Mommy Issues

The third instalment of Stephen Sommer’s Mummy franchise, The Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor finally nails the lid down on the dusty old sarcophagus, seven years after the original revival gave a significant fillip to the action-adventure genre while handily providing Brendan Fraser with something to do in movies.

Last seen battling the supernatural Scorpion King in Egypt in the 1930s, Fraser’s thrill-seeking archaeologist Rick O'Connell is now retired in the post-war English countryside, living the life of a country gent with his wife Evelyn (Maria Bello, stepping in for Rachel Weisz, who has graduated from this sort of thing). He’s learning how to fish and shoot while she writes adventure novels but they both yearn for the old excitements. When a spook from MI5 arrives at the house and asks them to deliver the mysteriously glowing Eye of Shangri-La diamond to a museum in Shanghai, they quickly agree, in the process reuniting with Evelyn’s brother Jonathan (John Hannah) and their twenty-year old son Alex (Luke Ford), a dashing adventurer and a chip of the old block.

Alex has recently discovered the long-lost tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Kung Fu superstar Jet Li) hidden in the vast underground chamber that holds his terracotta army. The opening prologue has already told us how, thousands of years before, the ruthless Emperor betrayed the powerful sorceress Zi Yuan (Michelle Yeoh) by killing her beloved after she had agreed to grant him a magical immortality. Instead she imprisoned him and his legions in clay and buried them underground. Now, with the O’Connell’s having delivered the diamond that revives him, the undead Dragon Emperor is returned to power and starts a new campaign of death and destruction.

In his first film since the disastrous Stealth, director Rob Cohen masticates this material into an unattractive bolus of computer-generated mush. The resulting goo lacks any genuine thrill or sense of entertainment, but it is noisy and belligerent. Late on, Li and Yeoh face off in a typically nimble sword fight, but it's a fleeting moment. Fraser and Ford are closely matched as father and son, in that both give equally bland and tuneless performances, not helped by the witless script’s cheesy one-liners, aiming for sparkling Golden Age repartee and landing on news anchor banter.

The usually edgy Bello is hamstrung by not being Rachel Weisz. A wobbly cut-glass accent and scant reason to be there finally collapse her. Even further in the distance, John Hannah’s familar slapstick comic relief suffers the same inane scripting; being at one point upstaged by an airsick animatronic yak. Liam Cunningham does his best as Mad Dog Maguire (no relation), a wild-eyed Irish pilot with a limited sense of self-preservation and a propensity for inappropriate balladeering, but there's nothing anyone could do to revive this corpse.


MJ said...

Why on earth have they made another one? The first one was great fun, the second was pushing it but still a good no-brain laugh with some good SFX. WHY on earth did they decide to do it again. Could they not see that the on-screen chemistry of the two leads was what kept the films together? Silly Disneyesque family fun with Brendan and's a shame that bad sequels take a little credibility from the originals at times...

squire23 said...

Credibility!? It's a film about Mummies for gods sake. Take it as it is.

Now, if only they had made this film for Indy 4 then we'd be getting somewhere