First things first: Happy Birthday, Clark Ashton Smith!
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)
Directed by Rob Cohen
Starring Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Michelle Yeoh, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
On my own blog, I’ve done a set of weekly reviews surveying all the movies in Universal’s classic Mummy franchise. Just as I finished up this lengthy project, the most recent entry in the second Universal Mummy franchise, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, arrived on DVD, so it seemed an ideal time to take a look at it.
Except… no mummies appear in this “Mummy movie.” The film earns the first part of its title because it features ongoing characters from the two legitimate Mummy flicks that proceeded it, The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001). But there’s no Egypt aside from a bar called “Imhotep’s,” and no mummified anything. We instead have an immortal Chinese Emperor/Wizard who breaks free from a terracotta shell, but that isn’t a mummy in my definition. The visual effects try to give him a mummified appearance when he’s still in his clay-like form, but sorry, still not a mummy.
But then, the second series of Universal mummy movies were never about the particulars of the classic horror-movie undead Egyptian, but about copying Indiana Jones, old adventure serials, pulp magazines, and adding wiseacre humor to attract the widest audience possible. Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is perhaps the most pulpish of the four films in the series (I’m including the 2002 sword-and-sorcery spin-off The Scorpion King), and fans of pulp fantasy will find it interesting.