The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)

Rating: B

Dir: Rob Cohen
Star: Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Luke Ford, Anthony Wong

It’s kinda appropriate that at one point, our heroes are rescued by abominable snowmen, because this is a very yeti-like movie. It’s a big, lumbering behemoth which may not be subtle in the slightest – but once it gets going, you’d be an idiot to stand in its way. Wisely, the definition of ‘mummy’ has been expanded [that particular expired equine having been beaten mercilessly already] to include a resurrected Chinese emperor (Jet Li – though it’s mostly a CGI version of him), brought back to life by an evil general (Wong). It’s up to Rick O’Connell (Fraser) and his family, with a little help from a two-thousand year-old witch (Michelle Yeoh) and her daughter – oh, plus the yetis and a skeletal army of thousands – to defeat him.

Fortunately, there is this dagger, which is conveniently the only thing capable of killing the emperor. Cue an escalating series of conflicts, building towards a massive, all-out battle at the Great Wall of China. And, to think, Rachel Weisz dropped out, allegedly because of concerns about the script. Yeah, like the first two movies were so well-written… Anyway, this has no ambition at being anything except a summer popcorn flick, and as such, succeeds admirably. It’s loudly excessive on a very large-scale, yet stops just the right side of sensory overkill, a fine example of the cinema as spectacle.

If the effects are maybe not quite Weta-worthy, they don’t suck, and the scope and imagination Cohen brings to things are a distinct improvement over his previous work. It’d have been nice to see Yeoh and Li go toe-to-toe a bit longer [even at their-then ages of 45 + 44 respectively] – let’s face it, the climax we get, Li vs. Fraser, is almost as big a mismatch as Jackie Chan vs. Julian Sands in The Tuxedo. However, it’s a brisk ride, reminiscent of the better i.e. earlier Indiana Jones flicks, and on that level can only be appreciated.