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  Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The In The Terracotta Army Now
Year: 2008
Director: Rob Cohen
Stars: Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Michelle Yeoh, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong, Anthony Wong, Russell Wong, Liam Cunningham, David Calder, Jessy Meng, Tian Liang, Albert Kwan, Jacky Wu, Binghua Wei, Guo Jing, James Bradford
Genre: Action, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 3 votes)
Review: Many centuries ago, the so-called Dragon Emperor (Jet Li) had amassed a vast amount of power, and ruled much of what we now call China with an iron fist. But that was not enough for him as he was fully aware he was mortal, so to do something about that he called on the services of a sorceress, Zi Yuan (Michelle Yeoh), who knew the ways of magic and could perform an ancient spell on him that would grant the Emperor eternal life. However, she fell in love with his General who he killed when he found out, so to take revenge she turned the Emperor and his army to stone...

Or to terracotta at least, in this, the final part of the Stephen Sommers Mummy trilogy. Except that he was only a producer this time around as the directorial reins were handed to Rob Cohen, a reliable but uninspired creator of action with a special effects flavour; whether this would have been better with Sommers at the helm is debatable, but there was a sense of contractual obligation about the whole thing. Unlike the first two instalments, this was not Egypt-based, as here the characters were dealing with a completely different menace, so completely different that he wasn't actually a Mummy at all.

Jet Li was that man, or rather for the most part Jet Li's CGI double, for the larger amount of his appearances here might as well have not asked for his services at all. This was a Chinese co-production with the United States, so there were a number of recognisable faces to fans of Hong Kong and Chinese cinema, but it never felt like anything other than a tourist's eye view of the country, something which also afflicted screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar's Shanghai Knights, although that was set in Millar's native Britain. So you can tick off the familiar sights, or if you will, clich├ęs, connected to China as you go.

Not that this was boring exactly, it was certainly busy, but left very little impression on the viewer with its excessive use of computer graphics rendering almost every action scene the equivalent of watching someone play a game - so you could say that was faithful to the first two entries, anyway. Introduction over, we are landed in the England of 1946 to find that recurring characters Rick and Evie are stuck in wealthy but bored retirement, and not only that but Evie has had a head transplant. Rachel Weisz was unavailable to continue her role, so Maria Bello was the one putting on an accent to team up with Brendan Fraser, and while she didn't erase the memories of her predecessor, she was no dead loss either.

Maybe that was because with this series the most important thing for the actors was to ensure that the transition between them and their stunt doubles - and indeed their effects doubles - was smooth enough. Rick and Evie's now grown son Alex (Luke Ford) is the one uncovering the titular tomb, and they join him ostensibly on a diplomatic mission to give back a precious jewel to the Chinese government. There's more to it than that, and before long the Emperor is revived and seeking to gain that eternal life he wishes for him and his army, as Shangri-La is invoked for plot purposes. John Hannah was back for comic relief, but with so many characters now involved the easygoing charm of Fraser which carried so many movies like this was rather swamped: see Luke Ford's obnoxiously written son for how not to win over an audience. With a theme of action heroes' mortality introduced merely for "I love you dad" schmaltz, it was the setpieces that most time had been spent on, and they were serviceable if ho-hum, as was the rest of the movie. Music by Randy Edelman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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