- Released Internationally on 31/07/08
- Released in Malta by KRS on 13/08/08
In a nutshell
When in doubt, make sequels. Another big movie franchise from recent summers is back for another effects-laden assault on the box-office. After the hugely enjoyable The Mummy nearly 10 years ago, and its sequel The Mummy Returns, Brendan Fraser is back in the boots of adventurer Rick O’Connell to once again save us all from the undead.
Why we’re hyped
The original film was great fun, with a likeable Indiana Jones-type hero taking us through a good old-fashioned history-lesson and adventure. We then had an inferior but still enjoyable sequel, and a rather forgettable spin-off (The Scorpion King). Now, after a 6 year-gap, we’re shifting location to China where a rather unpleasant emperor is awoken from his supposedly-final resting place, and with the services of the Terracotta Army at his disposal things could get ugly.
Who’s in it?
Besides the obligatory return of Brendan Fraser, we also have John Hannah resuming his comic-relief sidekick role as Jonathan Carnahan. Rachel Weisz decided to opt out of this one, and Maria Bello (A History of Violence) takes her place. Jet Li fills yet another villainous role as the emperor. The director of the previous two instalments also decided it was time for fresh ideas, so the director’s chair is now occupied by Rob Cohen, whose impressive action resume includes Daylight, DragonHeart, xXx and The Fast and the Furious.
Good timing, nice location
It could be coincidence, but after Kung-Fu Panda, this is the second big movie of the summer to be set in China, during this spectacular summer of the Beijing games. But whatever the reasons, the change of scene serves this franchise well, because by leaving Northern Africa we are offered a fresh start, and this film manages to feel like a film of its own, rather than simply continuing to stretch the ideas and characters of the first two films.
Like father, likes mummies
After the spectacular and promising prologue, which takes us back to ancient China to show us how the Emperor in question ended up entombed along with all his army, we get to meet the now fully-grown Alex O’Connell. He was just a boy in The Mummy Returns, and already following in the footsteps of his thrill-seeking parents. Now he’s deep in the excavation sites of China, while his family think he’s studying at university, and he uncovers the expansive tomb of the titular emperor. Mum and dad soon burst onto the scene, but that’s not enough to prevent the emperor from awakening and seeing to his unfinished business. The term ‘mummy’ is used loosely here – what we get is hordes of undead warriors, and Terracotta instead of Tutankhamen.
Unfortunately for such an CGI-heavy film, the special effects here often look sub-par compared to what else has been gracing our big screens for the summer months. There's also a point half-way through when things get a bit silly, and it takes an improbable deus ex machina in the form of three poorly-rendered yetis to bring the heroes, and plot, back on track. Maria Bello does her best at replacing Rachel Weisz (who opted to come to sunny Malta and film Agora, instead), but she doesn’t breathe much life into the character.
Despite the above, the film manages to be a good dose of spectacular fun, just like its predecessors. Back in 1999, the original Mummy was a great reminder of just how engrossing Indiana Jones' archaeological exploits had been, and Rick O'Connell was as good a substitute as we had seen in years. This summer, the original man with the hat and whip is back at the box-office, but this sequel manages to hold up pretty well. Some homages are pretty obvious - including the mid-century Shanghai nightclub scene which brings back wonderful memories of Club Obi-Wan from Temple of Doom. The supporting cast give mostly solid performances, and the film doesn't outstay it's welcome.
http://www.apple.com/trailers/universal/themummytombofthedragonemperor/ (High-res QuickTime)