The Mummy Returns. Again. [2008]

The first movie was, obviously enough, The Mummy. It was a slightly quirky summer blockbuster. It tried to be serious at times, but it was basically Big Dumb Fun.

The second movie The Mummy Returns seemed to get a better handle on what it was really about. Both are amongst my favourite movies, but I tend to find myself re-watching The Mummy Returns more often. I think that it’s got a much greater story momentum – all the exposition is out of the way but the meat of the coolness still remains.

The biggest problem with this new movie is that in a lot of ways its back to square 1. We know the main characters, but in this story they are placed out of context. Imhotep is defeated, and the new story is set on the other side of the world. Consequently, the first bit of the movie is taken up with exposition; indeed, quite a lot more exposition than both previous movies. Even the “teaser” explaining who the villain is felt long to me.

Eventually however, the story gets going, and its basic structure and arrangement seemed to me to be based on the same template as the previous two movies. Indeed, at various junctures the story shape is identical, almost feeling like an alternate take from The Mummy Returns.

The ingredients, therefore, are basically right. A villain of ancient origin, mysterious and expansive powers, and a series of challenge points where the heroes are defeated before eventually finding a way to defeat the villain at the height of his powers. I think anyone who saw this movie in isolation would be satisfied that it was a reasonably standard summer blockbuster with a mythic flavour and consider their money well spent; if not as well spent as some other recent blockbusters.

Of course, there’s a “but”. The logic in this movie is no better than its predecessors, but whereas I can easily forgive those, this one doesn’t quite have the verve and charm to carry it past the various miscellaneous problems. You find yourself asking “why?” and “huh?” quite a bit more because the movie gives you time to do it. The smokescreen of flashing lights and exciting interludes is just not as thick as the previous movies, and the almost breakneck speed of plot is reduced to something all together too manageable.

The mortal blow for an unequivocable recommendation though is the relatively wooden acting, and especially the loss of Rachel Weisz as Evie. Fraser and Weisz had a palpable chemistry which just isn’t there with Maria Bello. She does a respectable job, but her accent slips a couple too many times, and her timing on the comic moments is just a bit stilted. In just the same way, Jet Li just doesn’t invoke either the menace or the pathos of Arnold Voslo. Even John Hannah seems to be too old, or too tired, to bring the effortless charm and fun to Jonathan that he did in the first two movies.

Once you start to ponder the plot mechanics and think about the screen chemistry, you realize that one of two things needed to happen. Either they should have thought a bit more carefully about the plot, or they should have dumped a whole lot more Big Dumb Fun into the mix. As it is, things feel too contrived, too flat and make too little sense.

My recommendation therefore would be… if you were a fan of the first two movies, you will still enjoy this movie, just quite a lot less. It’s nowhere near as disappointing as the new Indie or the prequel Star Wars movies. The formula is basically right. If you like Big Dumb Fun, you’ll probably enjoy this movie. I give it 6/10. With a heavy editorial hand in the opening half hour (mainly to simplify the exposition part) or Rachel Weisz, it could easily have been a 7 and might have been an 8.

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4 Responses to The Mummy Returns. Again. [2008]

  1. Anonymous says:

    M3

    The one star I plopped on this clunky bore-athon is due to the presence of the great Jet Li as the evil Dragon Emperor of the subtitle and the gorgeous Michelle Yeoh as Zi Yuan, a witch who’s been on the Emperor¹s ass for over 2000 years.

    Peter Travers
    Rolling Stone

    http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/movie/22126971/review/22126827/the _mummy_tomb_of_the_dragon_emperor

    martial-arts superstar Jet Li triumphs as the mostly wordless evil Emperor Han of ancient China, a glowing magma spirit locked in a terra cotta shell.

    Jane Horwitz
    Washington Post

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/31/AR2008 073100734.html

    Still, Li makes a great villain, using his powers to create fire, ice and other elements.

    Edward Douglas
    Coming Soon
    http://www.comingsoon.net/news/weekendwarriornews.php?id=47377
    —————————————————————————————————————-

    Toward the end of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh launch into a vigorous sword fight — and what a grand pleasure it is to watch these two world-class stars in action again…Their duel atop the Great Wall of China is a reunion of titans, an Old Timers’ Day for two actor-athletes still in their sinuous prime. Forgive the effusions of an alter-kocker fanboy, but the flinty glamour of Li and Yeoh — buttressed by the stolid, sneering presence of top Hong Kong villain Anthony Wong Chau-sang (who in 1993 appeared in 15 films!) — is the best reason to catch this third in the series of Indiana Jones knockoffs.

    Richard Corliss
    TIME
    http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1828343,00.html

    A memorably badass Jet Li.
    Nathan Rabin
    AV Club
    http://www.avclub.com/content/cinema/the_mummy_tomb_of_the_dragon

    Instead, as directed by “The Fast and the Furious’ ” Rob Cohen and written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, this new “Mummy” can’t shake its pro forma feeling. The Gough and Miller plot is certainly serviceable, but the film’s feeble attempts at banter are on a par with the writers’ best-forgotten work on “Shanghai Noon” and “Shanghai Knights.”

    Given all this, it’s fortunate that the film’s trio of Chinese stars, not burdened with fake-jokey dialogue, come off well. Jet Li is appropriately fierce as the emperor of the title, Mr. Ruthless when it comes to ruling China, and Isabella Leong does her best as Alex’s mysterious love interest.
    http://www.calendarlive.com/movies/reviews/cl-et-mummy1-2008aug01,0,5408481.story

    LA Times

  2. I think you got spammed by Review Bots. ~-|

  3. sassafrassle says:

    But but the YETIS!!

  4. mashugenah says:

    You know, I walked out of the theatre thinking “switch your brain off, and that wasn’t too bad.” Which was reflected the next day when I wrote my review.

    But as time has rolled on, and my subconscious mind has been churning way and bearing in mind your comments… I think you’re right. I seriously over-rated it in my review. The more I think about it, the more apparent it is that they copied movement-for-movement the plot of the Mummy Returns, but without a lot of the fun bits.

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