– Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Mummies have sure changed since the classic horror films. Before they were
just undead strongmen in bandages who stumbled forth with their hands spread
out before them.
However, the chills of the Karloff years are pretty tame in the new
millennium; therefore the newfangled mummy in The Mummy – Tomb of the
Dragon Emperor no longer has the steadily unwrapping bandages and the
vacant, mournful moans. Instead he is more of a clay-pot-sandman with super
powers – like the ability to burn things with his eyes, blow so hard that he
can slow a coming avalanche and change into a three-headed dragon.
mummies are no longer even Egyptian princes; for reasons not really explored
here, this mummy is a cursed Mandarin Chinese warlord.
I’ve got to admit right off the bat that I’ve never seen the two previous
Mummy movies (three if you count the spin-off The Scorpion King)
but I’ve always heard they were fun light entertainment – sort of like
Raiders of the Lost Ark Light.
Also, the film stars Brendan Fraser, who is as good at this kind of
old-fashioned filmmaking as anyone working in Hollywood today.
Perhaps it is just bad timing of The Mummy – Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
that it follows hot on the heels of another Fraser campy adventure – one
that is infinitely better, Journey to the Center of the Earth.
After that good-hearted and goofy performance in the bracing action
adventure, his stiff and humorless turn here as hero Rick O’Connell is
doubly disappointing. Fraser speaks with his voice lowered an octave so
that he sounds like Sylvester Stallone, an acting tick which is actively
distracting through the entire film.
Other fine actors brought in and wasted include Maria Bello, who affects a
good-but-bewildering aristocratic British accent
as Rick’s globe-trotting wife. Bello is a Philadelphia girl, so it always
feels put on. Bello does what she can with the
featherweight role, but frankly it is beneath her talent.
Asian superstars Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh turn up as the evil emperor and
the immortal sorceress that guards against his return to life. Li gets almost nothing
of substance to do but fight, though Yeoh does get a few heartfelt scenes
with her daughter.
Meanwhile, respected British actor John Hannah (Four Weddings and a
Funeral, Sliding Doors) is brought in to make bad comic relief
one-liners like “Hey you three-headed shape-shifting son of a bitch!” “The
yak yakked” and the immortal “My ass is on fire!”
movie starts with a way-too-complicated setup sequence and then is followed
by a steady stream of hammy-but-explosive action scenes. Some are very well
done, others are kind of ridiculous. (In one mountaintop battle, a Yeti
kicks an evil soldier over a gate as his fellow Yeti holds his two hands
straight up over his head. Are they suggesting that Yetis in 1940s China
are familiar with football officiating?)
the time you reach a battle royale between vast armies of clay
mummies and reincarnated skeletons, your patience for all the mumbo-jumbo
has pretty much reached an end.
There is certainly a place in the world for good light adventure, but The
Mummy 3 is way too light and not nearly good enough.
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: December 10, 2008.