Forget the tree falling in the forest. If two undead armies—both CGI—decimate one another in the middle of the Chinese desert, has anything actually happened? Does anyone care? Those are questions prompted by this week's The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
, a meaningless romp through an imaginary China.
Pull up a chair. Two thousand years ago, the evil Emperor Han (Jet Li) conquered all of China and built the Great Wall. His cruelty was unbounded, but fortunately he was petrified in terra cotta by a clever sorceress (Michelle Yeoh) before he could achieve immortality. When his tomb is uncovered and his body reincarnated, it's up to a quirky family of gun-toting misfits to prevent his taking over the world. Treasure hunting couple Rick and Evie O'Connell (Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello) are joined by uncle Jonathan (John Hannah), son Alex (Luke Ford), Alex's girlfriend Lin (Isabella Leong), some guy named Mad Dog (Liam Cunningham) and an airsick yak.
It doesn't help that Dragon Emperor's
two central storylines are so vastly unrelated that they might as well be separate movies. On one hand, a crowd of familiar Chinese actors fight an age-old battle around the ominous resurrection of the Dragon King (Jet Li). They speak Mandarin and perform stylized martial arts in flowing robes. On the other hand, a crowd of American actors bluster their way through some hilarious family antics. They speak English and fire automatic weapons while wearing J. Crew. The two groups occasionally meet. Roll credits.
Watching this movie flop was especially painful for me, because I have a soft spot for Mummy
the first. Featuring a spectacularly campy Rachel Weisz in the role of Evie, 1999's The Mummy
was a fast-paced, tightly-written tale of adventure in tombs. It boasted one of the most endearing monologues in all filmdom, during which a slightly tipsy Weisz made a pass at Brendan Fraser by explaining her choice of career:
Weisz: I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure hunter, or a gunfighter, Mr. O'Connell. But I'm proud of what I am.
Frasier: And what is that?
Weisz: I'm… a librarian!
owed its charm to a precise balance of adventure and romance, believable special effects and campy humor. Plus it was intimately involved with its classy setting, colonial Cairo in the '30s. But if you can do something well with $80 million, why not botch it for $175 million? After the spectacular success of garbage sequels The Mummy Returns
and The Scorpion King
, fans expect nothing less.
Perhaps the biggest mistake about Dragon Emperor
was the front-and-center family drama. First of all, watching co-stars Fraser and Bello—both of whom look like they're in their early 30s—try to act like a retired couple with a college-age son is truly bizarre. It's as though Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman had been cast as Hilary Duff's parents. But second, do we care that Brendan Fraser is a distant father? That he never recognizes his son's achievements? No and no.
So, America, if you want eye candy this summer, go see The Dark Knight
or just buy a kaleidoscope. PG-13.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor opened Friday at Broadway Metro 4 Theatres, Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99 Stadium 11, Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18 & IMAX, Cinetopia, City Center Stadium 12, Cornelius 9 Cinemas, Division Street Stadium 13, Evergreen Parkway Stadium 13, Hilltop 9 Cinema, Lloyd Center Stadium 10 Cinema, Lloyd Mall 8 Cinema, Movies On TV Stadium 16, Oak Grove 8 Cinemas, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sandy Cinemas, Sherwood Stadium 10, Tigard 11 Cinemas, Vancouver Plaza 10 Cinema, Wilsonville Stadium 9 Cinema.