Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

directed by Rob Cohen

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor poster  
In ancient China they had style, so China is the obvious choice of setting for the third instalment of The Mummy, now that Egypt is looking a little passé. The film opens with the story of the powerful Emperor Han (Jet Li). He's the sort to crush his enemies and use their bones as the foundations of his buildings, including the Great Wall.

The emperor has power over the elements thanks to his mystics. He also controls legions of armies, has great wealth, and one of the largest empires in the then known world. But what to buy him for his birthday?

In fact there's only one thing Han wants, and that's immortality. He summons a witch who knows where the secret is kept, but ends up falling for her. In a cruel twist of fate he's embroiled in a love triangle, he's betrayed by his trusted general, harsh words are spoken, curses are flung, lovers are executed. It's more or less the start of The Mummy all over again, with some names changed.

Fast-forward to 1946 and Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) and his wife Evelyn (Maria Bello) are wealthy but bored, having sworn off treasure hunting and adventure. Unfortunately Rachel Weisz is no longer in Evelyn's role. Maria Bello makes a passable effort at the character's clipped English accent, but there's nothing like as much fire in the relationship between Evelyn and Rick.

Their son Alex (played by Luke Ford, who looks a little too old to be their 21 year old son) has skipped college to be on a dig in China, where he's on the verge of a significant discovery. That's if he can survive booby-trapped tombs and ninja assassins. Thanks to the machinations of some disaffected members of the Chinese military whose main concern is finding a way to make their country great again, they're soon trying to hold off ancient armies of mummified warriors.

Tomb of the Dragon Emperor doesn't hold back on fantastical effects and creatures. Firework explosions, shapeshifting into dragons and other beasts, zombies, yetis, and demonic-looking terracotta horses are just a few of the spectacles on offer. There are perhaps too many effects, because after a while it's as though they're put in to look impressive but they overwhelm rather than improve the story. And it's a story that needs all the help it can get.

Starting with an introduction that seems at best second-hand, the film goes through the motions like an old couple who have lost the spark. The jokes are tired, most of the fizz has gone, and we know exactly what to expect from the plot after the first 20 minutes or so. Lin (Isabella Leong), the new character and Alex's love interest in this film, may have some good moves. But there's not enough focus on these two characters to make their story compelling. Most of the other characters play fairly exaggerated caricatures, which would work much better if they were only funnier.

If all you're after is shooting, fighting and swinging action, not to mention the obligatory chase as someone hangs precariously from the bottom of a moving vehicle, then this film might suffice. Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is fun in a mindless way, but only just. It's time for this Indiana Jones imitator to retire in earnest.

Film Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Films


Classification: 12

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2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Rob Cohen

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