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.
As 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.