What Universal proposed to be a revitalization of one of their most popular franchises, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor proved to be a huge miss for the studio, with critics coming down hard on the film and fans of the previous two all but disowning it. With a disappointing box office intake (although it more than doubled its budget when worldwide receipts are taken into account), the series is unlikely to be seeing a return to screens, despite an easy set up for the replacement of Fraser with his son as the budding adventurer in the family.
Brendan Fraser and Jet Li star in the action-packed adventure The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor! When a 2,000-year-old curse is broken, a ruthless dragon emperor (Li) comes back to life with a diabolical plan to enslave the world. Mankind’s only hope against him and his legions of undead warrior’s lies with the courageous O’Connell family, who chase him from the dangerous catacombs of China, to the icy Himalayas and beyond. Featuring intense battle sequences, breathtaking visual effects and extraordinary creatures, it’s a thrilling journey that Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times calls “the best in the series!”
There are two things wrong with the above synopsis block for this film. First is the use of the word “extraordinary creatures” line and also the remark by Ebert about the quality of this film. I’ve agreed with the man in the past, as well as disagreed with some of his feelings towards films I enjoyed, but never have I so vehemently disagreed with his take on this film. In no way is it remotely the “best” of the series, nor is it even that good of a movie to begin with. As a fan of the first film (the second film jumped the shark a wee bit too much for my tastes), I was deeply disappointed by the mess of a “story” that was assembled for this third film.
What disappointed me most about the film was that after watching it I realized the entire plot of the film, from beginning to end, was unveiled in the trailer for this film. Literally elements that the film started with and elements the film ended with were all but given to us already so by the time we saw the film we already knew exactly how it was going to end up. On top of the all of the witty dialogue was replaced with extremely corny retorts that were wasted on stupid characters or creatures. And creatures? Yeah, I had a big issue with that. While undead armies and mummies are believable in this universe, the sudden introduction of freakin’ yetis was absolutely ridiculous to me. How was that a logical leap for this series? There are certain boundaries you have to respect when it comes to fantasy films and when it comes to abominable snowmen, I draw the line there. It was bad enough they aided hour heroes, but when we saw two of them carrying Rick on a stretcher after being injured, I wanted to shut the film off. On top of all of this the visuals of the yetis was absolutely horrible, as the CGI looked like something plausible for a cartoon and not a live-action film.
Jet Li was also a horrible waste in this film, as aside from the quick opening and short return in the final act of the film, his role in this film was relegated to a terra cotta statue that controlled the earth, wind, and fire. He’s an utterly ridiculous mummy and one that is wholly unbelievable and seeing Jet Li and co-star Michelle Yeoh perform some martial arts out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon left me more than underwhelmed. Everything about this film seemed to be a huge waste to me and none of it was remotely believable—which his fine if the film is at least enjoyable, but there was nothing redeeming about this film.
Also making a return from The Mummy Returns was the unbelievable scenario of Rick and Evelyn being parents. Maria Bello’s replacement of Rachel Weisz wasn’t entirely horrible, as she retained some of the characters qualities, but for the most part she and Fraser didn’t have the same believable chemistry, something that he and Weisz built up over two films. In addition they were about as kind and loving towards their son as friends are with one another, with Evelyn asking Alex about his sex life and Rick and Alex getting into a not-so-subtle male-genitalia measuring contest (in the form of a discussion about guns). It’s a very disturbing few scenes to watch, needless to say.
The film is a series of mindless action sequences strung very loosely together by a plot that makes little sense and contains little of value. The only genuine laugh comes from Jonathan at the end of the film when he remarks he’s moving to Peru where there are no mummies, upon which the film places text over the screen that states that mummies were discovered in Peru a year later. I chuckled at that, but aside from that my jaw hung agape at the stupidity of this film and how much of a disappointing expedition it was. Fraser was, as always, the highlight of the films as his performance as O’Connell remains the only thing connecting this film to the past two. The inclusion of Evelyn’s brother Jonathan doesn’t even help, as he plays a seemingly goofier version of himself from the previous outings.
Overall this movie is easy to Skip. Even if you’re a fan of the series, I’d recommend not even renting it, as there’s nothing worth seeing here and your money and time would be better spent on something else.
Universal is bringing the third entry into the series to Blu-ray in a two-disc set (with the second disc housing some extras as well as the digital copy). The standard Blu-ray case is complimented by an embossed foil slipcover and inserts inside including a User Guide and digital copy redemption code. Menus for the film follow the studios “blade” menu system, while the second disc, a standard DVD, sports a generic and easy to navigate menu setup.
There are a few positive things to note about this film. The first is that the AVC encoded 2.40:1 1080p transfer looks quite nice. There is plenty of detail housed in the sequences and there isn’t a dull looking frame in the bunch. The Himalaya sequence in particular is nice to watch, with the vibrant whites flooding the screen as the explosions and action providing an array of colors against the stark backdrop. Of course the yeti’s are also in that sequence, so there’s that to contend with. Overall it’s a solid transfer and any issues I had with the film certainly didn’t stem from this video or the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio which is equally as impressive as the video. Audio pours out of every one of the speakers throughout the duration of the film and it’s almost fun to watch just to see and listen to it, until you realize that there’s really not much of a plot unfolding before your eyes. Also available are Spanish and French DTS5.1 and English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles.
The extras start on the first disc and we first get to see a Visual Commentary with Director Rob Cohen. This is a particularly unexciting extra as we have to watch the man who created this mess talk about it for two hours. Normally I become more lenient upon a film after hearing the director talk about it or watch some of the extras, but Cohen seems intent focusing on only the positive here and seems to genuinely enjoy this film he made, every sordid action shot and corny line of dialogue included.
Moving onto the other extras we have a round of Deleted and Extended Scenes (10:45, SD), as well as the usual The Making of (22:49, 1080i) which does a fair job showing how the film came together. From City to Desert (15:44, 1080i) shows off the films shooting locations and Legacy of the Terra Cotta (13:35, 1080i) provides some back story to the legend in the film. You may find it funny, as I did, that this thirteen minute extra focuses more on the myths and history of the elements in the film more than the actual film itself did. Rounding out the first disc is a series of Blu-ray extras which include a trivia game you can play as you watch, a Know Your Mummy log acts as a database of information and includes elements that connect the three films, and finally a Scene Explorer that allows you to see the action on-screen in up to four different perspectives.
Disc two holds the reminder of our extras, which seem to focus more on the villain side of things. A Call to Action: The Casting Process (4:45) dials in on who they cast and why for this film, while Preparing for Battle with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li (10:41) focuses on our two stars. Jet Li: Crafting the Emperor Mummy (8:00) shows the martial arts legend preparing for his role and Creating New and Supernatural Worlds (8:35) showcases the various worlds used for this film.
Overall it’s a solid amount of extras and the Blu-ray transfers for this film, both audio and video, are definitely easy on the eyes and ears, but I still can’t really recommend this release solely because the movie itself sucks. The extras would be worth watching only if you enjoyed the film, so with that in mind I’m going to have to tag this one as something you should Skip as well.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on December 16th.