The SmarK DVD Rant for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

“Yeah, but I took down the same Mummy…two times!”

The Film

It’s truly a sad state of affairs for the franchise, creatively speaking, when it’s on the third entry in the series and now the title character isn’t even in the movie anymore. But then it’s a bit of a confusing series to follow in the first place, as this is technically the FIFTH movie in the series (following the highly underrated Scorpion King prequel movie and Scorpion King 2 which was a prequel to a prequel despite being named like a sequel), but then this isn’t a series which requires a lot of thought to be put into it anyway.

Taking the reins from originating director Stephen Sommers is former Fast & The Furious honcho Rob Cohen, which left me surprised that he didn’t put Vin Diesel into the movie as the new Mummy. Oh well, maybe for the fourth (sixth?) movie. On the bright side, one thing that Cohen knows about is big, stupid action movies, and this certainly fits that bill.

Jumping ahead about 10 years after the second movie (and replacing Rachel Weisz with the vastly less-British Maria Bello), Tomb of the Dragon Emperor sees adventuring Mummy-killer Rick O’Connell in retirement with wife Evy, and he’s pretty bored with it. Luckily, his equally dumb son Alex adventures to China and awakens a very ancient and very evil cursed Emperor. He’s been a terra cotta statue for 2000 years, you see (as explained by the first 20 minutes of the movie in an Important Sounding Prologue) so he’s plenty pissed off. Luckily there’s lots of ways to stop him, as explained by a variety of people who quote “act” as though they’re infallible facts (the diamond can only be activated by a drop of blood from someone pure of heart is my personal favorite).

And yeah the dialogue is pretty excruciating at times, but really this is a silly Sunday afternoon adventure romp that is intended as nothing more than a bunch of set pieces strung together by a flimsy plot, and on that level it succeeds brilliantly. Not as much as the first, second or prequel movies, but at least it’s not as silly as, say, National Treasure 2 and at least no one survives an atomic blast by hiding in a fridge. Oh yeah, I went there. Brendan Fraser can be depended upon to crack wise and make goofy facial expressions on cue, the CGI is spectacular (dig those Yeti!) and I generally had a lot of fun despite not being able to swallow more than 3 seconds of the nutty exposition without having to spit my soft drink out in laughter at how someone could actually get paid to think this crap up. I hope the compliment didn’t get too lost in that sentence. Basically what I’m saying is that there’s a certain point when you realize that this movie really is going to be that silly and you might as well just accept it and go along with the ride.

That being said, let’s not kid ourselves here. This movie, on a lot of levels, is pretty terrible. Trying to replace wisecracking Rick with wisecracking Alex is a bad move and an unnecessary one, because Fraser still has a lot of wisecracks and Mummy killing left in him. Jet Li is reduced to a scowling CGI monster here, being given nothing to work with aside from being typecast as a historical martial artist yet again. Ditto for Michelle Yeoh. And the absence of Arnold Vosloo (you know, THE MUMMY) shows what an influence his character was on the first two movies.

Still, it’s far better than Scorpion King 2, and it’s got badass Yeti in it, so it’s worth a rental. (Rating: **1/2)

Audio & Video

Movie imperfections aside, this is one hell of a DVD transfer. This is a bright and colourful movie and the disc handles things effortlessly, especially in high-contrast scenes like the Himalayan set piece, with the bright white snow and dark interiors. I didn’t notice any problems with artifacting or edge enhancement, either. An excellent looking disc. (Rating: *****)

The soundtrack is similarly impressive, boasting Dolby Digital 5.1 in demo-worthy proportions. Check out the AWESOME Himalaya scene if you’re looking for a test of your home theatre, as it not only looks beautiful but features some of the best surround usage I’ve heard in recent years, with machine gun fire moving from speaker to speaker in a circle around the listener. Plus the subwoofer kicks in BIGTIME for all the explosions, justifying the big budget if nothing else. Dialog remains clear and never overwhelmed throughout. (Rating: *****)

Bonus Features

Universal only sent me the single-disc edition, which only features an audio commentary from Rob Cohen, plus 10 minutes of deleted scenes. Given that I had no interest in learning more about this movie, that’s all I really wanted out of it anyway. (Rating: **)
The Pulse

As far as redundant sequels go, it’s definitely one of the most fun from this past year, and given the worldwide success it’ll likely spawn another two entries in the series and an even bigger box set of Mummy movies. If you can’t appreciate a little B-grade cheese in your goofy adventure movie, though, go with Indiana Jones instead. Very mildly recommended.

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