Have you ever had that one movie you remember liking as a kid but you can’t remember anything about it? For me, that wasn’t The Mummy (1999). Over the past week I decided to watch that very movie along with its two sequels because a good friend of mine was generous enough to buy them for me on Blu-Ray (Thank you, Brett!). I think The Mummy is absolute, crystallized perfection in terms of entertainment. Every aspect of the movie is expertly crafted and executed in a way that makes it a thrill from start to finish. The sequel, The Mummy Returns, while not as polished as the first movie was still fairly competent as an action movie. It may have more dated special effects and a more whimsical tone compared to the first movie but it’s still an entertaining watch with some great writing and action sequences. Now both of these movies sound like they would be perfect for their own write ups…so why am I talking about the third movie in the series, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.
Because this movie made me so unequivocally angry that I need to talk about it before I get a hemorrhage.
Before I decide to unleash the rage of a thousand suns onto a movie released over a decade ago, let me at least give the movie a few positive points. Brendan Fraser is good looking and his screaming is funny.
Now that that’s out of the way. The writing in this movie is akin to that of a saltine cracker.
One of the biggest strength of the first two Mummy films were that, while cliched, were filled with smart dialogue, witty humor, and evenly done pacing (the first movie especially). Tomb of the Dragon Emperor has almost NONE of these positive factors. The story jumps all over the place and can feel very disjointed and unfocused, especially since the main character roles are plot between Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his son Alex (Luke Ford). Neither of them really get a chance to shine and their subplots never really get a full resolution, or even a chance to start in some cases. The humor as well doesn’t hit nearly as hard as the other two…at least not intentionally. Very few jokes have a hint of wit to them and sometimes even rely on gross out humor which is just…lazy for a film like that and EXTREMELY out of place. The story itself is fine I suppose but it relies heavily on exposition and very few of the characters really have a use outside of the lazy humor and lore dumps (that is ALL Isabelle Long’s character does). Overall the writing is just listless and dry, never really giving any true thrills and entertainment. Another thing the film does poorly is the special effects and BOY is it shocking how off they really are.
Now let me preface this by saying that the practical effects are FINE. Whenever there is actually action on screen it’s always well shot and has a lot of creativity, the car chase through China easily being a highlight, but the computer generated effects were ROUGH. The CG in this 2008 movie looks worse than the predecessor that was released in 2001. There are very few times were the CG actually blends in well with the live action footage and it constantly distracts from the action on screen. One notable effect was the Dragon Emperor’s transformation into a statue. Jet Li just get’s covered in goop, or clay or WHATEVER and the more it starts to bubble up the worse it starts to look, I can say the same thing about the characters death as well. Another effect I wanted to bring up were the Yetis that appear later in the movie and they look…just lovely.
They’re animated way too smoothly and never show any true weight of interaction with their environment. It’s a shame because a lot of the sets and locations really do look quite nice and bring a lot of personality to the movie but it’s used in service for fairly bland action set pieces and none of them really feel like they blend in together.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor barely resembles the films that came before it, both in tone and even sometimes appearance as Evelyn O’Connell’s original actress, Rachel Weisz, was replace with Maria Bello (who for the record is fine as the character, but it’s still worth noting). The actors and the team I know tried their best to make a decent movie but it just doesn’t really work on any level. It’s not smart, it’s not fun, and it’s barely entertaining.
I don’t like this movie.
Do not see this movie.