MUMMY, THE: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR
When, soon after the end of World War II, Alex (Luke Ford), the drop out son of explorer/archeologist/spy Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his wife Evelyn (Maria Bello) discovers the fabled tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Jet Li) in China - dead for thousands of years, along with his terracotta army - his adventure intersects with a new one for his parents. They are sent back from London on a dangerous mission to return a mystical diamond to Shanghai in a gesture of friendship. But the stone holds the key to the curse that can awaken the Dragon Emperor, put on him by Zi Yuan (Michelle Yeoh) after the Emperor killed her lover, General Ming Guo (Russell Wong). If the diamond falls into the wrong hands, it will be used to awaken the Emperor and set him free to overrun and oppress the world with the help of his 10,000 strong army and his superhuman powers.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The rich treasures of Chinese culture together with the ever-alluring concept of immortality offer an opportunity for the Mummy franchise to leave its Egyptian roots and head East. The ideas and the basic story elements are all powerful and dramatic, combined with spectacular locations and eyelash curling digital effects. The enormity of the production is impressive and the cast includes some highly talented thesps. But (and you could probably tell a but was coming ... ) something - or some things - went wrong in the writing and the execution.
There are some to-be-expected stabs at humour, some of which work, but many are thin and played for laugh, which sink, including misjudgements about pushing Brendan Fraser's performance to comic extremes. Director Rob Cohen seems to be ambivalent about the film's tone, aiming for comedic one minute, and dramatic the next, but not in a comfortable juxtaposition.
The often silly elements of the plot dilute the majesty of the Chinese culture which it traverses, and the childish nature of the magical elements dilute the film's appeal outside a narrow target audience of undemanding kids. The massive action sequences and stunts are also diluted by shooting them in such a blur as to make them a bit meaningless. If it weren't so lame, the film might trigger an angry reaction against its callous destruction of artefacts and cultural treasures with all its heavy-handed battles. Not to mention the oddly questionable gun culture that is the one thing shared lovingly by father and son O'Connell.
Review by Louise Keller:
I've really enjoyed The Mummy Franchise - until now. This latest special effects filled adventure tries so hard to impress by throwing every spectacular gee whizzery known to man, but forgets to pay attention to the most important thing - the story. Rachel Weisz wisely opted out of the project as Evelyn O'Connell, but when her replacement, Maria Bello, asks Brendan Fraser's Rick 'Any regrets darling?' I couldn't help feeling that Fraser must have had plenty. The film is a never-ending barrage of visual effects - some of them extraordinary, admittedly - but so relentless and uninvolving under Rob Cohen's direction that by the end, even the most amazing stunt becomes a bit of a yawn.
The film begins in 1946, 13 years after Stephen Sommers' 2001 sequel The Mummy Returns, when the youngest O'Connell was 8 years old. The plot? There's an ancient curse, a counter-curse, a sarcophagus holding secrets, a tyrant Emperor frozen in time with his terracotta army and an architectural dig in China. Key to the story is the exotic Eye of Shangri-La, a gold-snake enclosed diamond which Rick and Evelyn agree to deliver to Shanghai, when retirement in Oxfordshire becomes a bore. Everything is overplayed and lines like 'You guys are like Mummy magnets' grate. Fraser is allowed too few chances to inject his considerable appeal and Bello never fills Weisz' shoes. Jet Li looks as though he has stepped off the set of The Forbidden Kingdom as his Monkey King morphs into the evil Emperor Han, while John Hannah's Jonathan is blatantly irritating. The rest of the cast does as well as possible under the circumstances, but there is little more they can do than fit into the choreography of the numerous extravagant stunts, martial arts and wire work.
The ultimate spectacle of the returning to life of the Emperor and his army is made even more spectacular when armies of skeletons rise from the dead and fight. There is an avalanche, a massive fireworks explosion, a shoot out in the snow, giant yeti in the Himalayas, ice knives, dynamite, fireballs, a three-headed fire-breathing dragon, hand to hand combat and more. It's a pity the effort and dollars invested in the special effects were not matched by the script. May the Mummy Franchise rest in its crypt for eternity.
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MUMMY, THE: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR (M)
CAST: Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Michelle Yeoh, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Russell Wong, Liam Cunningham, David Calder
PRODUCER: Sean Daniel, Bob Ducsay, James Jacks, Stephen Sommers
DIRECTOR: Rob Cohen
SCRIPT: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Simon Duggan
EDITOR: Kelly Matsumoto, Joel Negron
MUSIC: Randy Edelman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nigel Pherps
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 11, 2008
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.