Stephen Sommers’ 1999 retread of Universal’s The Mummy was a surprise hit, a surprise not least to me, old skool purist that I am, and even a surprise to Roger Ebert. The sequel, not so much. This second sequel? Check into the User Comments section of the IMDb entry, and you’ll see entry after entry of spittle-spewing prose opining everyone connected with the movie should be stoned.
Good Lord, these people have never seen a truly bad movie, have they? Or like X-treeeeeme sports figures, they are addicted not to hyper-adrenaline, but hyperbole and hyperventilation.
The story this time around advances the characters to the post-World War II era. The annoying offspring of heroes Rick and Evelyn O’Connell is now a young man, and up to his elbows in uncovering his own highly dangerous hidden tomb and equally dangerous mummy; in this case, a corrupt Chinese emperor who was cursed by a betrayed sorceress to become a terra-cotta figure, along with his entire army.
Of course, because the O’Connells are involved, the emperor is soon ambulatory and spreading magic mayhem in all directions in an effort to raise his army, aided by a modern-day Chinese warlord and his goons. The O’Connells are joined by mummy-phobic uncle John, the daughter of the original sorceress, and eventually the sorceress herself. The Abominable Snowman, the lost city of Shangri-La, and the Great Wall of China are also involved.
The first two Mummy movies had played out the Egyptian and reincarnation tropes for all they were worth – and in a few instances, more than they were worth – so packing up and moving to a new, exotic mythology makes some sense. Some truly powerhouse casting – Jet Li as the Emperor Han and Michelle Yeoh as the sorceress – helps immeasurably. Brendan Frasier and John Hannah reprise their roles as action hero and cowardly aide-de-camp gamely but perhaps a bit tiredly. Rachel Weisz is sadly missed as Evelyn O’Connell, the distaff member of the action team, but it has to be admitted that Maria Bello attacks the role with gusto, and acquits herself well.
Not a classic by any means, but an entertaining time waster… and what more does one really want from a summer movie? Really?
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit to you that I have, in the past, lambasted Universal’s DVDs for their menus. Once artistic, moody triumphs, they have devolved to lengthy Greatest Hits collections. This one will indulge in visual spoilers for a full thirty seconds before allowing you the luxury of choosing a command.
Past that, the video and audio are of the usual high quality I’ve come to expect from Universal.
Disc One starts out with skippable previews for Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, a short puff piece on Coraline, an ill-timed commercial for Christian Slater’s TV series My Own Worst Enemy, a not totally-unexpected commercial for the Wanted: Weapons of Fate video game, a dear-God-why-me trailer for Beethoven’s Big Break, and the mandatory pimping of Blu-Ray discs. There is also a collection of Extended and Deleted Scenes, and a very good commentary track by director Rob Cohen, whose affection for Chinese history shines through and demonstrates why he was the correct choice to helm the movie. The tone of the commentary is a bit dry and avuncular, but very informative.
Disc Two has most of the extra muscle. The Making of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a briskly-shot-and-edited documentary covering the whole production period. From City to Desert details the location shooting; Legacy of the Terra Cotta's title is a bit misleading, as it addresses the role of history and the actual Terra Cotta Warriors of Sion in relation to the movie. A Call to Action is a short – barely five minutes – spotlight on the various actors. Preparing for Battle with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li is also mis-named, as it covers all the stunt work and fight choreography. Jet Li: Crafting the Emperor Mummy is, again, more about crafting the computer-generated Li. Creating New and Supernatural Worlds covers the production and set design.
Then there’s that Digital Copy you kids always seem to want.
Dr. Freex, 6/22/2009