Brendan Fraser returns to the franchise that made him big with a new director, new screenwriters, a cast lacking Rachel Weisz and a different villain, but even as bad as The Mummy Returns was, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Empire sadly doesn't warrant much faith in those responsible for entertaining us. The Mummy 3 is a boring, unoriginal and, at times, utterly cheesy waste of time.
In this third movie, Fraser has essentially retired from his adventurous ways, along with his wife - now played by Maria Bello - thus leaving the explorations for ancient civilizations up to their son. The kid, now all grown up, manages to stumble across the Terracotta Army, which has been frozen in time for a thousand years. Of course, the evil Emperor of Qin (played by Jet Li, allegedly) is awakened and sets out to take over the world, leaving it up to Fraser and his family to stop him.
As already mentioned, I hated The Mummy Returns. It permanently put director Stephen Sommers on my Hate List and, in my eyes, singlehandedly killed the franchise only two movies in. The Mummy 3 isn't nearly as bad in execution, but the script is downright disastrous. While I liked xXx for what it was, director Rob Cohen really hasn't done a good movie since 1996's Dragonheart, and even some people would question that. Still, other than some pretty poor special effects in places, the problems with the film almost entirely live with the screenplay. Let's see...
First, the charm and charisma of the previous movies is gone. Regardless of what you think of Fraser, he was great in the first two Mummy movies, bringing a good balance of humor and adventure to his character. He was a delight to watch. Beyond his character, the rest of the cast and the story had imagination (sometimes too much imagination) and uniqueness. While goofy, the film always took itself at least moderately seriously. In Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, this is all gone. The characters are boring, the atmospheres dull and the humor dumbed down to elementary levels.
Two, Brendan Fraser is not the main character. Or, at least, it doesn't appear that he is. The screenwriters made the poor decision to hand some of the action responsibilities over to the son, rather than leave it up to Fraser to save the day. This is like handing off the responsibilities of Indiana Jones to Shia LaBeouf, which was one of my complaints with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Give the action to the person we want to see, not some boring no-name actor. Looking back on The Mummy 3, I don't remember anything remarkable about Fraser in the entire flick, and that's not good.
Three, abominable snowmen. Why would you put yetis in your picture for no good reason? The visual effects are terrible, and this is just a good example that the writers had no clue what they were doing.
Four, Jet Li is computerized. Didn't they learn anything from The Mummy Returns? In that movie, The Rock was touted as being this huge villain, but when he finally shows up at the end of the flick to combat Fraser, we get a giant CGI scorpion with The Rock's face painted on it. Aside from a few moments, Jet Li is computerized, both visually and digitally, begging the question as to why would you involve him at all. Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.
Five, Maria Bello. She's a good actress, and I've liked her in other things. But she's terrible here. From her deep voice to her accent, to the way her character acts and talks, she is the perfect example why Rachel Weisz abandoned the project in the first place.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is certainly watchable - much more so than The Mummy Returns - but it is also much more boring and unoriginal. It's a real shame, as this premise had promise.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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