*. At one point, as things start to get rolling in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Brenda Fraser’s Rick (Ricochet) O’Connell grimly intones “Here we go again.” It’s one of those knowing lines that an audience is supposed to grin at. As the third film in the series, here we are, going again. The joke is that we, like Rick, can now expect more of the same. Is that a good thing?
*. There were only cosmetic changes made to the formula. Oded Fehr didn’t want to come back as Ardeth Bay, figuring (correctly) that his part wouldn’t make any sense in China, so they just went with another guardian figure in Michelle Yeoh. Rachel Weisz also opted out, but Evy is still here, now being played by Maria Bello.
*. I thought the way they switched actors in the Evy part was cleverly done, but it made me wonder how much we were supposed to now see the first two movies as romantic fictions written by Evy the novelist. That was awkward.
*. In most respects though this is “Here we go again.” It’s the same damn story, with the villains waking up the mummy just because that’s what villains do. Again the mummy is the product of some unhappy historical love triangle. Again there’s a sacred book of the dead, this time composed on oracle bones. Again there’s a crazy pilot to move our heroes around quickly. Again there are massive armies clashing in the desert.
*. Roger Ebert actually considered this to be the best of the series. He thought much less of the preceding films than I did. Here’s what he said about The Mummy Returns: “It is a curiosity of movie action that too much of it can be boring. Imagine yourself on a roller coaster for two hours. After the first 10 minutes, the thrills subside. The mistake of The Mummy Returns is to abandon the characters, and to use the plot only as a clothesline for special effects and action sequences.” Fair enough, but doesn’t all of that apply even more so to this film? I would have thought so.
*. For a big budget movie like this I can see them wanting to get the biggest Chinese stars, but Jet Li, whatever his many strengths, isn’t much of a villain. And he doesn’t get a chance to do a lot of martial arts. I think he was miscast.
*. Director Rob Cohen wanted more John Hannah in this film, but I don’t think that’s what he got. Instead they had to make room for the cringe-worthy romance involving the really anti-charismatic Luke Ford as Rick’s son.
*. In some ways this was meant to be a bridge film, with Rick and Evy passing the torch to the next generation of mummy fighters. Apparently there was even some thought given to killing Rick’s character off here. On the commentary track Cohen (who had started the Fast and Furious franchise) mentions the possibility of a fourth film, but it was not to be. Instead, the studio chose to reboot with the launch of the Dark Universe and the Tom Cruise movie The Mummy in 2017. Which was at least something different, if not better.
*. So this was to be the last rodeo. As such it strikes me as both too much and not enough. Too much of more of the same (which was too much in the first place), and not enough that’s really new. I liked the yeti, but now they’re all that I remember.