We’ve been lucky this year. The summer season has provided a bumper crop of blockbusters from Iron Man in May to July’s mega chartbuster The Dark Knight which shattered every attendance record known to man. The good times had to stop sometime, though, and with the release of The Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor they come to a screeching halt. Seven years after the last installment of the Brendan Fraser franchise The Dragon Emperor proves that bigger and louder is not necessarily better when it comes to summer entertainment.
In the new Mummy movie treasure hunter Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) and family—wife Evelyn (Maria Bello taking Rachel Weisz’s place), their son Alex (Luke Ford who is actually only 13 years younger than Fraser and 14 years younger than Bello) and hapless brother-in-law Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah)—are in Asia and once again run afoul of ancient supernatural forces when Alex awakens a wicked 2000 year-old Emperor Mummy (Jet Li). The evil one’s plan is double-pronged; he wants to use his army of undead warriors to conquer the world while getting revenge on the sorceress who cursed him two millennia ago.
Very loosely inspired by the 1932 Universal Boris Karloff classic the first two Mummy films were actually comedies disguised as horror. In the place of real scares were family-friendly thrills more in line with vintage Saturday-matinee horror-adventure classics than anything that’ll really send shivers down your spine. The third installment follows suit, except the jokes aren’t funny, the thrills are non-existent and worst of all, there’s no actual mummies. I guess that saved on the movie’s tissue budget but a movie titled The Mummy should have at least one character wrapped head to toe in toilet paper.
As big a waste of money and effort as we have seen on the big screen for some time, The Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor fails on almost every level. Usually Brendan Fraser can muster some goofy charm as he walks through these low-rent Indiana Jones rip offs, but here he’s so disengaged you can almost see him reaching for the pay check while spouting bad one liners and battling blue-screen baddies. Maria Bello does a bad Rachel Weisz impression featuring the worst faux English accent since Kevin Costner created his own unique dialect in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Top billed star Jet Li has very little screen time and the rest of the cast are so bland they barely rate a mention.
In a summer where computer generated images on screen have become passé—both The Dark Knight and Hellboy favor practical effects to baffle the eye over CGI wizardry—The Dragon Emperor relies too heavily on fake looking binary code fabrications. The “wow factor” of CGI dried up long ago and the movie’s cheesy looking, but helpful Yetis and other computer created creations leave the film feeling old-fashioned and out-of-date.
Just like the evil mummies who cause so much trouble in this franchise The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor proves that some things should never be resurrected.