I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

PROLOGUE: Long ago, a brave warrior (Jet Li) and a graceful dancer turned actress (Michelle Yeoh) did the movie TAI CHI MASTER together. Then both went to Hollywood and did Lethal Weapon and James Bond and shit. But they had not forgotten each other. They were gonna star in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON together. But Jet backed out for the incredibly classy reason that he had promised his wife to take the year off from movies and be with her while she was pregnant. Years later, they had another chance to do a movie together in Ronny Yu’s FEARLESS – but Michelle’s scenes got cut out of the theatrical version. So it was this last summer, 15 years later, that the two were finally reunited on the big screen. BUT IT WAS IN THE FUCKING MUMMY 3! How’s that for a Tales From the Crypt type twist ending?

Okay, I should get a couple disclaimers out of the way. First of all, mummies are not one of my favorite monsters. Off the top of my head the only mummy movie I can think of that I like is BUBBA HO-TEP, but that didn’t really need to be a mummy to be good. It just needed to be a slow moving monster so an elderly Elvis could be a fair match for it. If it was about a giant space slug or mutant sloth it could also be good if it had the same characterization of a sad, lonely Elvis Presley. The Universal MUMMY with Boris Karloff is a great monster at the beginning, then he disappears and it’s just Karloff in a fez for the rest of the movie. It’s no DRACULA, I’ll tell you that. And as you can see above I didn’t think the Hammer version was that great either.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon EmperorAs for the MUMMY that started this series, I hated the fuckin thing. I remember it as having no sense of build or rhythm at all, it was all clatter and mayhem and stupidity. In RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK they have scenes where he’s at school teaching, right? But when Stephen Sommers rips off RAIDERS he’s worried that your attention span is too short for a story to develop so in an early scene in a library the love interest character played by Rachel Weiss for no reason at all clutzily destroys the entire library Jar Jar style. I hated his style enough that I decided not to watch Sommers movies anymore, so I skipped out on part 2. I only watch non-Sommers spin-offs such as THE SCORPION KING (which was much more fun).

So when I found out Rob Cohen (DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY, DRAGONHEART, THE FAST DRAGON THE FURIOUS, etc.) was taking over I thought I would go see it. He also makes crappy, stupid movies, but it’s a style of crappy stupid movie that is more watchable for me. It’s kind of like after Arizona finally started celebrating Martin Luther King Day you didn’t have to boycott it anymore, same thing here, without Stephen Sommers I was excited to watch a stupid MUMMY movie with poor Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh in the cast.

But then when it came time to put my money where my mouth was I couldn’t do it, because we actually had a good movie summer. Usually I’d have fun seeing a crappy movie in August (I paid to see Rob Cohen’s STEALTH, for example, and didn’t regret it) but this year I really felt like if I was gonna go to a theater I might as well just see DARK KNIGHT again. It seemed almost unethical to go see something I knew was crap when there was one that good still playing.

But now THE MUMMY TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR A FILM BY ROB COHEN comes to the DVD and I’ll be damned, this is actually a legitimately great adventure movie! Brendan Fraser returns as the globetrotting hero Rick O’Connell, a gun tot– nah, just jerkin your chain, this is a piece of shit, but I kind of enjoyed some of it. Details to follow.

Jet is the wicked emperor who conquered China and built the Great Wall and could shoot fireballs (not sure if this is historically accurate). Michelle is a witch who brought him to a secret place to find spells that would help him defeat his last enemy, Death. Basically the whole trouble in this movie stems from the emperor’s best friend General Ming violating the ancient Bros Before Hoes covenant. The emperor said “Let no man touch her – she is mine” but then General Ming fell in love with her and impregnated her, so the Emperor had him drawn and quartered. Luckily, the witch pulled a Jamie Kennedy style practical joke where she did the wrong spell and instead of giving him eternal life she cursed him and his army to become terra cotta warriors.

Once all that’s explained it skips to the 20th century and we soon come to the sad realization that this movie still stars Brendan Fraser. Now, I feel bad saying this, because the guy seems pretty nice. But I must be honest. I fucking hate Brendan Fraser. How does this guy star in movies? He has all these old timey hardass lines but they don’t sound at all believable coming out of his mouth. He has jokes and he delivers them wrong, so they don’t make sense. He has a son in the movie who looks like he’s at most ten years younger than him. He’s not believable as being that age or as being a father in general, or a war veteran. Basically, every aspect of the character does not fit the actor. I don’t get it. He must have some charisma, people like him, but I don’t see it. To be fair I’m a little color blind, his charisma might be a shade of green that I have trouble with or something.

Did you see the trailer? I did, about ten thousand times. One thing that bugged the shit out of me is when the crazy pilot says “I’d tell you to put your seatbelts on, but I couldn’t afford to get any!” Fraser looks disgusted, laughs sarcastically and then sarcastically says “Why am I laughing?”

It doesn’t make any sense! Clearly Fraser is supposed to be charmed by the crazy pilot and laugh along with him, then realize that his life is in danger and ask himself “Why am I laughing?” But it doesn’t make any sense for the laugh to be sarcastic, or the line, for that matter. What I don’t understand though is how Fraser does the scene wrong, then it ends up in the trailer, and then ends up in the movie. There was plenty of time to fix it. Shit, you should’ve told me you didn’t have time, I would’ve figured out some way to fix it for you just for the betterment of mankind.

The early scenes that introduce Fraser’s character Rick and his wife Evey in retired boredom are extremely painful. It’s the type of “humor” where adults act like annoying little kids and that’s supposed to count as comedy. They also have not one but two “jokes” where music is playing and then it skids to a stop to denote wackiness (I wonder why they didn’t go for the needle scraping off the record routine?)

Making things worse is the fact that Rachel Weiss knew when to call it quits so they replace her with poor Maria Bello, trying her best at an English accent. Bello is a great actress who comes across like an idiot in this moronic horse shit. But hey, let’s consider her paycheck on this one a reward for A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE.

Anyway, their dashing adventurer son has skipped out of college to dig up the titular tomb, meanwhile his parents are tricked into delivering some magic crystal deal to the same place and this resurrects the emperor who walks around, then turns into a three headed dragon and flies around, then turns back into a man and never thinks to do the dragon trick again, which in my opinion is very, very poor strategy on his part. His plan is to revive his army at the magic pool of whatever and such and then who knows, all kinds of evil and what not, etc., would potentially, you know. You can imagine. That is what is at stake here. All that kind of stuff.

Luckily Michelle Yeoh is alive. Why is she still alive? I will let her character explain with actual dialogue from the movie:

“I would have died too by his hand, if the yeti had not found me and brought me to this pool.”

Yes, that is correct, that is why this movie is worth watching, because Michelle Yeoh plays a witch who clashed with an evil emperor in ancient China but luckily a yeti found her and brought her to a magic pool so she lived into the post WWII period when the emperor was brought back to life and then she killed him again.

Of course, when she says that line in the movie it’s not a complete surprise, because there was already a part earlier when her daughter (also immortal) is in trouble so she yells a bunch of words and then some CGI yetis show up and help her. You may have heard about the scene where they kick a guy through the air and then celebrate a field goal. What made me happy was that after the battle they stay in the movie and help them up the mountain. It’s like THE WIZARD OF OZ, they just pick up different weird characters along the way and nobody questions it. (Unfortunately after a while the yetis disappear and never come back. But hopefully they will get a spinoff prequel like the Scorpion King.)

Here’s another line of dialogue that made me laugh:

“Hey, mom – sorry I blamed you guys for raising the emperor.”

I wish they would stick to the heartfelt lines, they’re way funnier than the smartass ones. The movie’s pretty fun whenever it’s not trying to be fun.

Like the first MUMMY movie and probaly the second one that I boycotted this one has constant show-offy special effects sequences, some better than others. The yetis, unfortunately, look like video game characters. But I did think the emperor mummy guy was sort of cool. He’s like a video game character also because of the fireballs, but I like how he’s a clunky clay man whose face sometimes breaks to reveal a ZOMBI style rotted face beneath. Since he can grow back the clay parts he actually breaks off a chunk of his head in one scene and throws it as a weapon. I can respect that. Also Michelle Yeoh resurrects all the people who died making the Great Wall and uses them as an army. I thought those guys looked cool although I didn’t understand why some of them still had faces – I was under the impression that the Great Wall had been built quite some time ago. Haven’t checked wikipedia yet though.

Jet Li and his special effects team make a pretty good villain, but you can’t help but think they’re wasting this guy. Of course he gets to fight a little bit, but not as much as he would in pretty much any other movie he’s ever made. Michelle doesn’t do much either, they do have a short sword fight where she spins around a couple times. But really this is all lead-up to the showdown movie fans have been begging for for years: ladies and gentlemen, the long awaited duel between Jet Li, 15 time gold medal winning champion of Beijing Wushu Team, and the legendary Brendan Fraser, of MONKEY BONE and MRS. WINTERBOURNE. Li started out fighting in the Fanzi Eagle Claw style, Fraser I believe started out in ENCINO MAN.

This brings up an interesting question. Not just “how am I supposed to believe Brendan Fraser defeating Jet Li in hand-to-hand combat?” but “how am I supposed to root for Brendan Fraser against Jet Li?” They try every trick in the book, including making Jet completely fucking evil, putting Michelle Yeoh on the Fraser team, even giving him yetis. Still it takes effort to side with him. Maybe they should’ve made it a tie.

Now that I’ve seen the movie I will not stand for any of that “ironically the INDIANA JONES ripoff was better than the INDIANA JONES sequel” business. I understand there are harsh feelings because you didn’t get what you wanted out of that one, but if you’re gonna claim this garbage is better you’re clearly too emotional to make a serious argument. But that’s okay, maybe this stupid movie will cheer you up. For those who get a kick out of watching the stupidest shit Hollywood can waste money on, this one gives way more bang for your buck than a 10,000 BC, and the pacing is not quite as pan-banging-against-your-head as part 1. So I didn’t regret it. On the other hand, DARK KNIGHT is on DVD. I could’ve been watching that.

Or volunteering at a food bank. I’m sorry, everybody.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Friday, December 12th, 2008 at 5:11 am and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 Responses to “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”

  1. I thought I’d give this one a try, also since Sommers was not directing, seeing as how Mummy 2 was just okay (not counting scenes where Rachel Weisz and Patricia Velasquez fight in scantily clad) and Van Helsing was terrible. I did like Mummy 1 and that one he made where people are stuck on a ship with a tentacled sea creature.

    You’re spot on with your review, this one is BAD. I should have listened to you. I figured, how bad could it be, it’s got Li and Yeoh. Fraser was almost unbearable, I was kinda rooting for him to die, and the ‘humor’ does not work.

  2. Haven’t and won’t see this one, but I stand by my comments in some other review that Van Helsing is the right kind of terrible that people look for when they pay money for this kind of shit. Big loud and immearuably stupid, Van Helsing also sports all kinds of Bad Movie Hall of Fame markers, like having literally half of the cast utilizing skull-fuckingly awful accents. I don’t know man, I can’t explain it, I’m fascinated by that thing, and whenever it’s on TNT I find myself getting sucked into it, mouth dropping as new plot holes and dumb things make themselves known.

  3. I had to review TOMB last year for a website, and I was bored and uninvolved, which is typical for me with Rob Cohen. Though Fraser did pull off a rare feat in having not one, but TWO movies of his be in the Top 5 at the Box-Office. That other picture was his JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH 3-D gimmick, which I actually kinda thought was decent, harmlessly forgettable.

    Brendan – Or to add to VAN HELSTINK’s infamy, how about that supposed ancient family of vampire hunters who’ve never been able to kill one of those buggers….then Wolverine comes to town and kills one within 5 minutes. Sorry but that clan deserved to be killed off.

  4. Or how when Van Helsing et al arrive at Dracula’s castle it’s snowing out, but then the next time they cut to outside there’s a driving rainstorm with lightning striking every thirty seconds. And then when all the werewolf shenanigans get going all clouds disappear from the sky, except for the one strategic moment for an emotional confrontation. Bullshit.

  5. Brendan – Yes what total bullshit. If anything, VAN HELSING is a perfect example of what has plagued way way too many fucking summer blockbusters in this decade:

    Too much plot.

    And no I don’t mean attempts to be complex or whatever with storytelling, but studios and directors trying to cram plotting you could digest out of a trilogy into one sole picture. Consider WOLVERINE, how that crew never decided on whatever to make a squad movie, or a revenge actioneer.

    Or SALVATION with the bad marriage between the Bale and Worthington stories.

    And VAN HELSING….I mean Jesus fuck, you’ve got adversaries that each could have been the credible solid star villain of each entry that whole possible franchise: Dracula, Frankenstein, and Wolfman. But all 3 in the same movie: Yeah nobody gives a damn. Way to shoot yourself in the foot, Mr. Sommers!

  6. Or when Michael Bay forced Orci & Kurtsman to come up with the hacker subplot in ‘Transformers’ “to make it more adult!”
    -originally the thing just focused on Sam & Bumblebee but when Bay came aboard he said he “didn’t want to just make some kids film!” So the guys came up with the completely useless and heads-nowhere subplot of hot hacker chick and wacky black guy number #3 and it seems it’s sole purpose was to make a very simple straight-forward story more confusing than need be other than that I am baffled what purpose it serves

    -military subplot was just because Bay has a fetish for that crap but I could at least get behind that one

  7. Geoffreyjar – “to make it more adult!”

    Yeah, like…oh I dont know…rest of the movie? Bay is such an airhead. No wonder John Frankenheimer spent years fighting off Bay’s claims that he was Frankenheimer’s love child. Sure Frankenheimer has a failure here and there (either that awful Don Johnson actioneer DEAD BANG or that mutant bear horrorfest PROPHECY), but Frankenheimer still made RONIN and THE MANCURIAN CANDIDATE and many terrific movies that wipe their asses with Bay’s stupid bullshit.

    You know what I dont get about Bay?

    Somehow he cocksucks the US Military into helping him out with his movies, and yet Bay has a good ole time thinking up, storyboarding, and pulling off sequences where American troops gets murdered and smashed and killed.

    Remember that bomb dropping POV shot in PEARL HARBOR, or that trailer for TRANSFORMERS 2?

    So in effect, the US government is helping out a guy who gets his kicks from killing Americans. I wouldn’t be shocked if Al Qaeda are big fans of his pictures. That’s so FUCKED UP.

  8. RRA that seems like a bit of a stretch. I like some of Bay’s films but even the ones I have a soft spot for are riddled with flaws and holes besides “He kills stuntmen dressed like Americans.” Is Roland Emmerich some sort of wannabe perpetrator of genocide because he’s levelled New York like four times? No he’s just some asshole that like explosions on the biggest scale possible and has the money to do so.
    Bay gets those military guys to fund his stuff because they know he’ll showcase their new hi-tech softcare and weapons as if it’s porn. They know he’ll find the best possible angle to make the machines look cool and sexy and all the things they want the stuff they’ve paid thousands and millions of dollar for to look like.

  9. -the fact that he “has the Pentagon on (my) speed dial” baffles me as well. On the DVD the military supervisor says they love Bay because he makes them look real good. Yet as you stated, according to ‘Pearl Harbor’ they are a bunch of lazy perverted silly assholes who can only do anything when provoked while Bay lovingly films them dying in a bunch of cool ways. In ‘Transformers’ most of the military tech is depicted as the bad guys and the soldiers are yet again filmed lovingly dying in a whole bunch of cool ways! (though depicting them as 1 dimensional heroes was a better depiction than in ‘Pearl Harbor’). How does Bay make them look again or is it the whole with their reputation right now they need anything outside their ads that make them look cool?
    -The military probably also loved him for the first minute of the movie where Optimus’ narration tells us war is a simple good vs bad battle and then immediately Iraq…

    The sad thing for me is that that talk about how he “didn’t want to make some stupid cartoon” convinced me he may actually be able to make an enjoyable movie. His total disdain for the property I thought would be able to purge the franchise of the flaws it had in just about every single incarnation. Their was also his obsession with cars so as vern said it seemed like a match made in heaven.

    So imagine my shock when he made “some stupid kids movie” but with PG-13 elements. I pretty much felt lied too but the sad thing is is that when you watch the interviews and listen to his commentary he is fully convinced he made a real adult & mature movie.

  10. Brendan – I’m only being hyperbole to make a point. As for Emmerich, he’s a German Hessian mercenary who likes to exploit the American marketplace by flying the American flag as much as he can when possible.

    Besides, the idea of some Al Qaeda operatives living in a Pakistani cave, inbetween shitting out from dysentery and planning more attacks on American G.I.s….might be masturbating to that TRANSFORMERS 2 trailer shot of the Cruiser getting smashed….that shit makes me laugh..

    geoffreyjar – Don’t forget THE ROCK where you either have traitor U.S. soldier terrorists out to kill thousands of innocent San Francisco civilians (including Mr. Monk I assume), or the Michael Biehn-led squad who deservedly get massacred for not acting like Navy Seals, but more Circus Seals.

    And you’re right about how TRANSFORMERS kisses the NeoCon ass at the Pentagon (before Bob Gates came in to make them slightly more sane), which reminds me way too much of Lyndon Johnson personally ordering the military to help supply total support to John Wayne’s GREEN BERETS.

    Remember when the U.S. military demanded that the script for INDEPENDENCE DAY delete the Area 51 stuff, and when Emmerich didn’t, they yanked their support?

  11. OK, so I had to watch this movie a couple months ago because my kid brothers and sister watched it and I was baby-sitting so I had to hang out. And Mother of God what the fuck is wrong with these people? All those people panning this movie, unable to comprehend the level of artistry and craft on display must be out of their minds, completely jaded when it comes to escapism and fun at the movies. I mean, if you weren’t in some way by the emotional crescendo that the relationship between Fraser and his son achieves then I just don’t know what to say to no I’m lying this movie really really sucked. I was pulling a Vern. Poorly, but it’s pretty fun to do regardless. Literally the entire time I was watching this movie, I was asking them all to explain why certain things were happening to some characters and not to others (why does he get shape-shifting powers from the pool?) and none of them could explain. Let me just say this: I spent a lot of this summer showing my ten year old brother a bunch of movies (The Abyss, stuff like that) and one of the movies we touched on was Big Trouble in Little China, which he enjoyed. After watching Mummy 3, I asked him which one he preferred, Big Trouble or this movie, and he flashed me his patented “What the fuck is wrong with you” face, and replied, “Big Trouble, of course.” Guys, there is hope yet for the next generation.

  12. Brendan – And also, wasn’t BIG TROUBLE one of the few Hollywood movies where the hero was Asian-American? Outside of the Lees*, we don’t exactly have that many to go with.

    *=Everytime those asshole conservative politicians push to strip or prevent citizenship to kids born on our soil from foreign citizens, you realize that according to their goofy proposal if in law at the time, Bruce Lee WOULDN’T have been an American citizen? Fuck that shit. He’s a national treasure.

  13. Yeah, and Carpenter probably only got away with it because he convinced the check writers that Kurt Russell was the hero. That movie is as subversive as They Live in certain ways, which makes its status as a studio movie intended for big broad appeal all the more hilarious.

  14. this movie sucked balls, it’s in fact the worse movie I’ve seen in theaters in the past couple of years (although Terminator Salvation gives it a run for it’s money)

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