About a third of the way through The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, series hero Rick O’Connell says, “Here we go again.” It was nice of him to sum up the feeling I had watching this third installment, a recycled mess of dull action, familiar CGI, and my personal favorite, mid-fight banter. Thanks to the Rob Cohen, director of classics like xXx, Stealth, and The Skulls, the franchise is resurrected for another eye-rolling excavation and I couldn’t be less excited. Look, even the mummy on the poster is yawning.
An extra long exposition through voice over sets up the mythology behind the emperor’s curse and 2,000 year imprisonment in stone. Han (Jet Li) was apparently such a powerful ruler, he learned how to shape shift? Maybe they needed to explain it for another ten minutes because I missed the part where I was supposed to care. Before, during, and after they wake him up they make plenty of explanatory speeches in case you were asleep yourself. I don’t blame you.
The series returns to the dangerous world of archaeology, an obviously fictional depiction of the usually boring profession pioneered by Indiana Jones. The Mummy series has always been a watered down version, but it’s never been more apparent than this summer when even the worst Indy seems legendary so close to Brendan Fraser‘s campy imitation. “Nuking the fridge” is nothing compared to “the puking yak.”
Fraser’s stunning counterpart in the last two green screen adventures, Rachel Weisz, is noticeably absent, a timely exit considering what she escaped from here. Instead, the Evelyn O’Connell character has been filled in with Maria Bello, a step down in every aspect including her forced British accent. Another bad impression of a better performance to mix into this mess.
Bello is introduced through the overused “slow head raise while wearing a brimmed hat” shot. But it’s the dialogue that makes you wish she would lower it again and then disappear. When asked if her novel’s (titled “The Mummy Returns”) heroine is based on her, her disappointing face appears from below the brim before she says, “I can honestly say she’s an entirely different person.” If I wanted bad writers to wink and nudge at me, I’d go to the local comedy club.
A contrived plot creates a convenient family reunion in Shanghai, where their son Alex (Luke Ford) has been digging up the tomb of the dragon emperor. But CGI couldn’t fix the massive age discrepancy among the characters. Ford, a 27-year-old, looks entirely too old to be playing the son of Fraser (39) and Bello (41).
The remaining hour feels like another unwanted sequel, trekking through random locations ripe for the overuse of CGI with plenty of bad one-liners that subliminally make you feel the need to check your watch.
Ok, so let’s see, we’ve covered the poor casting, writing, acting, directing, and special effects. Oh right. The score. Overzealous music is pumped through the speakers to artificially heighten the action, but it’s the equivalent of playing a Sousa march over footage of someone eating a hot dog.
I think that about covers it. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is awful in every way. In case all of the above doesn’t significantly express my distaste, let me put it this way: The Scorpion King was better.
1.5 out of 5.