The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Review
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And now for this week’s edition of Totally Unnecessary Sequels….

This summer was full of them. First, it was The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Then it was The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. It left me wondering what could possibly be next. Perhaps Battlefield Earth 2: Compound of Suicidal Film Critics.

But, alas, the latest in The Mummy franchise opened in August—the month where movies generally go to die. So, although I really wanted to like The Mummy, I really should have known better.

This sequel to 2001’s frightfully cheesy The Mummy Returns finds Rick and Evelyn O’Connell (Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello) settled into a perfectly dull life of retirement from the mummy-hunting biz. Rick has tried to find a hobby, but he’s bored out of his mind. Evelyn has written two best-selling novels based on their adventures, but she’s unable to write a third. So when they’re given the opportunity to deliver a valuable artifact to China, they jump at the opportunity for adventure.

In Shanghai, they meet up with Evelyn’s club owner brother, Jonathan (John Hannah). They also find their son, Alex (Luke Ford), who, unbeknownst to his parents, left school to work on an archeological dig nearby. Alex has just discovered the ancient tomb of the cursed Emperor Han (Jet Li) and his terra cotta army. But as he plans to unveil his discovery, a Chinese general awakens the emperor, forcing the O’Connells to work together to return yet another mummy to its grave.

If there’s one thing to be said about the latest Mummy sequel, it’s that (unlike Jet Li’s last movie, The Forbidden Kingdom) it definitely commits to being corny. Unfortunately, that’s not always a good thing. While it could have been a campy-but-fun adventure, The Mummy instead takes its goofiness to painfully extreme levels, complete with football-playing yetis and a vomiting yak. Although that might make it fun for kids, the overabundance of exploding body parts makes it a bit too violent for the viewers who might find vomiting yaks amusing.

As for the action, there’s plenty of it—though viewers won’t actually see much of it. Aside from the exploding undead, there isn’t a whole lot to see here. The fight scenes are spastic and shaky, and the cameras stay so tight on the action that you’ll get little more than sound effects and blur. So while the effects may have looked good, I can’t really say—since I couldn’t really see them.

In addition to the shaky action and goofball comedy, The Mummy is crammed with complicated and cliché plotlines. There’s sappy family drama involving Rick, the emotionally distant father, and his son, Alex, who’s trying to be just like his ol’ dad. There’s awkward romantic tension between Alex and Lin (Isabella Leong), the guard of the emperor’s tomb. And then there’s the long and complex (and endlessly expounded) story about the emperor’s curse—and the obstacle course that his eerily molting mummy has to complete in order to rule once again.

And when it’s all said and done, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is just another movie that should have stayed dead and buried. I can only hope that it won’t try to rear its ugly head again.

DVD Review:
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the most worthwhile DVD releases are the ones that focus on the movie’s successes and downplay its failures. That’s definitely the case for the two-disc deluxe edition release of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor—because while there are so many things about the movie that just don’t work, very few of those things show up in the DVD’s special features.

In addition to the film itself, the first disc includes deleted/extended scenes and an audio commentary with director Rob Cohen. It’s clear that Cohen knows a thing or two about China—and that makes the commentary especially interesting. As the movie plays out, Cohen discusses the story’s historical context, various Chinese legends, and more. And while his extensive knowledge most likely led to the film’s complexity, it makes for a fascinating commentary.

Cohen’s knowledge of China pops up throughout the second (bonus) disc, too—though it’s discussed in-depth only in Legacy of the Terra Cotta. You’ll also find a short making-of feature and a number of other features that focus primarily on the locations, sets, and stunts. And that’s good—because the locations are interesting, the sets are stunning, and the stunts are just fun to watch.

When it comes to DVD extras, The Mummy has the right idea. The bonus disc has plenty of action-packed and informative extras that might just leave you with fond(er) memories of the movie. While the two-disc edition is far from a necessity, if you find China and its culture fascinating, you’ll want to take a peek at its special features.

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