Archaeologist Rick O'Connell travels to China, pitting him against an emperor from the 2,000-year-old Han dynasty who's returned from the dead to pursue a quest for world domination. This time, O'Connell enlists the help of his wife and son to quash the so-called 'Dragon Emperor' and his abuse of supernatural power.
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Kyle Smith review of “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”
114 minutes/Rated PG-13
2 stars out of 4
Which is the most shocking transformation in “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”? Is it when a dead warrior transforms himself into a three-headed dragon? How about when skeletons arise out of their tomb in the Great Wall of China to turn into columns of soldiers from the Ray Harryhausen brigade? Or is it the way Rachel Weisz has turned into Maria Bello?
This Mummy is an ancient psychopathic emperor (Jet Li) whose rampage ended when he was turned to stone by the curse of a benevolent witch (Michelle Yeoh). Seeking out his remains in 1946 China is Alex (Luke Ford), the collegiate archeologist son of Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser). By coincidence, the senior O’Connell is tricked into going to China on a diplomatic mission to return a giant diamond.
Rick’s wife Evelyn is now played by Bello, although under new hair and makeup she manages to look neither like Weisz nor herself. I call foul for illegal substitution. This kind of thing smelled bad when “Bewitched” tried it, and now that it’s been rotting for 40 years it hasn’t gotten any fresher. Why not just say the Weisz character died in the 13 years since the last episode and give Rick a new girl? The Evelyn character isn’t the same anyway; no longer a feminine scholarly type, she’s now so butched-up and combat-ready that she’s more like Steven Seagal in pumps.
Rick and Evelyn join their son, the immortal witch, Evelyn’s sidekick brother (John Hannah) and his son’s girl (Isabella Leong), who is also the witch’s daughter and is also immortal. After the emperor busts out of his stony shell, the gang must stop him from climbing up a mountain to find the way to Shangri-La and then from making himself immortal by taking a dip in Shangri-La’s pool, which is almost as exclusive as the one on top of SoHo House.
Each nonsensical scene exists only to unleash the hordes of digital effects artists. So bring on the undead armies of terra cotta warriors, fireworks whizzing around a car chase in Shanghai and mighty yetis who come roaring in out of nowhere. The O’Connell clan are the only ones around lacking supernatural powers, which means they are about as relevant to the action as Mike and the Mad Dog’s callers are to how the Yankees are doing.
“I hate mummies!” the Hannah character declares. “They never fight fair!” But the emperor takes it so easy on the mortals that it’s like he’s pitching batting practice to the Pee-Wee League. We know he can hurl fireballs like bullets, for instance, but instead he lobs them gently behind Rick’s back as he sprints away. When he makes dagger-sharp icicles pop out of the ice beneath his enemies’ feet, he doesn’t do it where they’re actually standing, but off to the side, so they can flee as the ice behind them erupts with icicles. Why not make the icicles pop up in front of the O’Connells, then chuckle softly as they impale themselves? The emperor can only be killed by a magic dagger planted in the heart, but instead of hurling it into the deepest chasm, he carries it jauntily on his belt so anyone can yank it out and stab him.
The dialogue consists, entirely, of either dim attempts at humor (“The yak yakked,” “There’s something incredibly romantic about vanquishing the undead”) and useless blabbing like, “I’m sorry I blamed you guys for raising the emperor” and Hannah’s shouting, “Avalanche!” At least I think that’s what he said; I could barely hear him above the sound of the avalanche.
What’s with outsourcing the Mummy franchise to China in the first place? Do the undead work for lower wages there? When I go to a mummy movie, I don’t want ninjas and yetis and men turned to stone. I want embalmed corpses and hieroglyphics. I want pharaoh. I want pyramids and sphinxes and Ace bandages. Did “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” take place on the Nile?]]>
(”The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” is briefly mentioned in this.)
The massive success of “The Dark Knight,” which as of today becomes the biggest earner of the year at the box office, raises the question of whether it can become the second film to top $500 million at the domestic box office. I think it can, though it’s highly unlikely it will approach the $600 million “Titanic” took in. Studios are usually crazed to be the first big movie of the summer, but “The Dark Knight” is going to show the advantages of the last major blockbuster of the summer. Though movies like “The Mummy 3,” “Tropic Thunder” and “Pineapple Express” will attract sizeable audiences, having opened on July 18, “The Dark Knight” is not going to have to face anything on the scale of “Shrek the Third” or “Pirates 3,” as “Spider-Man 3” did last year. As is almost always the case, early September is also a write-off, movie-wise, meaning “The Dark Knight” could easily linger in the top ten well past Labor Day. ]]>
(”The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Universal's The Mummy (2017) is a pale shadow of the 1999 hit of the same name. That movie, starring Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, is a fun family adventure flick that well deserved its 2001 sequel. (It did not deserve the Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, but that's another story.) The new film, with Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe, squanders its actors and subject matter to deliver a cheap horror feel with a shallow message. Early reports suggest it will fail at the box office, and it deserves to do so.
In keeping with the original films, the Tom Cruise version centers around an ancient evil being resurrected and sucking the life out of other people to live again. The stunning success of the original films was to take this grotesque premise and turn it into lighthearted fun. The new movie focuses on the darkness and the horror, straining to say something about the human condition.
Also in keeping with the original movies, the main character, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), is a treasure hunter who dives for ancient artifacts to sell on the black market. Morton is racing to stay ahead of the Islamic State (ISIS), as they destroy priceless ancient artifacts. Morton sleeps with and steals from Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), and together they investigate an ancient tomb.
The creepy Egyptian princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella) speaks to Morton, convincing him to set her free. From there, she wreaks havoc and threatens to unleash an even more dangerous ancient evil.
Morton and Halsey, hopelessly outmatched, must be saved by the mysterious Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe), of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde fame. He reveals a hidden truth and allows Morton to find the secret to defeating Ahmanet.
The story is intriguing, but the delivery falls flat. Morton and Halsey's romance is at the center of the plot, but the chemistry between Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis is nonexistent. The introduction of Dr. Jekyll is a fascinating idea, but it only serves to justify a deeply unsatisfying ending which is almost screaming for a sequel. The evil power-hungry princess is underdeveloped — there is no explanation for why she would want to unleash the evil god Set just because she was denied the chance to succeed her father as pharaoh.
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As the villain is weak, so the hero has little character development. Morton carries out acts of heroism, but his character never fundamentally changes. His moral darkness remains, and even in a victory made possible by love, he leaves his girlfriend alone. This may seem deep, but the film does not earn the message it is trying to convey.
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