The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (movie) Review / AKA The Mummy 3
They sure picked the wrong year to release a new Mummy movie. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the film, but you figure the summer already has seen two stellar action movies in The Dark Knight and Iron Man, a new Indiana Jones movie (and the Mummy series has always been, in a sense, Indiana Jones Lite) and a Hellboy movie which also covers the “funny action with monsters running around” sub-genre with a slightly more adult take and more imaginative visuals. The deck is stacked against it and it will suffer for being last out of the gate.
If this had come out last year, the reception would be warmer. And really, I have but three quibbles with the film. Other than, that I had a good time.
First, and this is a really minor quibble, while you have the dead being brought back to life, you really don’t have any mummies. It’s a technicality, and they built the brand on the “Mummy” name, but you don’t see that here.
Second, Maria Bello, who I’ve liked quite a bit in other things, is completely miscast as Rachel Weisz’s replacement for lead heroine Evelyn O’Connell. The British accent she adopts is a bit too posh and she just seems a little too stiff. Probably a case of trying to hard and director Rob Cohen will have to shoulder a bit of that.
Third, they pull a very tired cliché, seen in both Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade and this year’s lackluster Forbidden Kingdom to set up a heartwarming family reconciliation scene you can see coming an hour off. The yak in the film tossed its cookies and I almost did too for that Afterschool Special interlude. That’s 10 minutes that could have been cut.
You throw those quibbles out and you’ve got a new Mummy flick. What’s a Mummy flick? Special effects, lots of stunts, some sophomoric humor (yes, a yak does yack – if that offends you, you won’t like any of the jokes here) and a bit of horror for the villain. That’s all here. The patter might be a little worse for not having Stephen Sommers involved, and a little chemistry is lost inserting Bello in the Weisz role, but you’re hitting at 85-90% of the previous two films. The action sequences are intact.
The premise this time is that Rick and Evelyn (that being Brendan Fraiser’s and Maria Bello’s) son, Alex, has discovered the tomb of China’s Dragon Emperor. The Dragon Emperor being a Ghengis Khan type who also knew a lot of magic, he was turned into a statue along with his army (thus creating the Terracotta Warriors). Naturally, said Emperor is brought back to life and the O’Connell clan is once more in a raise to destroy an ancient undead creature bent on conquering the world.
There are some striking similarities to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, where Alex O’Connell is concerned. You’ve got the whole estranged son thing playing out as the family reunites for an adventure. Sure, there’s no question of parentage here, but it’s nice to see a son that actually looks and acts like he might be the original character’s son after the horror of Shia LaBeouf trying to pass himself off as the progeny of Harrison Ford. Fortunately, the Alex O’Connell character was established in The Mummy Returns, so there’s no accusations of aping Lucas and Spielberg to be made.
For what the franchise is, you could argue that it was a more successful installment than the last Indiana Jones film. It felt right, and other than the over-played family reconciliation sequence, was a good time.
If you’re familiar with the Mummy franchise, you’ll know whether or not you want to see it. If you’re not, think of a buddy adventure where the buddies are a family and there are monsters about.
This franchise occupies a strange space right now. Hellboy has really stepped in and taken over as the funny occult series, and it also skews to an older audience. This installment saw the Mummy skew more to a family angle, thematically, and it aims more towards suitability for a younger teen and tween audience, unlike the dark overtones of Hellboy.
Granted, this summer was overbooked for similar films, but the Mummy may be facing an identity crisis to differentiate itself if it crawls out of its grave a fourth time.