So, this film isn’t what I could a horror film. The other films in the series don’t even try to call themselves horror after the 1990 version, the other films being solely action/fantasy. But its origins go back to the classic universal monster movies. So having not seen The Mummy films in years, but seeing the classic far more recently. I was wondering what the newest in the long running franchise looked like and I really didn’t like what I saw. At least The Mummy and The Mummy returns had some elements of dread. In Tomb of the Dragon Emperor doesn’t give its horror origins a passing thought.
Tomb of the Dragon Emperor opens with the Dragon Emperors (Jet Li) armies sweeping across China. Until he controls all of China, but having conquered all of his enemy’s he turns to his ambition of conquering death itself. He sends his most trusted friend to find the sorceress Zi Yuan (Michelle Yeoh), how is rumored to know the secret to eternal life. She doesn’t know it personally, but knows of where to look. She uncovers a book of spells that contains the spell. She seemingly casts the spell in Sanskrit. After which the Dragon Emperor kills her lover, his close friend. Before stabbing Zi Yuan. Her curse takes hold though turning the Emperor and his army into terracotta soldiers before fleeing the castle. Fearing the day he’s woken up as he will wash over the world. Fast forward to 1949, Alex O’Connell (Luke Ford) with the help of Professor Roger Wilson(David Calder) uncover the Dragon Emperors tomb. Inside Alex is attacked by a masked assailant when he reaches the tomb of the emperor. After the assailant is chased of the pair take the Dragon Emperor to Shanghai. Meanwhile a very bored Rick (Brandon Fraser) and Evelyn O’Connell (Maria Bello) are asked to return The Eye of Shangri-La to the Chinese government. Though they don’t expect to run into their son in Shanghai at Evelyns brother Jonathans (John Hannah) night club. After breaking up and family drama everyone goes to see Alexs find at the museum. Where they learn that Rick and Evelyn were tricked to bring the Eye to Shanghai, by Professor Wilson and his friends in a military faction led by General Yang (Anthony Chau-Sang Wong). They use the water of life inside the Eye to bring back to life Dragon Emperor. But The Dragon Emperor’s curse isn’t lifted until he bathes in The Fountain of Life at Shangri-La. So The O’Connells and Lin (Isabella Leong), the masked tomb guardian, set off to stop him.
If anything the major sin of this film is feels very paint by numbers. Set up, Magic McGuffin used to bring back mummy, action, twist, action, mummy end fight. At no point was I ever surprised by this film. Well, No that would be lying, as I have to take a moment now to talk about the Yeti’s.
I have no idea what was going through the writer’s mind to make Yeti’s be the best move. When they first show up I was like “Ok, Sure. Yeti’s because why not some Yetis?” Which is perfect since they add nothing of substance and are inconsequential in the scope of the film. There was no reason to even have them, anything that the Yetis do or are attributed requires them. They are really when this film lost me. As their addition is so distracting that The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor lost any sense of suspense that it might have held before then.
The acting is, no good. The chemistry between Fraser and Bello feels genuinely forced, lacking the charm and whimsy of the previous films. Their isn’t one performance that feels like a solid attempt. Each actor and actress come off as overblown to the point where they come off as cheesy.
Now another gripe I have as how underutilized Jet Li was. His performance is limited to the beginning of the film and the last act. The rest of the time theirs a terrible CGI monstrosity sucking up valuable time. Not that any real character is there for Jet Li to convey as the Dragon Emperor compared to IImhotep.
Final thoughts, a wasted two hours. While it has been a long time since I watched the first two films, I remember enjoying them. There is at no point in my life that I would have enjoyed this film. Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a shameless cash in and for once do I agree with RottenTomatoes rating. 2/10