Friday, August 01, 2008

THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Jet Li, John Hannah, Michelle Yeoh, Luke Ford
Director: Rob Cohen
Runtime: 112 min.
Rating: *1/2
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Adventure

        And you thought Hancock was bad.
        Once Emperor Han (Jet Li) is brought back from the dead, as you obviously must have realized now that this is the third installment of a franchisee which should have stayed dead, he exhibits varied powers but he doesn’t exhibit consistency in the way he deals with them. He breathes fire profusely this one time but during a chase in the middle in the streets of Shanghai, I was impressed by neither his reflex nor his presence of mind. He just hurls some clay of his face at the pursuers, the O’Connells, which I guess you, must have guessed till now. That didn’t bother me much. Once he becomes immortal, and becomes a dragon there’s plenty more stupidity of the said discourse on offer.
        Now wait a second, was the previous sentence a spoiler. Not if you have read the title beyond the word ‘Mummy’ and certainly not if you know the score. There is a tomb from which an ancient emperor is awakened and his aim is to obtain immortality which will turn him into an ‘evil’ creature, and there, that would be your dragon. In the climactic battle you would see Han, and this is only if you choose to waste your money on this piece of dumb and expensive exercise, fight off his rivals with swords when he has it in him to wipe them off in a flash. But then, where would be the film. Ah, never mind. Logic is the least of the film’s problems. Han conjures up icicles in the shape of daggers but they only pop up at a distance from the good guys. Only problem is they still expect us to be thrilled by this. Or ‘entertained’. We would very much be, in fact, as the recent Indiana Jones film showed but someone ought to wrap them inside a good film. Or if it does consider its action sequences its high points at least have the good sense to not mess them up and render them utterly lifeless.
        You know, when you travel by train and you have this window seat and you find yourself staring out into the open and you find it incredibly tough to clearly see the trees right near to the tracks though the view of the farther stretches is just as static and beautiful as a scenic painting. Well, the guys here obviously haven’t realized that yet. Much of the action is shot from such close quarters my head started spinning so bad I had to look away just to get a hold of my bearings. It was unclear, things seemed to whiz by the screen with such high relative velocity I could only capture the lines they ended up making. I believe the scene did have a great potential for spectacle, but then potential needs to be dropped of a building to convert it into something kinetic and move something. But then still, some directors just never fail to disappoint. Rob Cohen (Stealth, Dragonheart, XXX) is certainly sitting right on the top of many such lists, and of course for all the wrong reasons. This is a gloriously new level of insipid filmmaking.
        The first ten odd minutes seal the possibilities of whatever few surprises the film had in store when it decides for a lengthy narrative to this ridiculously straightforward plot. I wonder why they chose to let us know about the history, rather than cutting right along to the excavation and action, and then explain us the history when the necessary time would arrive. As things stand we end up knowing how the film would turn out even before the title appears. What the film assumes us to be, I believe, is idiots who are suckers for CGI effects and that story is pretty much the least of our concern. So, it spaces neatly along the running time three action set pieces prefixed by back stories no one cares about and fills them with tacky effects pretending to sweep us into its spectacle, and in between them pile one awful sequence after another, each of them testament of how bad the film is. When you’ll notice the thorough monotony in the way everybody reacts when an important character is kidnapped by Han, and the way the camera jumps from one to the other, you’ll know what I mean.
        I could opt for the rhetoric and ramble upon how bad the acting is, but that is pretty much understood. Fraser hasn’t changed much in these ensuing years. Maybe a bit, in that he has started to whisper his dialogues a whole lot more so that they’re inaudible. Maybe that is a trick this latest film has developed to evade those scorn-filled laughs we wouldn’t have stopped ourselves from once we heard what those dialogues actually are. The son, Alex, is played by Luke Ford who I’m watching for the first time. And I sure as hell hope to dear God it is the only time. I wouldn’t want to spoil your day by means of unnecessary details but I would be quite fair when I say it would have been a whole lot better if they had killed of the character altogether during these years. As for Maria Bello, she shouldn’t have been in there.
        Now that I come to think of it, the O’Connells shouldn’t have been there, for had it not been for them, there wouldn’t be much of a problem to begin with. Alex digs up the tomb and the parents bring some prism which is supposed to point to some place up Shangri La where some water body provides eternal life. And the prism ends up in the hands of the bad guys. Not that it matters though, because the good guys have no problem arriving at the said destination, the journey to which for the most part seems like a gentle little weekend trekking exercise. And when the crunch time comes, all that the O’Connells end up doing is battling the limits of their own limited and mortal powers against such supernatural forces. Needless to say, they are useless and inconsequential to the final outcome, save for the final sequence which ends up being one big unintended joke.
        I despise films that throw anything half-cooked, hell uncooked, at me under the shallow pretense of fun whilst liberally borrowing from a thousand much better sources. Adventure, for sure, isn’t CGI. The problem with these films is they think that is the case. The Mummy films weren’t that dear to me to anyway to warrant a resurrection from the dead. And those films at least had an interesting mummy. Look, this is your priceless weekend. If you’re hell bent on watching a film, in my limited capacity, I would advise you to watch The Dark Knight. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already seen it. Second time is a charm, is what the response is for the masterpiece.

1 comment:

movie buff said...

Sounds like Tomb of the Dragon Emperor met everyone's expectations... Brendan Frasier tries too hard to act, so you can tell he's acting