Friday, August 1, 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

The third film in the Mummy series starring Brendan Fraser as adventurer Rick O'Connel was directed by Rob Cohen, taking the helm from Stephen Sommers. In this film, where Maria Bello assumes the role of Evelyn O'Connel from Rachel Weitz, their now-college age son (eh?!) has dropped out of school to look for priceless artifacts. In his adventures, he discovered the location, and eventually the door, into the tomb of the dragon emperor of the title, Emperor Han (played by Jet Li,) and his terra cotta warriors.
You see, the ruthless emperor realized, some two or three thousand years previous, that one lifetime wasn't enough for all the dastardly things he wished to do so he forced a powerful witch named Zi Yuen, played by Michelle Yeoh, to find a way to make him immortal. The orders he gave his general were that no man should touch her because he wanted her himself. Of course, that didn't happen; the general and the witch fell in love. Once the witch made Han immortal, he sentenced them both to death, but Zi Yuen had enough time to curse the Emperor and his army to eternity as terra cotta statues and herself became immortal to guard his tomb that no one could revive him.
Of course, we wouldn't have a movie if someone didn't revive him. That leads to the inevitable fight between human and mystically powered undead blah blah blah. Look, I'm just going to blurt it out: wham-bam thank you ma'am action flicks like this bore me. I'm a martial arts action kind of gal and while this had some martial arts in it, it was still lots of guns and explosions and boringness. If it weren't for the fact that I was still doing my job while watching this flick, and I didn't want to miss a second of the wonderful Michelle Yeoh, I probably would have accidentally fallen asleep. If it didn't have Michelle Yeoh in it, I would have gone home once the main work of a typical Thursday night was done considering I haven't been feeling well of late, but I've seen everything that I can get my hands on that she's in for longer than a minute, even Easy Money (man, that was a bad flick), I certainly wasn't going to miss even this one.
If the film had been just about Emperor Han, Zi Yuen, and General Ming, I think I would have liked it. Bad one-liners, bad bad bad bad bad acting from Fraser, Bello and the dude playing their kid, Luke Ford, and a bad script do not a good movie make. Or even a partially enjoyable one because the fight we Hong Kong action fans have been waiting for, Jet Li vs. Michelle Yeoh, was terribly shot and not long enough. There wasn't enough tension. I think even Butterfly & Sword was more satisfying...
I'm not a big fan of Jet Li. I prefer Jackie Chan when it comes to male Hong Kong action stars (no, I didn't see The Forbidden Kingdom.) I admired his work in Unleashed (a.k.a. Danny the Dog) and Fearless. It's not his fighting, he's an incredible fighter, it's...I guess it's a lack of charisma. I've been using that word a lot of late, but it holds true here. Still, he could have been given a lot more to do; instead, he gets to stand around and look menacing and have a really short fight with Michelle Yeoh and still manage to lose to Brendan Fraser. Yeah, sure. Right.
The direction was fast paced, even including some slam zooms reminiscent of some Hong Kong action flicks, but boring. I've read that Rob Cohen had always wanted to make a martial arts flick so I wish he had made one instead of taking something hackneyed and cheesy, like The Mummy, and turning it into a martial arts movie.
I haven't seen the second Mummy movie, nor have I seen the Scorpion King and whatever else they've done as part of these movies. I saw the first flick, and it was alright, but Rachel Weitz elevated the standing of the film by simply being in it. The fact that she didn't want to come back, and was replaced by brunette Maria Bello with a bad British accent, hurt the new Mummy intensely. Perhaps they should have taken a hint when she said she didn't want to come back because of the script.
Overall: it was bad, boring, and didn't use Michelle Yeoh and Jet Li to their full potential.


NoelCT said...

Damn. Your sentiments match those of every other review I've read. I've been latching onto steadily unraveling strands of hope despite Rob Cohen, the loss of Weitz, and horrible looking yeti and dragon in the trailer.

Was the script really that bad? I usually like Alfred Gough & Miles Milar. Then again, Cohen's been known to do his own rewrites, so that may be the case here.

MUMMY RETURNS isn't terrible. It just suffers from a chaotic plot, Ewok-esque pygmy mummies, the obligatory annoying kid, and a reincarnation subplot that sucks the humor out of Weitz's character.

SCORPION KING is pretty fun, in a CONAN-lite, nothing else is on on a Sunday afternoon type of way.

I caught FORBIDDEN KINGDOM at a $2 matinee theater a couple weeks back and thought it was pretty good.

I've got an old tie to the genre since, in the early 90s, my dad discovered a local theater that would play two Hong Kong flicks back-to-back every Friday at midnight. I got to see Jet Li, Sammo Hung, John Woo, Tsui Hark, Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, and the film of John Woo and Tsui Hark, several years before they made their way to our shores.

FORBIDDEN KINGDOM wasn't perfect, but it brought me right back to those Friday nights.

Plus, the Jackie/Jet banter is really quite fun.

Lori said...

NoelCT: I'll tell ya...I knew better than to expect Shakespeare from the script, but this exceeded all my expectations...for the worst. I'd forgotten all about the Yeti and the Dragon. My brain is merciful.

It wants to be the Indiana Jones replacement so bad, but it's more about action than puzzles or plot (crystal skulls and aliens are so much better than what they gave us in this flick.)

I would have LOVED to see some of those flicks. There's nothing like that around here, no revival theatres. If I ever become rich, I want to buy an eight screen theatre and do'd be a pain, but also so much fun!

NoelCT said...

Yeah, for a while it seemed like the MUMMY flicks were the closest we'd get to a new INDY, then NATIONAL TREASURE came in and stole its thunder. What makes the NT flicks work better, in my opinion, is that a) while playing a little loose with facts, they actually do have some grounding in reality, and b) they get to the heart of the explorer, why he's driven, why he's fascinated.

MUMMY is just two-fisted pulp.

That theatre's still around, though their midnight movies are much more varied. Sadly, I no longer live in the area.

I couldn't think of a better way to blow a fortune. Should it happen (fingers perpetually crossed) I'll be first in line.

Lori said...

I never saw National Treasure...not a big fan of Nicolas Cage, but I'd heard it was awesome.

Another idea I had for that theatre is because my "expertise" is somewhat limited, I'd have, like, guest programmers. One week would be Tarantino Week, one week Rob Zombie...something like that.

Anonymous said...

Jet Li recent movies imdb rating
hero 8
fearless 7.7
unleashed 7.1
warlords 7.4

this mummy is beneath Jet li

NoelCT said...

Weekly director themes is a great idea. But only if we get weeks dedicated to Joe Dante or John Hough or Jacques Tourneur.

The NT films are really fun. Light fare, but involving.

The first has a great concept, tight plotting, plucky humor, great hero/villain dynamic, believable romance, and some clever little twists. The second has a good concept and makes great use of the original cast, but the script isn't as tight and the villain underdeveloped. Disney was in such a hurry to get the sequel made, they begain filming while the script was still being written. Despite this, it's still pretty good.

Yeah, Nick Cage is a mixed bag with me, too. But he makes it work here by playing Ben Gates as a believable history nerd who talks and thinks his way through situations instead of fighting.

Lori said...

Tarantino and Zombie were examples of directors who I'd want to come in and program eight of their favourite flicks. Shoot, I'd give just about any director a week to program eight flicks they love. And, I'd try to get them all on 35 mm. My projectionists would hate me, but at least I know what's involved with the job.

It would be so much fun.

I like Nicholas Cage in two flicks: Raising Arizona and Face/Off. Face/Off was so ridiculous, but so great...

NoelCT said...

Ah, I see what you mean. That would indeed be a blast.

FACE/OFF is wonderful, if only to see Cage and Travolta trying to out act one another.

Marvin the Martian said...

Oh, I thought Rachel didn't return because she was pregnant? Yes, she is luminous, and just being onscreen made the first 2 films better. But I think the franchise has run its course. Maybe I'll catch it on DVD.

Lori said...

Marvin the Martian:

I'd read somewhere (cry your pardon, I can't remember where) that she was unhappy with the script and begged off. She's got a movie due out in a couple of months called The Brothers Bloom. Looks...okay. Interesting cast, though.

I agree. Stick a fork in it, it's done.