The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor opens to scenes of a tyrannical Chinese ruler, Emperor Han (Jet Li), who craves eternal life. Emperor Han locates a sorceress (Michelle Yeoh) who can lead him to immortality, so he dispatches his general to find and force her to comply. Mistrusting him, the sorceress is wise enough that she tricks him before he can do the same to her, and instead of becoming immortal he becomes entombed in terra cotta along with his entire army.
Fast-forward 2000 years (give or take) to the 1940’s – the series seems to advance about 10 years in each film – where our heroes Rick and Evelyn O’Connell (Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello) are languishing in retirement. Rick has miserably taken up fly-fishing, and Evelyn is futilely trying to write a third Mummy novel with no inspiration. Unbeknownst to the couple, on the other side of the world, their son Alex has quit college and undertaken some archeological pursuits of his own (surprise, surprise) in order to uncover the first emperor of China. Through a severely contrived plot, the O’Connell family is reunited in Shanghai where Evelyn’s brother (John Hannah) just happens to run a club, and subsequently, the family proceeds to awaken the mummified emperor and his army.
The journey sweeps across the world from England, to Shanghai, to a desert (???), to frozen tundra of the Himalayas, and finally to the mythical (yet apparently nearby) garden of Shangri-La. The film had all the components that should have made it a solid addition to the series – a great cast, great production design, beautiful costuming, an interesting era (though for some reason the 1940s felt an awful lot like the ‘20s to me), and an already well-liked franchise. All of these singular parts never came together to create a whole, I was left wishing that the film had never moved past the exceptional backstory in the early days of China, which was far superior to the fake accents, wooden acting, and bad dialog throughout the rest of the film.
I never thought I would say this, but I genuinely wish I had seen The X-Files: I Want to Believe instead of this flick, as even after the action picked up I was already too bored to care. For those who haven’t been pressed into seeing the movie yet, save your money or simply go see The Dark Knight again, I promise you won’t regret it.
1 ½ / 5 stars
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