tek's rating:

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (PG-13)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

This came out in 2008, but I didn't see it until 2017. It's the third installment in "The Mummy" franchise, released seven years after The Mummy Returns. But it's set (mostly) in 1946, thirteen years after the previous movie. As I said in my reviews of the first two movies, it was hard to decide whether to call them "scary" movies or "action/adventure" movies. This one was definitely less scary, and despite the frequent use of the word "mummy" in the movie, I found it hard to really think of the main antagonist in this movie as a mummy. So I didn't really want to put my review in the "scary" section, but I also didn't want to put it in "action/adventure"... mainly because I wanted the page to have a dark color scheme. (I do sometimes put supernatural movies in my "action/adventure" section, but this one I particularly wanted to associate at least somewhat with the horror genre.) And certainly it is supernatural in nature, so that's where I decided to put it. ...I also want to mention that this movie was the most poorly received, critically, of the Mummy trilogy, but I think that's grossly unfair. (While watching it I was thinking I must have liked it at least as much as the second movie, though not necessarily quite as much as the first movie. But after checking my reviews of those two movies, I found that I had rated the second movie slightly higher than the first movie. And I'm rating this one slightly lower than than the first movie. It all goes to show how poor my memory is.) But whatever... I definitely thought this was a damn fun movie, and screw anyone who thinks otherwise.

Anyway... as usual, the movie begins with some voiceover narration amid action taking place in the ancient past. This time, instead of Egypt, it's set in ancient China. There are apparently various kingdoms, and one king (Jet Li) wants to become emperor of them all. (I don't think I ever heard the narrator or anyone else refer to him as the "Dragon Emperor," but whatever.) We see that he's a pretty badass fighter, as well as having power over the "five elements" (in this case, fire, earth, water, wood, and metal). He and his army conquer all his enemies, but he still wants to conquer Death itself. So he sends his most trusted general, Ming Guo, to find a "witch" who supposedly knows the secret to immortality. Ming finds the woman, Zi Yuan (Michelle Yeoh), and brings her to the emperor. She tells him she doesn't know the secret of immortality, but she knows where to find it. So the emperor sends her out to find it, along with Ming and his army, but not before telling Ming that no man is to touch her, because he wants her for himself. Of course Zi and Ming soon fall in love, or whatever, so after they bring back the book of spells including the one for immortality, the emperor has Ming killed. But it turns out Zi hadn't cast the immortality spell on the emperor, but rather cursed him and his entire army, turning them into terracotta warriors. And of course, if the spell is ever broken, the world would be in big trouble.

Flash forward to 1946. Rick O'Connell is trying his hand at fly fishing, which doesn't go well. Then he goes home, but his wife is away at a book reading. It seems she's written fictional accounts of her adventures from the previous movies. Before we even see her, it's obvious that her voice is not that of Rachel Weisz. And when we see her, it's clearly a different actress (Maria Bello). At first, I wasn't sure what to think. In response to a question from one of the people listening to her book reading, she said she was a different person, and I wasn't sure if that meant she wasn't actually Evie, or if it was just hanging a lampshade on a casting change. Even when she went home and interacted with Rick, I still wasn't sure... maybe he had remarried? Then some guy comes and asks them to deliver an artifact to China. There is a reference to their having been spies during "the war" (World War II), after which they'd retired. And that sounded like something I would love to see some movies about. It's also mentioned that Mrs. O'Connell has a brother, Jonathan, who has a nightclub in China. So I thought, maybe Jonathan has two sisters? But once they get there, I think Jonathan is the first person in the movie to actually call her Evie. So then I knew the role had definitely been recast. Well, I liked Bello well enough, and while I can't say whether I would have liked her as much, or less than Weisz if she'd been in the franchise from the start... I still definitely missed Weisz, this time around. (Incidentally, Jonathan's club is called "Imhotep's," which I found terribly amusing.)

Meanwhile, Rick and Evie's son, Alex, is now a college-age young man, who's very much following in his parents' footsteps. He's dropped out of school without telling them, and is involved in an archaeological dig in China, where he and a professor named Wilson have uncovered the hidden tomb of the Dragon Emperor and his terracotta army. They're soon attacked by some sort of ninja named Lin, whom we'll later learn has been trying to prevent the resurrection of the emperor for a long time (so she reminds me of the Medjai from the previous movies). But she doesn't manage to stop Alex and Wilson from taking the emperor and some other stuff away from the burial site. Anyway... when Rick and Evie show up and deliver the artifact to Professor Wilson, it turns out that Wilson is working with a renegade Chinese general named Yang, who commands a group of soldiers that want to resurrect the emperor to restore China to its former glory. (His most important aide is a woman named Choi; I only read her name online, never noticed it said in the movie. But she was obviously very loyal to him.)

So... Rick and Evie and Jonathan and Alex and Lin all have to try to stop Yang from resurrecting the Dragon Emperor. Of course they fail, so then they have to try to stop the emperor from obtaining eternal life (which involves a pool in Shangri-La). Of course they fail, so they have to stop him from resurrecting his army. Of course they fail, so they have to get help from Zi Yuan, who has become immortal, herself, and has guarded the pool in Shangri-La for like 2000 years. Also there's a subplot about a potential romantic relationship between Alex and Lin. And the heroes get help from one source I totally predicted all along (though I won't spoil it), and another source that took me completely by surprise (which I thought was super cool and which I totally won't spoil).

Needless to say, the good guys win in the end. I thought the action was pretty great all around, and I thought the movie was pretty funny, and... I dunno what else to say. It certainly had some flaws, but nothing that really bothered me. Mostly I just thought it was a lot of fun.

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