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Blu-ray Review: The Mummy – Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

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It took seven years following the last Mummy for this third film in the franchise series to appear, and this is the best they could do? To the producers' credit, the first two were fun, energetic, over-the-top adventures. Sure, they missed a step or two along the way, but they never went this far from the path. Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a forgetful dud, albeit an expensive one.

Brendan Fraser is back, yet all too often pushed aside for a newcomer. His son, played by Luke Ford, dominates the screen and a lot of the action. Never mind the fact that he’s way too old to be in this role, no longer speaks with the proper accent, and looks nothing like he did a few years prior. Oh, and don’t forget that Fraser’s wife has changed from a spunky, energetic Rachel Weisz to a rich, spoiled Maria Bello.

These are continuity errors from the previous films that must not have even entered into the equation for the screenwriters. Audiences are supposed to accept that Bello has been on the previous adventures, and the script tries desperately to show the viewer just that. How? By having her look absurdly ridiculous running across tables in her own home.

It’s not Bello’s fault, and it happens in movies. Sometimes actors/actresses don’t return. However, there’s no attempt to change Bello’s character, write out Weisz, or something else. It reeks of laziness or lack of time. In fact, the entire movie does.

Jet Li is billed as a star in the film, yet is on screen for less than 10 minutes of the entire movie. His so-so computer generated double does most of the work until the mummy can be resurrected. Li is the Dragon Emperor, trying to do what apparently all mummies do, and take over the world with his dead army.

On the upside, the action in the film can be lively. A street chase during the Chinese New Year is loads of fun. It’s what this entire movie should be. Sadly, that's not what it is. The script introduces an embarrassing set of abominable snowmen that come off as both hokey and conveniently scripted. The finale brings back memories of the opening to The Mummy Returns, and there’s even a rain of arrows, one of those irritating clichés that’s in far too many movies these days.

All of the one-liners and gags are of lower quality this time. In fact, anything spoken during an action sequence seems purely for the sake of being an action movie one-liner. It’s grating and painful, much like the soundtrack which consistently repeats itself. Prior to the action, and there is too much time spent there, the film is nothing but the group meeting back up with each one another after their long separation since the events of the previous film.

Tomb of the Dragon Emperor has everything the usual summer blockbuster needs. It’s obviously expensive, loaded with special effects, and the action is consistent. Unfortunately, none of that can save a film that has seemingly forgotten about its predecessors or the contrived events in the script.

At the very least, Universal delivers a Blu-ray worthy of the format. This is an incredibly crisp, clean, and clear transfer. Detail is remarkable in nearly every scene. Color is spectacular, bursting off the screen. Black levels never waver. Grain during certain special effects shots is normal and part of the print, not an issue with the disc. This type of transfer can make a movie like this bearable to watch, though certainly not make it any better.

Likewise, this DTS-HD mix may be up for audio track of the year. Bass is incredibly heavy, and you can count on it whenever it’s called upon. The tracking of the audio into all five channels is truly stunning. The Yeti sequence is the showstopper. As they jump from speaker to speaker, it accurately tracks their movement. As snow is pushed around, it’s audible. Even the opening musical cue instantly fills the room with an immersive and expansive effect.

This two disc set starts off with a solo commentary from director Rob Cohen, also available via picture-in-picture if you want to view it that way. The usual making-of piece is nearly 23-minutes, and praise-heavy to the point of nausea. From the City to the Desert is another promo piece, this one focusing on the location shoot. Legacy of Terra Cotta delves into the history the film is based on, but seriously, it’s a movie about a mummy. Why bother?

Disc 2 is lackluster, offering up featurettes that run less than 10 minutes each. However, back on the first disc, you can fight with Universal’s ridiculous U-Control features to find more content. There’s a trivia game, alternate takes, and an admittedly nifty feature that helps link the three films together. However, you still have to watch the entire movie to access this stuff, and it’s not worth it. Finally, there is one exclusive featurette available through BD-Live on the Yeti attack.

If you think Luke Ford is perfect for the role, look at it this way. Ford was born in 1981. Fraser was born in 1968, and Bello in ’69. That means Ford is only 14 years younger than his parents.  He’s pushing 30 in real life, and plays a character around 20. It doesn’t work on paper or on screen.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.