August 7th, 2008

The Mummy : Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

On Sunday the 3rd, we went to see the latest installment of the "Mummy" franchise. I have to give the producers credit for having the initiative to move the plot outside Egypt, even though the raised dead in this film aren't "mummies" in the classical sense. Instead, the conceit is that, instead of being mere statues, the spectacular terra-cotta army found in and around the Emperor's tomb are actually the wicked Emperor and his army immured in clay coverings by a sorceress' spell.

It is an interesting fact of Chinese culture that the First Emperor and founder of the Qin Dynasty in 221 BC is not infrequently portrayed as a bad guy. Although more or less heroic in films such as "The Emperor and the Assassin," or "Hero," he is still the antagonist, and the freedom-loving would-be assassins are the heroes. In this film, Jet Li portrays the ruler as ruthless, cruel, and treacherous, and deserving of the fate he suffers at the hands of the witch Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh).

Despite the good parts, the rather disappointing plot reduces the film to popcorn entertainment of the thrill-ride type. Fun, but far from great.

Detailed analysis and spoilers behind the cut:

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