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The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

A Mummy Movie Without Mummies

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the third, and hopefully the last, film in the Mummy franchise that began nine years ago is, like its predecessor, a theme park ride masquerading as a film. Directed by Rob Cohen (Stealth, The Fast and the Furious, xXx, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is, sadly, the worst kind of summer blockbuster: empty, meaningless, shallow, and, ultimately, forgettable. Oh, and there are no actual mummies involved -- just a warrior-king, a Terra Cotta Army, and an undead army.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor reunites Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser), his wife, Evelyn (Maria Bello subbing for an absent Rachel Weisz), their now grown son, Alex (Luke Ford), and Evelynís brother, Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah). Alex, an archeologist and adventurer like his father, is in China on a dig, when he inadvertently awakens an ancient, mystically powered warrior-king, Han (Jet Li), the Dragon Emperor of the title. With the help of a Chinese general, Yang (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) and Hanís Terra Cotta Army, Han hopes to regain the power he lost two thousand years ago and become immortal. Only the OíConnell clan, Lin (Isabella Leong), a mysterious young woman, and Hanís long-dead enemies, buried under the Great Wall of China, stand between Han and his plans for world domination.

Alfred Gough and Miles Millarís screenplay for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor relies on the character interactions and verbal humor that made the first two films in the series commercial hits. This third film is just more of the same; however, the verbal humor misses more than it hits, the characters have grown tired and stale, and shifting the focus to a new location fails to capture the giddiness and excitement of the earlier films.

Cohen desperately tries to liven up the movie by injecting one or two bits of martial arts mayhem and fails, if not quite miserably, then close enough to miserable to warrant using ďmiserableĒ to describe his efforts. Given Cohenís previous experience with blockbuster-style films, itís surprising that the visual effects look unpolished and the action scenes look uninspired. Following the path of least resistance, Cohen relies repeatedly on sweeping aerial shots of vast, video-game, CGI armies in combat to give The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor the epic scale and awe synonymous with big-screen spectacles. Unfortunately, you can pretty much forget about experiencing any wonder and awe when it comes to this flick.

As for Jet Li, he should have learned a lesson about participating in yet another kid-friendly, English-language international co-production (The Forbidden Kingdom was, arguably, his first). While another big paycheck must have been difficult to turn down, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor only diminishes Liís reputation among his fans here and abroad. Then again, at this point in his career, Li wants to appeal to the widest demographic possible (i.e., young and old, male and female). Brendan Fraser, of course, has been more than happy to lend his name and acting talents to family-oriented films, regardless of quality, for the better part of a decade beginning, more or less, with the first Mummy film nine years ago and on through to Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (released several weeks ago to mixed reviews and mediocre box office returns). Expect The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor to reach the same level of "success".

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars