The Red Right Hand

Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor
A New Evil Awakens

Rob Cohen

Brendan Fraser
Jet Li
Maria Bello
Michelle Yeoh
John Hannah

A lot of reviews are probably going to start "I liked the original Mummy film, it was a little cheesy and tongue-in-cheek but nevertheless, very enjoyable. The sequel, The Mummy Returns, wasn't that bad and certainly had its moments." Some may add "I even liked The Scorpion King spin-off in parts, despite the modernistic bullshit and various flaws." I am of the same mindset; The Mummy was a great escapist action flick that I was thoroughly pleased with and although they weren't historically accurate they never went as far as this nonsense.

Brief overview of the plot: Rick [Fraser] and Evelyn [Bello] O'Connell are now happily 'retired' in England yet miss the good old adventuring days (yep, their action junkies now, nothing more). Meanwhile, their son Alex [Luke Ford] is off in China trying to dig up the tomb of the evil Emperor Han (a foul, grossly inaccurate mix of Emperor Qin and Emperor Gaozu played by Jet Li), cursed to stand in clay for eternity after betraying a witch... or something. So, the mummy is eventually awoken and has to reach a certain point or do whatever to become immortal and rule the world. I love that the curses in these films do that. "I put a curse on you! But if you wake up, you shall be stupidly powerful!" Kinda shooting yourself in the foot a little, don't you think?

For some horrid reason, I found myself defending the film during the opening ten minutes. But after so many shaky scenes I was eventually torn down and continually failed to find positive points. And the most powerfully crushing blows? Evelyn O'Connell and the Yetis. Maria Bello doesn't do an exceptionally bad job, she's just trying to fill some pretty big shoes - footwear cobbled in the UK, I might add. I know it's petty but if Cohen wasn't going to use a British actress, he could have at least picked an American who could pull-off a British accent and understood the character. As stated, Maria Bello isn't a bad actress, I often praise her for the various roles she lands but from the get-go she was fighting a losing battle for the hearts and minds of an audience who intensely loved Rachel Weisz's performance.

To this day, Emperor Qin's intentions are a subject of great debate in China; was he a ruthless dictator or a great unifier? The fact that he has been so trivially dealt with is just insulting. Imhotep was a bastard mummy because he loved a girl but the fictitious Emperor Han's only purpose was domination. If Mummy 4: Rise Of The Aztec wasn't already being penned, I wouldn't have been surprised to see Mummy 4: Hitler's Revenge. The problems don't stop there either. If it wasn't bad enough that all the Chinese characters had simple, Western-friendly names (Han, Lin, Yang, Ming, etc), the classic language issue arises more often than not. I hate when Western films insist on making characters speak perfect English without reason or explanation. The best examples focus on Michelle Yeoh's immortal character who lives in a bloody cave. She's spent the last two thousand years protecting the fountain of youth yet she still finds the time to learn English - AND THEN! to add insult to injury, she raises an army of Chinese warrior corpses with English incantations! So stupid!

The humour was unintelligent and badly written, no scratch that, the whole script was unintelligent and badly written, to the degree of being offensively moronic. Anthony Wong Chau-Sang is a gifted actor but his character, General Yang, seems to be as impervious as the 'mummy' he serves, inexplicably surviving an avalanche and a direct hit from a bomb. Not to mention the fact that his second-in-command randomly sacrifices herself out of some love or loyal devotion that nobody saw coming. All thanks to an abysmally lazy script.

On top of all the negative points, the final nail in the coffin is the visual effects, which were hideously sub-par. The Mummy, 80 million dollars, looked fantastic; The Mummy Returns, 98 million dollars, looked just as fantastic; The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor ,145 million dollars, looked absolutely awful! The emperor's initial transition (spewing clay and whatnot) was pretty poor, the random beasts he turned into were a joke, the whole thing was laughable and looked second-rate; where was all this money spent?

The truth is I have no one to blame but myself. I saw the trailer and knew this would be awful. I knew it would be a terrible cash-in and yet I tried to convince myself it would be alright; here's hoping Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be the contradiction to such preliminary fears.

Release Date:
8th August 2008

The Scene To Look Out For:
A sort of unprecedented moment here as I intend to highlight four separate scenes.
Jonathan Carnahan [Hannah] was completely ruined and a once entertaining character has been reduced to whimpering cowardice and moronic one-liners. Some would claim this is all the character of Jonathan ever was (and I suppose I would agree) but there always seemed to be a line that wasn't crossed. At one point, during a crash landing, a yak vomits heavily, to which Jonathan comments, "The yak yakked." I can't even start to say how much this irritated me. I mean, truly irritated me. First of all, British people in the forties did not use the word 'yakked' to describe vomiting, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone that said it today. Secondly, the yak first vomits into a standard airplane sick-bag. But most annoyingly, is the fact that yaks are basically cows and as such, have five stomachs and continually regurgitate their food; in other words, a cow simply wouldn't do that.
Next we have the Yetis. I hated every second they were on screen. They were never explained and didn't make any sense whatsoever! But most disgustingly, one yeti in particular picks up a Chinese foot-soldier and kicks him over a post - then he turns to his yeti friend who raises both arms to signify a field goal! (I think I'm using the correct terminology. In rugby it's called a conversion) YETIS MAKING A HAND GESTURE FOUND ONLY IN AMERICAN FOOTBALL!? WHAT THE FUCK!?
Toward the end of the film it's made apparent that if the Terracotta Army cross the Great Wall of China they become immortal... why? What possible reason could there be for that? And why is it not explained in the film because the writers couldn't come up with a valid reason.
And finally, I hated the fact that Rick O'Connell managed to beat up the Emperor. The idea that Brendan Fraser could kick Jet Li's arse is just beyond me. At my screening some poor schlub said to me, "Come on, man. You've gotta remember that it's not Jet Li fighting but Emperor Qin, of course O'Connell could beat him!" Right, so a martial arts specialist or the guy who conquered all of China. Hmm... nope, I still don't see some yank beating him just because he can land a few decent punches.

Notable Characters:
Alex O'Connell. Casting an Australian to play a British kid with an American accent? He had a bloody English accent in the last film! Did the American genes just kick in all of a sudden, forcing him to speak his father's tongue despite being raised and educated in England? Furthermore, Alex being a rebellious problem child was a little odd, it would have been better if he felt distanced from his father because of the death of his mother - therefore not needing to recast Evelyn, Maria Bello could have just been the plucky American love interest but nooooo that would have been too smart (although probably a little cliché, granted). Of course, the story can only be blamed for so much, after all, this guy is the most wooden thing to uproot itself and come out of Australia in years and worryingly enough, there have been talks of Luke Ford continuing the series now that Fraser's contract is up; if this is true then the series really is dead.

Highlighted Quote:
"Now you can rule... in hell!"

In A Few Words:
"A foul tasting afterthought that tramples over everything the original films built up"

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon