If bad movie-making was in the Olympics, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor would be overwhelming favourite for gold. Everything you needed to know about Rob Cohen’s film is in the trailer: it is a-paint-by-numbers supernatural action sequel, with its visuals nicked directly from Chinese ‘Wuxia’ films like Hero and House of Flying Daggers. What the promo doesn’t tell you is just how badly served the action is by dialogue and random exposition; ruining what could have been cornball fun for a rainy afternoon.
This third instalment has probably entombed the Mummy franchise, which in truth was never much more than a poor man’s Indiana Jones. Having finished with Egyptian shenanigans, our intrepid producers from Universal cut and paste the O’Connell family into Shanghai. Rick (Brendan Fraser) is still square-jawed, dim-witted and about as charismatic as a computer generated terracotta army put into suspended animation by an ancient curse brought on by an evil Chinese Emperor from 200 BC (Jet Li). Rick’s wife, Evy is now played by an American actress, Maria Bello (replacing Rachel Weitz) who is saddled with a jarring, cut-glass English accent which is unfortunate for an actress with a solid career in smaller films like The Cooler.
Festering in their British mansion having retired from their Mummy-fighting days, Rick and Evy are spurred into action by a British intelligence officer carrying the maguffin: The Eye of Shangri-la. For some reason they are the only ones who can deliver this gold orb to China; an artefact containing an elixir that could revive the evil Emperor. Already there is their son Alex (Luke Ford) who’s an archaeologist who looks about 12 years younger than his dad, but hewn from the same mahogany wardrobe.
Hokum all the way, as the writers simply make up new mythical rules every time we need to shift to the next CGI set-piece. Elixir not enough? The Emperor must not enter the Temple of Shangri-la! Jet Li’s already in the temple where Michelle Yeoh is re-enacting the end of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade? ‘The terracotta army is not indestructible until they cross the Great Wall!’ And so on. With no rhyme or reason this Mummy grinds on boringly for what seems like a geologic age. At one point some badly rendered Yetis (“They’re Abominable Snow men!”) show-up to fight the bad guys, prompting the classic z-movie line for which this tosh will be remembered: “Oh, you speak Yeti!”