|Mummy, The: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor|
|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Tuesday, 16 December 2008|
"The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" is an action thriller that unfortunately lacks the wit and story of the first two films. The first mistake is changing locations from Egypt to China. At this point it no longer becomes a mummy film but simply a tale of a legend arisen from a curse. It would be like calling "The Scorpion King," "The Mummy: The Scorpion King."
Jet Li plays Emperor Han, an evil dictator that built the Great Wall of China. He could control all the elements of the Earth, but he longed for immortality. After his General Ming betrays him by laying with the sorceress that was hired to find a way to immortality, Han executes his General and attempts to kill the sorceress. However, before being stabbed, she had cast a curse upon Han and his army, turning them to stone for all eternity.
2,000 years later, in 1947, Alex, son of Evie and Rick O'Connell, has been hired to uncover Han's buried location in the Chinese desert. Naturally, he succeeds. His parents are hired for one last mission, to take the Eye of Shangri-La back to Shanghai. It just so happens that at the same time, Evie's brother Jonathan has opened a bar in Shanghai, and Alex has (rather quickly) exhumed the emperor and brought him to the Shanghai museum. Several minor events all unfold, bringing the quartet together. They are betrayed by a thought-to-be-friend, and the Emperor is awakened by a modern day General in the Chinese army. Still, the Emperor is stone and requires the spring of eternal life to become immortal and raise his army. The O'Connells pursue the Dragon Emperor at all costs through the Himalayas.
In order to prolong the film, the Emperor obviously finds the spring and raises his army. This all leads to a final showdown between Han's army and the O'Connells' army – you'll see.
One problem I had with the film is that Maria Bello replaces Rachel Weisz as Evie. No offense to Maria Bello, but I couldn't help but envisioning Rachel back in her role. The part was definitely written for her, and Maria just didn't quite pull it off. Much Evie's wit was in the script but not portrayed by Maria.
The visual effects have definitely improved since the first film. There weren't many times during the film that my concentration was broken by cheesy effects, or by CGI vs. filmed material integration. Not completely perfect, but it came close.
The script was written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who have written nearly all of the "Smallville" episodes, along with "Spider-Man 2" and "Lethal Weapon 4." Sadly, their creativeness in those ventures did not carry over to this film. The story lacked a depth and meaningful subplots that were present in the first two films. Still, the film is not a total waste. While I don't consider it a part of "The Mummy" series, it does hold an interesting adventure.
The video is presented on a BD-50 disc with a 1080p MPEG-4/AVC encode. The image quality is near impeccable. The source is pristine. There is hardly a speck of grain, and certainly no dust, dirt or scratches. The black levels are deep and rich, creating vibrant colors. The level of detail is impressive. The army uniforms boast incredible textures, while the age of objects, like the book of bones, can clearly be seen. Of particular impressiveness are the tomb uncovering and gateway to the eternal spring sequences. These sequences display details, textures, and clarity. Despite the previous two "Mummy" films, this film does not suffer from an overall soft image. Shadow delineation is great as are the contrast levels.
The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD 5.1. For the most part the audio track is terrific, but it does fall short during some sequences. The LFE channel is the biggest disappointment. It was sorely lacking in some of the most important sequences, and when it was present it did not blend with the overall mix. The dialogue is occasionally a bit muddy. However, for the most part it is clear and always audible. There is not much dynamic range in this action film. Even the quieter moments seem too loud. The rear channels started out slowly. For the first half an hour I thought it was going to be a disastrous soundtrack. The opening sequence definitely needed more ambience and discrete effects in the surround channels. However, once the Emperor is awoken the surrounds seem to kick into gear. The gateway battle sequence is definitely one to showcase the film's soundtrack. Although, I wouldn't quite call it reference material. It is pretty darn close though.
This Blu-ray release comes with two discs and several bonus materials. The first disc contains the feature film along with some of the supplements. First, there is an audio commentary with director Rob Cohen. The track is highly informative, tying together many of the film's storylines. Next, there is a collection of deleted and extended scenes, which actually do tie up some loose ends in the story. However, most were cut for an obvious reason. Next, there is a "Making of 'The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" featurette. This contains all the basic making of material. "From City to Desert" is a location featurette about Montreal and China. "Legacy of the Terra Cotta" is a featurette that discusses the historical accuracy of the film. The U-Control section contains the Scene Explorer feature, allowing you to view various scenes through theur progression of storyboards to final sequence. "Know Your Mummy" provides you with data and graphics tying the first two movies with the third one. "The Dragon Emperor's Challenge" is an interactive game. The Picture-in-Picture function brings up various behind the scenes footage during film playback. The last part of the U-Control section is the visual commentary. This is the same commentary as the audio commentary, just enhanced with a visual of the director. The last section on the first disc is the BD-Live section. This includes the ability to share your "My Scenes" and the ability to access exclusive content like video clips, trailers, photos, etc.
The second disc is a standard DVD. First up is the featurette, "Preparing for Battle with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li." This feature shows some pre-production footage on preparing for some of the bigger action sequences. "Jet Li: Crafting the Emperor Mummy" takes a look at the special effects needed to create Emperor Han's appearance. "Creating New and Supernatural Worlds" is a featurette on the set design of the different locations. "A Call to Action: The Casting Process" contains some table reads and production meetings. Lastly, the disc also contains a Digital Copy of the film.
"The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" doesn't quite live up to the first two "Mummy" films. However, it is not as bad as the critics make it out to be. A simple story is present, the acting is decent, and the visual effects are much improved. Both the video and audio contain some showcase sequences. Definitely take a look at this Blu-ray release.