The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Okay, the best thing to do here? Forget that you ever saw the two Mummy movies before this one. Remember the basics, but if you can pretend that you only ever heard about the first two, you'll enjoy this one a lot more. If you've really never seen the first two, just read a synopsis somewhere or get a friend to tell you the gist of them, and you're golden.

The only two returning actors are Brendan Fraser as Rick O'Connell and John Hannah as the hapless Jonathan Carnahan, for one thing. And though the action sequences, (especially the big, sweeping battle scenes across the desert), will have a very familiar feel to them, otherwise it's, well, not much like the others. It shouldn't be, really, given the vastly different setting, but it still follows the same sort of progression. First the voiceover explanation of the ancient history (alas, no Oded Fehr to do that here, but Michelle Yeoh as Zi Juan fills in admirably); then the digging up of the mummy; then the steps the mummy must take to regain his full life and power; and then the huge collison between good guys and bad guys. It's simple, you know what's going to happen, but it still works.

In this case, it isn't quite a mummy like one usually thinks of, but it's the same basic idea. The writers borrowed a real piece of Chinese history for this, namely the terracotta army of Shi Huang Di, the First Emperor of China. The movie Emperor is called Han, but according to the voiceover, he was basically the first emperor of a unified China. And seriously, Jet Li looks like he could unify China if he really put his mind to it. I wouldn't argue with him.

Of course, I wouldn't argue with Michelle Yeoh, either, and here they're on opposite sides. Two thousand years or so ago, Han found that he had too much to do for one lifetime, as any good dictator would think. So he sought out the secret of eternal life, via the most powerful sorceress he could find. But a lot of double-crossing happened, and though he didn't die, you couldn't exactly call it living, either. In 1946, Alex O'Connell (here played by Luke Ford), last seen as an impish, annoyingly overconfident ten-year-old, is now an annoyingly overconfident college student (sort of) who goes digging where he shouldn't, true to family tradition, and off we go.

The effects are nifty. Thanks to a lot of training in ancient Chinese secrets, Han can play with fire and ice and all kinds of things in very cool ways; and he has three demon horses that were also turned into terra cotta and look very creepy moving around. Throw in a splinter faction of the Chinese army that wants to go back to the good old days, a mysteriously well-informed girl named Lin (Isabella Leong), dynamite, yeti, a whole lot of angry undead, and of course one no-holds-barred showdown between Han and Zi Juan; mix well, serve with a few slightly stale jokes, and there you have this movie.

I like John Hannah, but he should really rebel against the things they make him do in these movies. Anyway, that aside, it wasn't a bad adventure flick. A solid three idols out of five, as long as you can half-forget that it's supposed to be a sequel. They really shouldn't be compared. In fact, they should have left the words "The Mummy" out of the title all together, but too late now. Maybe they'll remember to leave it out if and when they film the fourth almost-sequel somewhere in Peru.

Originally published 8/2008. I remember there were some yeti, but I've pretty much forgotten everything else.

Rick O'Connell, flying to the rescue one more time.


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