The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
by Laura Tucker
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With a whole new mummy to fight, Brendan Fraser is back with the third in The Mummy series, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. This time, he’s not fighting the mummies in Egypt but in China. Despite having a shot at some great historical references from Ancient China, the writing in this film misses the boat a few times, especially with the dialogue, but still comes out ahead as a fun flick with some great action and CGI.
It’s 1946 in Oxfordshire, England, and Fraser’s Rick O’Connell is retired from mummy-searching and living at home in his mansion, doing things like fly-fishing—and not with much success, either, as he ends up getting out his gun and shooting the fish. Wife Evelyn has changed throughout the years from Rachel Weisz to Maria Bello. She has a few successful Mummy books under her belt but suffers writer’s block without any real mummy adventures to draw from.
While his parents are looking for more of an exciting life, the O’Connells’ son, Alex (Luke Ford), who has aged in the past few years to a college kid, appears in China, trying to break into the family trade, searching for a mummy. He fends off a ninja, finding the entombed Dragon Emperor of China, and brings him back to Shanghai. His parents have been asked to work the mummy circuit one last time, to deliver the Eye of Shangri-La to Shanghai. They decide to do one last caper.
The story is told of Ancient China being torn by civil war, and one king with an ambition to be the emperor, Han (Jet Li), using his control of the five elements. The assassins that attempted to kill him were forced to build the Great Wall, then buried beneath it. The only enemy he couldn’t fight was death, and he enlisted the help of a witch (Michelle Yeoh) to cast a spell of immortality. The spell was in a Sanskrit Emperor Han didn’t know, so he didn’t realize she cast a spell on him turning him and his army to clay. Once he cheated her on their original deal, he and his army turned to clay and China was free from his rule once again.
The O’Connells are surprised to see Alex in Shanghai, instead of away at college. It turns out they have been brought there on their separate missions by a current army general who wishes to resurrect General Han and his army to enforce his rule. The Eye of Shangri-La will point the way to immortality to have General Han finally get his lifelong wish of immortality. It ends up being Old Home Week around there as Evelyn’s brother Jonathan (played again by John Hannah) shows up as the owner of a local nightclub and gets involved in the mix.
With this great back story of the Terra Cotta Army, this film had the tools for a great story. Interestingly, a king turned to stone was also mentioned in the backstory of the earlier 2008 film for Jet Li, The Forbidden Kingdom, which made much better use of the story with much better writing. The story of Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is good, but the dialogue, at times, leaves much to be desired. While it makes the best use ever of a yak yacking, it also includes the most mundane of dialogue. Brendan Fraser can pull off the lines and make them work, but Luke Ford doesn’t seem to have the acting talent to do so.
Regardless of the writing, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is still filled with some great action sequences. There is one towards the end of the first third of the film or so, which involves a chase through the streets of Shanghai during the Chinese New Year celebration. It was so spectacular, I wondered if we were close to the end. I won’t give away the ending, but the CGI in the big battle at the end is just amazing and definitely makes the film worth seeing, with or without the supporting dialogue.
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