|release date||August 1 2008|
|writer||Alfred Gough and Miles Millar|
|starring||Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Michelle Yeoh, Anthony Wong, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong|
|trailer 1||Trailer #1|
One of the best summers in years is coming to a close and one of the final films to hit theaters is Universal Pictures’ THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR, which is Rob Cohen’s ticket out of movie jail. The director of XXX, STEALTH and FAST AND THE FURIOUS hopes to cash in on his “action filmmaking” talent and bring Brendan Fraser back to the big screen as the ass-kickin Rick O’Connell in another adventure film involving mummies. While he definitely has delivered another hit for the studio, it’s unforgivable how dumbed-down the final product is.
In the film, Rick’s son Alex (played by Luke Ford), uncovers the legendary “Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” a mummified corpse of Emperor Han (Jet Li), who was cursed and turned to stone in his hunt for immortality. General Yang (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) hires the O’Connell parents (Rick and Evelyn) to bring a gem that will awaken Han to help bring China back into order. When Han is awakened, the O’Connell family must work together to stop him from attaining immortality.
The best way to describe this latest MUMMY entry would be to compare the audience to a cat and the film to a ball of yard. Writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar treat the audience as a simple cat with a small brain – stupid enough that a ball of yard will amuse them for hours. This reviewer can appreciate a family film with a good family joke, but the one-liners in this film are so low brow that it will immediately lose half the audience. When fun turns into stupidity, you get TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR.
That being said, MUMMY still carries non-stop action and a flurry of awesome special FX. You’ll not only get to see Jet Li transform into a three-headed dragon, but also a giant beast and other random creatures. Li walks around as a stone statue, but occasionally will chip off the stone revealing his rotting face. Shown in the trailer are the Yeti, who all look astounding (even though they have a little too much character/personality), and the armies of the dead, which look a step closer to real than ever before.
An odd choice in the direction of the film puts Brendan Fraser in the background and brings Luke Ford to the forefront, another poor choice by the screenwriters. Ford’s character is a cheap imitation of Fraser (because he’s supposed to be his son) and immediately takes the film down a level. His accent drops (and changes) on various occasions and his ability to look “tough” is laughable. Most disappointing is the replacement of Rachel Weisz with Maria Bello – an actress normally on top of her game, who somehow manages to give one of the worst performances of her career. If there were a saving grace to MUMMY, it would be the badass Jet Li, who plays a way better villain than hero any day (remember LETHAL WEAPON 4?) It’s a shame that Rob Cohen couldn’t lock the camera down during the fight scenes because Li and Fraser are treated as though they’ve never fought once in their life as the camera rocks and sways in order to make it look like their fighting.
Cohen dives right into his old ways with the often annoying and erratic camerawork that only works in the hands of a GOOD filmmaker. In the climactic battle it’s nearly impossible to tell what’s going on between Jet Li, Brendan Fraser and Luke Ford – closing your eyes and coming up with your own finale might be more interesting.
The plot is also weak, and the audience takes a very familiar trip that they’ve been on so many times (the last time was in July when Guillermo del Toro unleashed his own “Golden” army onto the world. Anyone who complains about remakes and then loves THE MUMMY should probably turn in their opinion card, because it won’t be valid afterward.
Beyond all of the flaws and all of the problems, THE MUMMY: CURSE OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR isn’t a curse on the audience. If the audience can ignore the stupidity of the film and turn on a high level of suspension of disbelief, there is some fun mixed in. MUMMY is the perfect summer movie for anyone aged 6-15, and for everyone else there’s at least something fun and/or interesting about Universal’s big summer ticket. Hopefully this summer lends one lesson to all filmmakers and studios – darker is better, and when you try and make a film “for everyone,” you actually end up excluding them all…