I have a confession to make: I went into The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (or as we've nicknamed it in the office -- Temple of Doom Rush Album, for obvious reasons) wanting to like it because well, I genuinely feel sorry for it. I like Brendan Fraser and I love to see him in something successful, and I'm actually a fan of the first installment of the franchise for what it is -- a silly romp with good-looking actors and some fun special effects. It's also not the movie's fault that it has a ridiculous title and the unfortunate circumstance of being released after amazing action flicks like Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Wanted and even superior archaeologists-kick-some-ace movie The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. So all that being said, I do have some positive things to say about the movie, but the sad truth is it is as big a disaster as you'd think.
But let's start with the good, shall we? Visually, the movie is very well done. The costumes are beautiful, the Shanghai scenes are beautiful, the O'Connells' English countryside estate is beautiful -- everything looks great, and it looks like a lot of effort was put into the overall aesthetic feel. Maria Bello is also gorgeous, and her British accent is about the least Dick van Dyke-y one I've ever heard, so those are another two big plusses.
I'm sure a lot of people will take issue with the filmmakers' loose interpretation of what, exactly, a mummy is -- most of the things in this movie are straight-up zombies -- but I'm actually fine with that. Mummies are just zombies wrapped in gauze anyway, so it wasn't that huge of a stretch for me. Call me old-fashioned, but I'll love a zombie no matter what he's wearing.
And now, on to the bad. First off, the movie has a very heightened level of self-awareness that feels fun at first, but quickly goes into "Look-how-ridiculous-we-are-and-look-how-much-we-totally-know-it!" jokiness overdrive. Also there's frickin' zombie slapstick, which just, oh God, no. And Jet Li, who is usually good at being scary (Lethal Weapon 4, anyone?) is oddly not in this, despite being an undead evil dictator who can transform himself into things like three-headed dragons. I know that sounds scary on paper, but believe me, something in the execution here was just not.
There's also this to consider: Brendan Fraser is 39. The actor who plays his son is 27 and looks 35. That's a problem. While Maria Bello and Brendan Fraser do have some good chemistry, no one in their right mind could suspend their disbelief enough to believe they are the parents to this guy. Or that they've been together for 20 years, for that matter. The whole family plotline is jarringly unbelievable, and it eats up a huge chunk of screen time.
Speaking of things that eat up screen time unnecessarily, there's this whole Michelle-Yeoh-in-a-magical-cave thing that didn't need to happen, an annoyingly forced love story between her daughter and Bello and Fraser's son, and a gang of, I swear to god, good-hearted Yetis that show up out of nowhere and are never really explained.
Overall, the movie's watchable, but cheesy and forgettable, too. I had a good time seeing undead armies fight each other and Shanghai explode with fireworks and Maria Bello give a fabulous performance in a film that's quite frankly beneath her, but if you're looking for legit action, I'd recommend just seeing The Dark Knight again, instead.
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