It’s August, the final stretch of the summer movie season, and the earth is tired. Tired of teetering on the verge of total destruction, tired of its ancient inhabitants being revived by snooping humans and tired of loud CGI explosions.
Or maybe it’s just me.
"The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" is the umpteenth movie of the warm months to feature a battle of good versus evil that has been waged since blah between the former ruler of blah and the good forces of blah. But to be more specific ...
Budding archaeologist/adventurer Alex O’Connell (Luke Ford) awakens the tyrannical Dragon Emperor (Jet Li) from his cursed slumber. Alex’s romantic mom and dad Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn (Maria Bello) help their Indy Jones-wannabe kid fight mummies before the evil undead hordes destroy blah, blah, blah.
Evelyn’s brother, Jonathan (John Hannah), comes along because he was in the first two movies. The O’Connells star in the Mummy series, but "Dragon Emperor" is mostly about sorceress Zi Yuan (Michelle Yeoh) and her daughter Lin (Isabella Leong) settling an old score with the Emperor. The movie would have been better had the O’Connells stayed home.
The timing of Mummy III’s release couldn’t have been worse. After Fraser’s own "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and the highly anticipated, then universally forgotten, "Indiana Jones and the" et cetera, this is the third swashbuckling, Errol Flynn-style adventure movie this summer. We’ve hit our quota. "Dragon Emperor" even has a father-son subplot, just like Indy 4.
Meanwhile, the world is occupied watching "The Dark Knight" re-write every box office record. Batman deux has become a genuine cultural event in merely 20 days, making any new movie an also-ran.
Given all of that, let’s give Mummy III credit for drawing in respectable audiences over the weekend. I wish the release date were the only problem.
The Mummy formula and jokes are worn out, plain and simple. We could make a game of counting each time the characters make a ‘here we go again’ joke. The third time a character said, "I hate mummies," I began to think he had a point.
The humor is juvenile, even for a Brendan Fraser movie. Example? During a skirmish with the Emperor in a temple high in the Himalayan mountains, Lin calls to some yetis for help. While the hairy, scary creatures are coming to the rescue, one kicks an anonymous henchman high in the air, over a gate that resembles a football goal post. Two yetis watch the flying, dying soldier go through the uprights and both raise their arms in the "field goal" signal.
So in the world of Mummy III all of the following are apparently true: American football was (1) televised in the Himalayas in 1947 and (2) watched by yetis, who (3) not only understood the game but (4) were avid fans who knew the referee signs.
I’m not so much of a snob that I pick over summer movies for plausibility and questionable plot points, but yeti fans of the grid iron is a bit much, don’t you think?
Even as brain candy, "Dragon Emperor" is hard to digest.
Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.