In a weird, roundabout way, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a lot like the old “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” Christmas special. For as nice as it was to see Rudolph and his pals from the land of misfit toys take their journey, easily the coolest thing in the show was the Abominable Snowman (otherwise known as “Bumble” by Yukon Cornelius).
In this sense, the best parts about the third Mummy movie is the Ninja Football Yetis that Brendan Frasier and pals encounter in the mountains of Tibet.
I know what you’re thinking… what are Yetis doing in a Mummy movie? Well, it sort of makes sense in the whole scheme of things. This Mummy movie abandons the Egyptian backdrop for ancient China. Rick O’Connell (Frasier) has a grown son who is now spearheading his own digs. He inadvertently digs up the Dragon Emperor (Jet Li), who is resurrected and is attempting to take over the world with his undead army.
The move to China isn’t the only difference in this film. We’re a decade or so farther into the future from the other films, and Rachel Weisz is replaced by Maria Bello in the cast. Ultimately, this switch goes virtually unnoticed considering how weird her character got in the second movie. While Bello is quite fetching, she does lay on the British accent rather thick, but I can’t say I was all that bothered by her in the film. I’ve always had a thing for Maria Bello, I must admit.
The first two Mummy movies were okay in my book. They weren’t perfect, but if you go back and watch the original Mummy with Boris Karloff (or, God forbid, the deluge of sequels that followed), you’ll realize they were the cinematic equivalent of pulp fiction back then. Comparably, all three of the modern Mummy movies keep the spirit of entertainment alive, even if they revel in schlock from time to time.
Where The Mummy Returns was a step down from The Mummy, The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a further step down. The plot is stretched pretty thin, and the dialogue is quite terrible. But I doubt anyone is seeing these movies for the script or the quality of the story.
I brought my two kids to this film, and they enjoyed it for probably the same reason the general audience will… it has some wicked-cool special effects. In addition to the aforementioned Yetis, there’s an army of the undead (not unlike the one seen in The Mummy Returns) as well as a sluggish three-headed dragon.
As far as big summer effect movies go, this doesn’t hold a candle to The Dark Knight or Iron Man… or even Frasier’s previous blockbuster, Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3D. But the effects are pretty cool at times and not that distracting, considering how many there are. There could have been more martial arts from Jet Li, whose character spends much of his time as a crumbling statue, but I suppose I could just catch The Forbidden Kingdom at the dollar theater if I’m craving that too much.
Aside from a bizarre college football moment with the Yetis, the only other thing that caused me to hang my head in shame for the filmmakers is the disastrously poor ending scene. Without spoiling anything, I will say that the movie tries to end on a humorous note but rather looks like a failed, deleted scene from the DVD features.
THE UPSIDE: Cool visual effects with Ninja Football Yetis.
THE DOWNSIDE: Sometimes a little too goofy for its own good.
ON THE SIDE: I’ll give the filmmakers credit for the way they introduce Maria Bello as Evey, giving a wink and a nod to the audience that the actor has changed but the character hasn’t.