Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Movie Review: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Ever since George Lucas gave us Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, Hollywood has been spawning imitators to capitalize of it's success. Probably the most obvious example has the been The Mummy, a loose remake of Boris Karloff's 1932 horror film of the same name. Released in 1999, the film was successful enough to give birth to a line of sequels, the latest which is The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

The film begins with the usual prologue, chronicling the deeds of the first emperor of a china (Jet Li), a tyranical ruler with supernatural powers, who nearly conquered the ancient world. In his quest for immortality, he ended up cursed, but supposedly lies entombed, ready to rise again with his terracotta army and conquer the world. Fast foreward to 1946, in London, where the protagonists of the series, Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his wife Evelyn (Maria Bello), have retired from archaeology. Meanwhile their estranged son Alex (Luke Ford), uncovers the tomb of the evil Chinese emperor, who, of course, is awakened. With the help of the sorceress (Michelle Yoeh) who cursed the emperor, the O'Connell family must band together to once again take down an powerful undead bent of world domination.

The Pros: As the trailers clearly show, the main selling point here is the special effects. They're not anything revolutionary, but there sure are a lot of them. They pour on CGI like it's going out of style. The title villian alone is capable of supplying most of the oohs and aahs, shape-shifting into mythical creatures and maniuplating the elements (fire, water, earth, etc.) on a spectacular scale. Add in kung fu-fighting Yeti, the lost kindgom of Shangri-la, and a massive battle between zombies and stone warriors, and you've got one cool-looking movie. And it was definately a treat for Hong Kong martial arts fans to see Jet Li and Michelle Yoeh go toe-to-toe, even if it was a very short fight.

The Cons: When I said the special effects were the main selling point of this movie, I meant they were the only selling point. The Mummy films have always been pretty mindless popcorn movies, focusing on cheap thrills and cool effects, instead of characterization or storytelling, but they at least has some sort of plot. This has none. They put absolutely no stock in the characters or story, hoping the CGI thrillride will compensate. All the dialogue is either overused or simply poor; all the jokes fall flat. The acting is is boring and utterly forgettable. Even the returning cast has even less personality than before. This is compounded by the fact that Rachel Weisz, one of the few bright spots of the previous films, has been replaced by the more mediocre Maria Bello. The logic of the film falls flat too, especially since the villian doesn't qualify as a mummy at all. And Jet Li may be in this movie, but The Mummy Returns had more martial arts than this.

The End: Is this a good movie? No, absolutely not. Is this a fun movie? As a cheap popcorn summer movie? It'll do. Indiana Jones this ain't, but as a summer movie it provides decent excitement. It won't win any awards, but it'll give your money's worth, as long as you don't spend or expect too much. Like it or not, The Mummy's going to be around awhile, since it seems to cast is already under contract for a fourth installment in the franchise.

Overall, I rate The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor as a 5 out of 10.

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