The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

August 21st, 2008 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

Distributor Universal wants you to know this is a popcorn movie, perhaps hoping to deflect criticism of the corny storyline, lifeless characterisation and clichéd plotting before you have a chance to think about them.

It’s another of those movies CGI was invented for as we’re introduced to a rivalry in ancient China between an ambitious warlord (Li) and a witch (Yeoh) who can point him to the fountain of youth. Knowing the warlord will betray her, the Witch tricks him into casting a spell that renders him set in stone for eternity rather than living forever.

But if there’s one thing about being mummified for eternity, adventurer husband and wife team Rick and Evelyn O’Connell (Fraser and Bello, taking over from Rachael Weisz, who’s now far too serious an actress to do something so two dimensional) have a way of cutting it short.

Delivering an artefact to a Chinese museum and meeting up with their now grown son (Aussie Ford, last seen as the disabled Charlie in The Black Balloon, the O’Connells are double crossed by the curator and a rogue Chinese General intent on bringing the warlord back to life to take over the world with his undead army.

You know the rest of the drill, and it’s a somewhat guilty pleasure to see Fraser once again don his most comfortable role as the straight-shooting Rick to battle all manner of otherworldy beasts.

A giant, three headed dragon, an army of decomposing corpses on the march across a huge desert, a chase through the streets of Shanghai, ancient lost cities — it’s no wonder critics wrote of the 1999 Mummy as Indiana Jones-lite. But director Rob Cohen and Universal are having the last laugh, with the most recent Indy outing looking increasingly creaky and desperate and Tomb of the Dragon Emperor delivering the thrills and spills we love about the genre.

As always, there’s an over-reliance on special effects, and several scenes where the sentiment is enough to make you roll your eyes, but fortunately for us, Cohen’s had to punch above his weight. After the high profile and expensive flop Stealth he’s been relegated to B-list status, and the Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is his effort to regain his position atop the action adventure directors pile.


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