is indeed a good action director; he knows how to make the wide camera angle, doesn't rely on slow motion and how to make his actors look quite good. Rob Cohen also has a good resume, but you can tell that Sommers' absence was felt, but the film does have that Sommers‘ pace. (Sommers is present as producer)
Thousands of years ago, an evil emperor who has mastered the mystic arts have the malevolent intentions to take over the entire world. Betrayed by his general (Russell Wong), and cursed by the beauteous witch, Zi Yuan (Michelle Yeoh), the evil emperor was buried under the sands of time. Now awakened by an ambitious military leader (Anthony Wong), it is up to Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn O'Connell (Maria Bello), together with their all-grown up son Alex (Luke Ford) and the mysterious Lin (Hong Kong's own Isabella Leong) to try to stop the second rise of the evil emperor and his army. Here we go again….
The film's plot is very simple and feels like a rehash of the first two installments. The script by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar is mainly built around the action and is full of familiar plot elements that it offers no surprises. While it's not exactly a lost cause, since there are some new additions to the screenplay that helped it out--(the Tibetan CGI kindly Abominable Snowmen, subtle doses of humor, Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh) the film does lack a good dose of emotions. The father and son relationship offers nothing we haven't seen before, the bored "retired" adventurers gimmick, and the awakening of the two armies of the dead to oppose each other has been done numerous times.
The performances by the cast is good for the most part. Brendan Fraser is in familiar territory and Maria Bello (who takes over the sorely missed Rachel Weisz's role) does a convincing English woman. The two do have chemistry but they have so little to work with and they look too young and unconvincing to have a grown-up son. Speaking of chemistry, there are no sparks between Luke Ford and beauteous Isabella Leong, their time together onscreen falls flat. Leong is a capable actress (as proven in her Asian films) but her character is so severely underdeveloped along with Michelle Yeoh‘s. Which is such a pity since Lin and Zi Yuan are the most interesting characters in the film. This would be difficult to do, since they may steal the spotlight from Rick and Evy, but the film would have stayed aloft if their characters took on more than supporting roles. Jet Li had limited screen time but he does still have that charisma that catches your eye, Li can act and fit's the role of the emperor. However, to hamper the actors further, the dialogue of the film is VERY clichéd that it proved a little empty. I did say that there were subtle bits of humor that helped a little but I didn't say they were original.
Thankfully, the action sequences were nice to watch. The film has some nicely placed scenes of action, the shots are "spiffy" and the CGI effects, while not the best we've seen are quite good. Although the use of effects are somewhat clichéd also. Water and ice effects, wind and fire, there's even a nice looking three headed dragon and the snowmen, armies of the dead--all good but not groundbreaking. The fights were good but not great, this is the part that you feel that it was fluid enough but it could have been better. I missed Stephen Sommers even though Rob Cohen did a good job I think.
In closing, "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" is fun enough on the entertainment factor but it just feels a little flat. The action sequences were good but without the proper set up and emotions, the action felt like it was a simple excuse to delay the film's outcome. The film is so predictable that it throws its punches too soon and it overlooked several details that the story itself was also underdeveloped and full of holes. The film isn't as good or as entertaining as the first two films, but thankfully, it wasn't much, much worst.
Recommended with caution, rent it first [2 ½ +Stars]
Video/Audio: 2.35 ratio anamorphic widescreen. The picture is quite nice, although a bit soft on some scenes. Accurate colors and solid blacks make the transfer very attractive. The 5.1 Dolby digital track is strong and clear but it could have been stronger.
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