Rick (Brendan Fraser, "The Mummy," "Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D") and Evelyn O’Connell (Maria Bello, "The Jane Austen Book Club," replacing Rachel Weisz) appear to be uncomfortably retired when a request is made of them to transport The Eye of Shangri La, a mythical diamond, to China. That their somewhat estranged son Alex (Luke Ford) is working on an archeological dig there and that Evelyn's brother Jonathan (John Hannah, "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "The Mummy") has a nightclub in Shanghai provide rationale for the couple to dive back into their adventurous ways in "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor."
"Shanghai Noon's" Alfred Gough & Miles Millar have overdosed on a combination of pseudo-history and mythology to come up with Emperor Han (Jet Li, "The Forbidden Kingdom"), a ruthless emperor made responsible for the Great Wall (and the thousands buried beneath and within it) and his own version of the Terracotta Army. Throw in mastery of the five elements, a witch, an inexplicable link to Shangri La, three Yetis, a post-war General determined to raise the cursed emperor to reunite China and a duplicitous professor and the O'Connells will more than enough to keep their hands full. Director Rob Cohen ("The Fast and the Furious," "Stealth") breathlessly paces his film with non stop action and the whole thing turns out to be some seriously cheesy B movie fun.
The film begins setting up its monster, an Emperor cursed by the witch who has helped him obtain the secret of immortal life for killing her lover, his own General. The Emperor and his army are turned to stone, buried beneath the sands of time. Meanwhile, in 1947, a woman reads from her latest Mummy adventure novel. When asked by a reader if she, is indeed, the heroine of her story, the camera circles to reveal not Rachel Weisz, but Maria Bello, who assures the audience that she is not the same woman, relegating the earlier films to fictional retellings. Meanwhile Rick is being conquered by fly fishing, so shoots his trout instead, the gun, as we are often told, his weapon of choice. The O'Connells also seem to be on different sexual schedules. When Evelyn wraps up her writing for the night, she finds Rick mid snore. Pinching his nose shut is a great cut gag to an explosion at young Alex's dig, where he has uncovered the Emperor's tomb.
But Shanghai Museum's Professor Roger Wilson (David Calder, "The King Is Alive," "Goya's Ghosts"), with whom Alex has been working, is in cahoots with General Yang (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, "The Painted Veil") and so on the eve of its unveiling, the emperor is unleashed despite the efforts of the entire O'Connell clan to stop him. The Ninja assassin who had tried to prevent Alex from getting to the tomb in the first place is also on site, now allied with Alex. It is she, Lin (Isabella Leong, "The Eye"), who tells them that once placed atop the Gate of Shangri La, the Eye of Shangri La, now in the Emperor's possession, will call forth his armies. And so from the sands of Egypt the adventurers move to the snows of the Himalayas.
"The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" piles one ridiculous spectacle on top of another, well aware that it is doing so and while it is certainly no brain taxer it works as a parody of an old adventure series. The previous Mummy films were awash in obvious CGI effects. The same may be the case here, but there has been some effort made to give them an old-fashioned appeal and damned if the three-headed flying lizard the emperor morphs into or the great climatic battle between the clay soldiers and the skeletal remains from beneath the Great Wall didn't have me thinking Harryhausen.
Fraser, whose recent "Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D" was a drag, is more in his element here, his earnestness given goofy undertones and Bello seems to be having a ball with tongue firmly implanted in cheek. Luke Ford (what kind of a Hollywood name is that?!) lacks charisma as the implied series inheritor, but Jet Li is fierce and agile as the emperor and Michelle Yeoh ("Memoirs of a Geisha," "Jet Li's Fearless") has dignified grace as the witch Zi Juan.
"The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" is the type of film that believes that if a fire throwing villain is not enough, one should throw in an avalanche. There's nothing subtle about this film and its cockamamie mythology, it's just a fun romp.
Robin did not see this film.
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