Last night, torrential rain forced me to seek shelter in Rockwell Power Plant mall, and to pass the time while waiting for the taxi lines to thin, I headed off to the theaters. I had a choice between Pixar's Wall-E, X-Files: I Want To Believe and Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Well, even though I was intrigued with Wall-E, I didn't feel like it was the proper time to watch it, nor did I think I had the patience and state of mind proper for digesting X-Files. In fact, I just wanted to watch Dark Knight again. Ultimately I settled for some dumb, fun action- and opted for Mummy 3.
The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is the true sequel to the last real entry into this action-adventure franchise (which was sidetracked by the utterly horrid Scorpion King). The first movie was a classic, surprisingly excellent action-horror hybrid... the second was a more heavy-handed CG-heavy action romp which, while greatly inferior to the original, was still quite fun. And so I went into the third movie expecting little but lots of bang and boom.
The sequel sees Brendan Fraser (who still looks fit, if a bit puffier and a bit hoarser) reprising his role as man-of-action he-man adventurer Rick O'Connell, along with John Hannah as his brother-in-law, fast-talking hustler Jonathan Carnahan. It's a bit of a sad note that most of the other cast do not return this time around. Missing, of course, is Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep the original Mummy (though a nod to the undead Egyptian high priest is present in the movie), since he was last seen being carted off into the underworld by countless tortured souls. Evy O'Connell, Rick's wife and adventuring partner, has been recast with a new actress- Maria Bello, who takes over the character from Rachel Weisz... this 'changing of the guard' is actually pointed at in the script, with Bello's Evy stating that she's 'a whole different person' from the Evy of the previous films. Hmmm. Anyway, there are sad goodbye's and there are happy goodbye's as well- the annoying kid from Mummy 2 (okay, he wasn't THAT annoying but still) is gone, as the character of Rick and Evy's son Alex is now 21 years old, and played by actor Luke Ford. Oh, and Oded Fehr's not around since the movie's mainly set in China and Tibet. Tuareg warriors would kinda seem out of place, I guess.
Shades of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Rick and Evy O'Connell are 'enjoying' the fruits of their long careers- apparently saving the world from an evil mummy and the Army of Anubis wasn't enough for the intrepid husband and wife... they had to go off and become espionage agents during the war (the movie is set in the 1940s, after World War II). With a beautiful palatial estate and servants, all Rick has to contend with is learning fly-fishing, while Evy has to deal with writing her next best-selling novel. But it appears that success has it's price- both are plainly wanting to get their blood fired up again, and the life of the idle rich isn't going to do that any good. And so, as if on cue, we see Alex O'Connell, now freshly-dropped out of college and following in his parents' dubious footsteps as an archaeologist and tomb pillager. The kid's got a chip on his shoulder- mainly the need to prove he's as much a man as his dad- and he's thinking that discovering another mummy is the thing to do it.
Anyway, this time around the Mummy in question isn't from Egypt. As if in line with the Beijing Olympics and the current China craze on Discovery Channel, the magical heavy is Emperor Han (Jet Li), a fictional ruler apparently juxtaposed with the real Emperor Chin who unified China and built the Great Wall. As cruel as the real Chin was, Jet Li's Han comes with Elemental Powers that would do the Avatar proud, as well as a Terra Cotta Army to resurrect. And so, with the inevitable awakening of the evil Dragon Emperor by the O'Connells through the manipulation of a Chinese paramilitary group dedicated to serving Han and returning him to power, the battle begins. Rick, Evy, Alex and Jonathan, along with a mysterious girl named Lin (Isabella Leong) and the immortal sorceress Zi Yuan (Michelle Yuan) struggle to keep the world safe from the thud of Terra-Cotta boots.
The Mummy 3 isn't that far-off from Mummy 2- with all that this entails. It's still got some cool action, lots of explosions and gunplay, nice CG (and bad CG too) and a BIG battle sequence at the end (which kinda beats out the finale in Mummy 2).
Brendan Fraser's the heart and soul of this franchise, now even more with Rachel Weisz gone, along with John Hannah (who is sadly a bit lacking for this one, though that's probably the fault of the script). Even though he's not as trim as he was in the first film, he's still pretty much a solid action guy. Maria Bello is pretty, but darn- Rachel Weisz is a tough act to follow. However, the weird transformation of Evy from the first to the second film made accepting this new incarnation not that hard. She's still a kick-ass adventurer as well as a prim and proper lady, so that at least gets it right. As for new boy Alex- I'm not that fine into how Alex is being groomed as another action guy like his dad. I figured him more of a brainy type, as his younger self was. Clever and quick-thinking, more brains than brawn. He should be able to shoot and fight, but all that heavy stuff is Rick's territory. And the guy, Luke Ford, kinda looks like a Wahlberg. Not a minus, but it's weird.
And then there's the Asian cast- Jet Li, once again, is underused. Emperor Han is just a mean guy, and that's all there is to him. Much more interesting actually are the modern-day paramilitary group that throws their loyalty to him. Michelle Yeoh, as the sorceress Zi Yuan, is getting along in years, but still as classy as ever. The Chinese Paramilitary Cult, led by General Yang (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) and his lieutenant Choi (Jessey Meng) are portrayed in some ways as ruthless enemies but also with admirable qualities of loyalty and courage... albeit misplaced, given that the object of their worship and servitude is a self-serving son of a dragon bitch.
For the most part, the production is slick and is in line with the rest of the Mummy franchise, with lots of pretty locales and settings, cool guns and lots of firepower, and a kick-ass battle at the end to mix it all up. It's probably a bit better than the Mummy 2, although the second movie had sexy chicks fighting with sais, and this does not.
So, what's next? Incan Mummies? How about the Hanging Mummies here in the Philippines? Heh. Well, supposedly there are plans for more Mummy movies to come so we'll be waiting.
In the end, Mummy 3 is an enjoyable action flick- at the very least, I actually enjoyed it a bit more than I did the last Indiana Jones flick- which is more a testament of how low Crystal Skull fell from the tree. You can do a lot worse than this for some escapist entertainment, and if you're a fan of the series it's something to see. Check it out! Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is now showing in theaters all over the Metro.