By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
Best not to inquire too deeply into this Mummy: Where Sommers chose cheerful extravagance, Cohen's enterprise is joylessly efficient, pushing the family around from one locale to the nextinevitably too late to stop whatever it is they were there for in the first placeuntil the final confrontation. It's weird (and unflattering) to see this thoroughly unnecessary sequel/Indiana Jones rip-off the same summer as Spielberg's own Indiana Jones extension. (And it's downright insulting that the film dramatizes its own lack of inspiration through wisecracks about how Evelyn owes her publisher one more installment.)
Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (is that really a worse title?) got a freakishly hostile reception, but even Spielberg's half-assed effort trumps this. His chases are crisp and funny, while Cohens are incoherent and dull. Indy's family dynamics are refreshingly tossed-off; Dragon Emperor spells out its familial trauma/reconciliation with lines like "Thanks for believing in me." The would-be banter is distressingly rote: John Hannah returns for another round as Evelyn's brother Jonathan (doesnt he at least he recognize that someones stolen Weiszs identity?) and gets rewarded with lines like "My ass is on fire! Spank my ass!"
Then theres Lipointlessly cast, unless you're coming from a marketing perspective, in which case the film should now appeal to easily pleased fans of mummies and martial arts. Li spends most of his time transforming into various beasties (one of the dragon emperor's powers), and when he finally does get to fight Fraser...well, I don't care how old Li is, there's no way he's going to get beat in hand-to-hand combat by Dudley Do-Right. At least Li gets to bark his dialogue in Chinese; in apparent deference to American sensibilities, Yeoh, whos given even less fighting time, is forced to sputter out her awful lines in English. (Having been cooped up in a cave for 2,000 years, I guess Yeoh spent immortality learning a second language.)
Strange how dreary it all is, and how tired Fraser seems. In a summer where even conservative blockbusters like Iron Man managed a few personal touches, Dragon Emperor is far less than spectacular and never more than noisy. Any and all props must be assigned solely to the various CGI teams: Though hardly convincing, their three-headed dragon and army of helpful Yeti warriors (!) are easily the highlights of a Mummy low point.
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