Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

My apologies for not blogging of late. I blame an overdue vacation and an exceptionally busy work schedule. I hope to resume my blogging on a more regular basis.

The most pleasant surprise I had all summer at the movies was “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”, which I will just shorten to “The Mummy 3.”

I liked the first one well enough, but positively loathed the second one. So I was not looking forward to a return visit. But “The Mummy 3”, set in 1940s China, is a lot of fun. In fact, I liked it more than the new Indiana Jones movie.

Brendan Fraser is back as Rick O’Connell, though Rachel Weisz has been replaced by Maria Bello. Supposedly, Weisz’s pregnancy prevented her from returning for the third film, but after you’ve won an Oscar, do you really need “The Mummy 3” on your resume? No matter, Bello is one of our best actresses, and she and Fraser have a nice chemistry.

The O’Connell’s now have a son, Alex, played by newcomer Luke Ford. Alex is involved in the digging of a tomb in China. We know this tomb is bad news via an elaborate prologue, set thousands of years ago, showing an evil emperor, played by Jet Li, seeking eternal life by any means possible, until he is stopped by a sorceress, played by Michelle Yeoh.

Of course, it’s only a temporary stop measure (if thousands of years can be called temporary). Li and his terra cotta horses are brought back to life with the help of a Chinese general who has the amulet to raise Li’s army of the dead and take over the world. It’s a race to the finish to prevent this from happening. Yeoh is still alive, living in Shangri-La, waiting for the final outcome she set in motion thousands of years ago.

It’s loud and full of special effects, but it’s not constant overkill, and it’s the quieter moments that got me. The family scenes, including the scenes where Alex thinks his actions have caused his father to be killed, have a nice feeling about them. The positive family relationships seen here, with the gently kidding interplay, I think, can be traced to the writers, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, executive producers of the wonderful “Smallville” series.

A special highlight is a song called “My Sweet Eternal Love”, music by Randy Edelman and lyrics by the film’s director, Rob Cohen. It’s a stunningly gorgeous melody, beautifully sung by Helen Fang in a nightclub scene at the end and then reprised over the end credits. It’s one of the best original songs I’ve heard in a movie in a long time. It’s also nicely redolent of the era; in fact I thought it was a song from the 1940s I was unfamiliar with. I hope Universal pushes it for the Best Song award at next year’s Oscars.

The film’s climax involves two armies of the dead going at it on an expansive Chinese plain. Good stuff, though Cohen botches the fight scene between Li and Yeoh. Too many medium shots, fast cutting and wire work. Martial arts scenes, especially those involving real artists like these two, should be filmed like Fred Astaire dance numbers. Long shots, long takes with a minimum of editing. Let us poor schlubs in the audience watch a martial arts performance evolve before our eyes, instead of a short, frenzied action piece.

No earth beater, “The Mummy 3” is a surprisingly enjoyable time at the movies. The climax leaves it open for the O’Connell family to have future adventures in other lands. I’m looking forward to them.

Rating for “The Mummy 3”: Three stars.


Dees Stribling said...

Good to see you're back - and that's a movie I wouldn't have thought worth seeing. Sounds like it is.

Kevin Deany said...

Dees: Believe me, no one was more surprised as I was as to how much I enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

I love the Mummy movies. This one was a bit of a disappointment mainly because I missed Rachel as Evie. It was exciting though. I just wish Jet Li had been in it more. Loved the Yeti scenes.

sidra ali said...

You always pick such interesting!
I have not seen this one and now feel I must do so soon.
Loved your description of it. Thank you for picking this one.