Sometimes you hear about movies that are a bit crap, and you hope that when you see them that they actually entertain you for the two hours or however long, and then when you come out of the theatre you can pick at all the things that were wrong with the movie...
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is not one of those movies... you realise it's crap ALL the way through.
Which is a shame, because I really liked The Mummy and The Mummy Returns (and even the crappy spin-off, The Scorpion King), but this outing was just, well, limp.
The idea of moving the whole premise to China should have worked well... the addition of notable Asian actors should have added to the premise... it should have been bigger and badder and bolder and better... it wasn't. Next to this, even The Scorpion King looked like award winning cinema...
I'm not sure if it all fell down because it wasn't being directed by Stephen Sommers (which is saying something), but instead by somebody who hasn't directed anything for three years, and anything "good" for maybe six years...
You have to worry when one of the main actors doesn't want to come back, and it seems like Rachel Weisz may have dodged a bullet on this one... although I actually would have liked to see if she could have salvaged something from the rather lackluster role... as it was, they replaced her with Maria Bello, who had all the emotional range of wet cardboard, and had one of those faces that was very, very forgettable.
Having said that, the line she gets to say on the character's reveal is actually kind of funny.
Even Brendan Fraser just seemed to be "acting by numbers"... and for the most part, he just looked tired... still kinda sexy, but older and more tired.
And I don't know what it is about the role of Alex O'Connell that attracts actors that play annoying very well (actually, maybe that says more about the quality of writing being done for the character than the actor), but Australia's Luke Ford isn't that much more likeable than precocious little Freddie Boath was in the previous movie. To be honest, it could just be the writing, because he's really just a badly written cliché... part Indiana Jones, part Lara Croft (but with none of the good bits of either)... and half the time the stuff coming out of his mouth is so very cheesy, even by the standard of the previous two movies.
Also suffering in the script is John Hannah's character... I mean, they tried to take the character to it's logical evolution, but by doing so, they also took it to the really one dimensional and silly place. And half the time it's almost like they just did a cut and past job with his dialogue in the first two movies and replaced some of the details... he doesn't really even get any moments of saving grace like he did in previous movies.
Even the villain of the piece, Jet Li isn't given a hell of a lot to do with his part... half the time the character is completely CGI (I assume anyway), but when it's not, he just kind of strides around yelling things. And while Arnold Vosloo did a lot of that in the first two movies, there was at least some backstory and some depth there (help me, I just realised I'm talking about depth in a Stephen Sommers movie).
Michelle Yeoh is probably amongst the most watchable things in the movie, although as I said to Ma after it was over... Michelle Yeoh, floaty Chinese robe, sword, I'm there. She doesn't really have very much to do either, but she's Michelle Yeoh and you just watch her.
The stand-out though was probably Isabella Leong... her dialog isn't any better or any less silly than anybody else's, but there's just something about her while she's delivering it.
Other minor complaints include the fact that putting a blonde wig on a cow does not make it a YAK! Yaks are hairy and look like this! This was a black and white cow in a wig. And I'm not even sure it was ever a REAL cow anyway... so why you couldn't make a CGI and/or animatronic yak look like I yak is beyond me!
There's also a line towards the beginning of the movie about the fact that the O'Connells were involved in "espionage" during World War II (which obviously happened between the previous movie and this one)... and you just know that that wouldn't have been regular old espionage... but THAT'S a movie I would have liked to see.
The movie also suffers from extreme Bourne-itis... it's a terrible affliction, and highly contagious, because every other movie seems to suffer from it in some way. However, putting this Mummy outing up against it's two predecessors, it stood out all the more that there was way too much jerky camera movement and overly fast "cover up" editing going on. And you know it's really bad when you can't tell who's fighting who in a scene... in fact there's one little fight scene towards the end where, while I know who was fighting, I'm still a little fuzzy on how a certain character was vanquished.
I'm really, really, really, really fed up with movies with Bourne-itis... somebody needs to send a memo to all directors and especially cinematographers... ENOUGH NOW!
On the (rather more meagre) plus side were, surprisingly, some of the CGI effects... the whole "terracotta Dragon Emperor" effect was really well done (especially the point where he ripped off the outer "shell" from his face and threw it at Alex)... and I REALLY liked the Yetis. I mean, yes, they were very obviously CGI, but they were an interesting take on the whole Yeti idea (more cat than ape), and one that made sense given their location.
All in all though, there were more things to slam about the movie than to like... which is fairly disappointing...
yani's rating: 1 terracotta warrior out of 5