The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Directed by Rob Cohen
Starring Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, Luke Ford, Michelle Yeoh
Universal Home Entertainment
Release date: December 16, 2008
I admit it – I’m a Brendan Fraser apologist. What can I say? I like the guy. He’s just so damn… likable! I can watch him in pretty much anything and enjoy it. School Ties – Check. Monkeybone – Check. Blast from the Past – Check. George of the Jungle – Check. Encino Man – Guilty. So I look back on the release of The Mummy with fond memories. It was a funny, adventurous rollicking old-school action flick that remembered what made such films work — it was fun. And Fraser captured that sense of “gee whiz” fun playing Rick O’Connell. When The Mummy Returns came out it was disappointing, but not awful. It felt more like an excuse to try to set up a franchise for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson than it legitimate continuation of the series.
So it was with a healthy dose of skepticism that I popped in the Blu-ray of the newest entry into this series — The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. And all I can say is – Brendan Fraser tried. He really, really tried… and I’m sure he’s sorry.
There is so much wring with this flick that I almost don’t know where to start.
Since it’s a Blu-ray, I might as well start with how the movie looks. The Blu-ray format, as usual, doesn’t disappoint. The transfer is crisp, clean, and the colors really pop. Unfortunately, that only serves to point out the myriad of bad CGI throughout the movie. If there’s one thing Blu-ray does, it points out every visual miscue in a movie. For further proof, just check out the Blu-ray of Spider-Man 3. Ugh… it’s painful. Honestly, I went back and popped in my regular DVD of The Mummy because I was convinced that the visual effects in that film were better than in this one. And I was right. How does a movie released in 1999 have better visual effects than a film in the same series that was released in 2008?
But that’s not the only problem with the film. Actress Rachel Weisz does not reprise her role as Rick’s wife Evelyn (smart move, Rachel). Instead, she is replaced by the lovely Maria Bello, who I typically adore. Unfortunately, she’s horribly miscast here. Vocally, her Weisz impression ain’t half-bad. But from the moment they introduce her — which was actually fairly clever — she just feels out of place. She doesn’t have the bookish, almost nerdy beauty that Weisz brought to the character. She’s gorgeous, don’t get me wrong. But it’s a different style of gorgeous that simply doesn’t work.
Then there’s Alex O’Connell, the son of Rick and Evelyn. In the second film, he was a precocious young lad with a knack for getting into trouble. In this film, he’s a 20-something ass-hat with a knack for getting into trouble. One of the biggest issues with Alex’ character is that you never — not for 1 second — can believe that the O’Connell’s have a son this old. When he’s together with Fraser, it seems more like they’re brothers than father and son. Again, Fraser tries his best, but he’s given nothing to work with.
The story… dear lord, the story. I applaud the effort to try to breath new life (no pun intended) into the mummy genre by switching from the a-typical Egyptian mummy to a mummy of a different sort from the Far East, played by Jet Li. Unfortunately, the idea never really holds up. It feels like an a-typical mummy story in every way except for the mummy itself. And that’s a pretty big fundamental problem.
My last, and biggest, gripe with the film is the way the humor is handled. In the original film the humor felt very organic. The filmmakers placed the humor on the shoulders of Fraser and Weisz and allowed the situations to be humorous without shoe-horning hammy lines on them. Not so here. Within the first 30 minutes, there are countless cheap one-liners about the O’Connells being “mummy magnets.” Groan…
And now, simply because I have to, I’ll go through the Special Features…
DVD Bonus Features
“The Dragon Emperor’s Challenge” is an interactive trivia game featuring trivia from all of the Mummy films. And similarly, “Know Your Mummy” is a series of trivia, photos, and film clips from all of the Mummy movies showing the connections between them all. Really? Are there people out there that love this series that much? I doubt it…
We also get the requisite “Making of…” documentaries, looking into how Fraser and Jet Li prepared for the physicality of their roles, and looks into the crap-tastic visual effects.
In all honesty, it’s so hard to get into the special features for a flick you just don’t dig… especially when it’s a flick you really wanted to dig but just can’t.
But I don’t hold any of this against Brendan Fraser. The guy seems hell-bent on bringing fun, family-oriented adventure films back to the big screen. And who can’t respect that? Now he just needs to find a script for a good one! But until that day, I’ll keep apologizing for him…
Get The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor 2-disc blu-ray edition on sale now for $25.99 (down from $39.99).