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Monday, August 04, 2008

Movie Review - The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Bury this mummy and run away.


RATING: 1.5/5


Dormant for 7 years, no one could have blamed you if you thought that The Mummy franchise was well and truly dead. Gone were the suspenseful atmosphere and solid action sequences that each of the Mummy film brought. Fortunately, someone decided to revive the franchise and give it another go-around – and the result is The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the third entry in The Mummy franchise. With a new director at the helm, as well as new scriptwriters and an almost new cast, the production crew had all the right ingredients to make this Mummy film one of the better, if not the best, movies in the franchise. The bad news is: They didn’t go according to the recipe and ended up producing a dish that is in equal parts awful and forgettable.

This film begins interestingly enough to capture my attention: Several thousand years ago, a tyrannical, ruthless Chinese emperor (Jet Li) harbored ambitions of conquering the entire world, but he was afraid of getting old, not being able to battle and ultimately, perishing. Therefore, he seeked the services of a sorceress (Michelle Yeoh), requesting that he be granted immortality, but was cursed to turn to stone instead – the emperor himself and his army – after he betrayed the sorceress.

At the flick of a coin, the film fast forwarded to modern China and there is a psychologically unsound Chinese military commander who is so obsessed with taking over the whole world that he is determined to resurrect the dragon emperor with the aim of wanting the said to help him. As expected, he succeeds, and so it’s The Mummy round 3. It’s a rather intriguing premise that has lots of potential with regards to the production of a good film, but unfortunately, the scriptwriters somehow decided to relegate the promising premise into a shallow plot that is plagued with so many illogical gaps that it all seems really retarded, but more on that later – we have to leave the best (oops … the worst) to the last, right?

Truth be told, there is really nothing which is outright bad in this film except the plot, but this also means that there is really nothing that is worth watching in this film – because you would have seen what is shown here in several other films before. The acting is just average – but tips towards the side of static and unrealistic at times – this applies to the CGI-animated Yetis as well. Perhaps more astonishing is how character development has been tossed aside like a ragdoll in this film. While I understand that much of the character development has been accomplished in this film’s predecessors, there is no reason why there isn’t even a slightest sign of character development here. Instead, the characters here are more like holograms – you won’t feel any emotional connection with the characters – which means you won’t even care what they do, or whether they live or die. In other words, the characters here are JUST there so that a movie can be produced and they serve no other purpose. That isn’t helped by the trite and boring dialogue either.

The pace of the film is appropriate, with some essential dialogue-heavy portions sandwiched between a number of action sequences, but does that mean anything? Save for a few minutes, the action sequences here are generic, non-engaging and JUST sleep-inducing. Perhaps the only good action sequence to have ever come out of this film is the first one – where the mummy hunters, Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evy (Maria Bello), race down the crowded streets of Shanghai during the Chinese New Year festival in a truck carrying fireworks in an attempt to stop the revived dragon emperor and the Chinese military commander from escaping. That action sequence is really intense, with some surprises and laughs added in for good measure. Other than that, I can’t find any other notable action sequence. The battle between the dragon emperor’s stone army and another mob of opposing stone soldiers commanded by his enemy, General Ming, is barely discernible – the fight scene is so chaotic and everything’s grey – so much so that you can’t even tell who the good guy is and who the villain is. The other action sequences are populated by gun fights that aren’t spectacular in any way, but rather, redolent of arms amateurs in action.

Smell my foot!

Now that we have gotten the other components of the film out of the way, let’s get to the horrendous plot. No prizes for guessing – but this is a very straight-forward and shallow plot – this, despite the potential for some really elaborate expansions with the interesting premise. This could have been acceptable if not for the illogical gaps that plague the plot like a virus that cannot be dispelled. For a resurrected dragon emperor who possesses fire, water, ice and other various magical powers, it is absolutely beyond my comprehension why he couldn't just destroy the mummy hunters instead of engaging in a vehicle chase with them. As the movie progresses, the dragon emperor also gains the power to transform into either a three-headed dragon or an extra-large lion. And time and time again, the film happily contradicts itself by portraying how compassionate the dragon emperor is by letting the mummy hunters off even though he could take on his dragon form and devour them. When drawn into comparison with the curel ruler that the dragon emperor was before he was cursed, the whole thing just doesn't make any sense. The dragon emperor also dies in the most ridiculous way possible: a stab to the heart with a special dagger that is supposed to reinstate the curse. Wait a moment! What dagger! The film doesn't even bother to explain the origins of the dagger.

All in all, the aforementioned loopholes are the worst parts of this film – this flaw could have been more forgivable if there were better acting, more character development, more competent dialogue and action sequences – but these elements aren’t in this movie, so the illogical gaps in the plot aren’t forgivable. Without other redeeming qualities, this flaw sticks out like a sore thumb.

Final Comments
This mummy should have just remained buried, saving the established Mummy franchise from all the embarrassment. Approach this film with an open mind – which means you should leave logic and common sense at the door before you enter the cinema. But even after doing that, you would still have to tolerate all the nonsense: average acting, total lack of character development, boring dialogue, and sleep-inducing action sequences. I was expecting more from this film, but left the cinema severely disappointed.


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