Tuesday, 19 August 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor


Directed by: Rob Cohen
Screenplay: Alfred Gough & Miles Millar
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Michelle Yeoh & Jet Li

The third instalment of the lucrative Mummy franchise arrives after a gap of 7 years. Ancient Egypt is replaced in favour of ancient China, as Jet Li’s evil Emperor Han attempts to achieve immortality and rule his empire forever. He is betrayed by a mystic sorceress (Yeoh) who instead of giving him eternal life banishes him and his army to a life enslaved in stone. Fast forward many centuries later and the O’Connells, Rick and Evelyn (Fraser and Bello) are living a much quieter life and seemingly hating every minute of it. Missing the adventure and daring do they had thwarting Imhotep in the first two instalments, the two are eager to take up adventure once again. It seems this family are only happy when raiding tombs, escaping high risk situations and battling evil undead armies. Well they may just get their wish, as their son Alex (Luke Ford), now all grown up, has just unearthed Han’s tomb and sets in motion his release from eternal damnation and a whole load of undead warriors looking to take over the world.

Now the first two Mummy films were fun, old school style adventures, stuffed with all kinds of CGI hijinks. By no means masterpieces, they were nevertheless entertaining mainly due to a game cast and an unsophisticated style of fun. The Mummy 3 is no different, is just as entertaining as its predecessors and makes no bones about being an action packed, special effects extravaganza. Original director Stephen Sommers is replaced by another blockbuster director, Rob Cohen (Stealth) and he does a commendable job of taking up the reigns of the franchise, even infusing the action and adventure with a bit of grit. Cohen orchestrates some break neck action that is often on the grittier side for a 12A (PG-13) certificate. The Mummy flicks are known for their large set pieces and this one is packed with them. A huge truck chase through the streets of Shanghai and an impressive battle set atop a mountain (complete with Yeti’s) are some of the memorable action bits with the CGI more incorporated into the scenes rather than driving them. Yeah, the flick is CGI heavy but toned down from the other Mummy flicks and blended in better, so it’s always the actors driving the action. Though, admittedly the big finale does go somewhat over the top. But, hey, it’s a big summer blockbuster, it’s supposed to.

Unfortunately the comedy doesn’t always hit as well as the action, though the cast give it a good shot. Fraser knows this role and seems as bemused as ever at all the craziness going on around him. The other major change is the recasting of Evelyn after Rachael Weisz decided not to return. Now this has caused all kinds of upset and whinging from the fan boy community but really it’s not that big of a deal. Bello (who has always been a fine actress) does a good job, even if her accent wavers all over the place. It would have been nice for Weisz to return for continuity’s sake but it’s not the end of the world and the flick manages fine without her. Li gets a chance to play the bad guy and looks to be having fun doing so, though is somewhat underused. Yeoh brings her usual class to proceedings and Anthony Wong (The Mission) is on fine nasty form as an evil General in cahoots with Han. He just isn’t in it enough.

Now the film is all kinds of silly but that is part of its charm as it’s packed with over the top action, monsters and narrow escapes. Don’t compare it to the other summer blockbusters such as The Dark Knight or Iron Man as The Mummy 3 is a different kind of action ride. Two hours of fun filled, stunt packed entertainment that is nowhere near as bad as you may have been lead to believe. Admittedly it does lose its way come the final leg as Cohen and co rush everything a little too much but the action, stunts and fun factor are all rock solid. People go into movies with such high expectations these days that it’s no wonder they are always disappointed and then rip apart and deconstruct the film to ridiculous proportions. The Mummy 3 is all about fun with monsters and ancient warriors on the loose and that is exactly what it is: fun. It also looks great on the big screen and, hell, I even liked those damn Yetis.

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