I was entertained by the first “Mummy” movie. I understood that it was sort of a light-hearted approach to the Indiana Jones films. A reimagining of the classic monster tale for a whole new generation. I was lucky enough to see it in Las Vegas many years back for a Blockbuster Video manager’s convention and I had a blast. It wasn’t reinventing wheel or the pyramids for that matter, but it didn’t have to. It was what it was. A fun little popcorn movie.
The second film, “The Mummy Returns,” I didn’t like too much. Same film, same Mummy, same story wrapping but adding the 8 year-old son element. Not all the camera mugging in the world by Brendan Fraser could help this film be anything other than a recycled mishmash of the elements they thought worked in the first but with less punch, fun or humor.
Which brings us to this third entry in the “Mummy” franchise, “Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.” A bloated mess of a film that is as lifeless as the mummified corpses that fight on-screen. It’s literally a bandaged up mess of xeroxed scenes from all of your favorite Indiana Jones moments with no heart, no soul or no weight to what’s happening. You don’t care about any of the characters. There’s enough plot holes to fit the Great Wall of China through it. Mario Bello(who replaced Rachel Weisz from the first two films) pulls a Kevin Costner with her accent that drifts in and out of British consciousness at certain times. Plus, maybe, it’s due to Fraser’s ageless looks, but his son looks like he’s only 5 years younger than him. Kinda weird.
As much as I hoped this film would be the Indiana Jones film that “Indy 4″ wasn’t, it’s not even in the realm of a good “Mummy” film. I thought Rob Cohen, director of “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story,” could infuse some new scarab beetles of talent into this production, but he’s made it too clean, slick and predictable for its own good. Of course, he’s also the man who brought us “The Fast and the Furious,” “Stealth” and “XXX.”
Even the special effects are hit and miss in parts. The very first major effects scene set the tone deafness of this production with Jet Li’s Emperor Han transforming into a clay terra cotta warrior that looked more like a chocolate metamorphosis of Willy Wonka proportions. Even his terra cotta army counterparts are less than genuine when they show up, because it’s obvious(at least to me) that it’s people in fake clay suits. I can understand trying to save some money on special effects, but this looked like something Roger Corman would throw together to come under budget. Even the CGI mummies came off looking like the undead relatives of the battle droids from Phantom Menace. Missing body part slapstick choreography included.
And again I can’t harp enough on all the Indiana Jones influences found in this film which show the less creative ways to pull off those scenes, characters or items. From people crawling underneath moving vehicles to having to save kidnapped girls in tents to the O’Connells wearing matching brown fedora-type hats, the poorly-executed references are there to show us that we’re watching a movie that can’t have it’s own identity or separate ideas.
Overall, “The Mummy 3″ is a amalgam of recycled ideas with bad dialogue, a scattered story and lackluster acting across the board. If they know what’s good for the franchise, they’ll nail this sarcophagus shut for good before they make another film that’s even more lifeless and boring.