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The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor(2008)
A despotic Emperor in 50 B.C. is punished for his evil when a witch lays a curse on him, turning him and his army into terra cotta for all time. Forward to 1946, where Rick and Evelyn have retired to Oxfordshipre, England, having worked as British spies during WWII. They're offered one last mission from the Foreign Office. Their assignment: courier a precious artifact back to the museum in Shanghai, China. Back in Asia: China is in turmoil but Jonathan owns an Egyptian-themed bar in Shanghai. Unbeknownst to his parents, now grown-up Alex O'Connell is following in the family business as a young archaeologist on a dig in north-central China. He makes the discovery of a lifetime: the tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which has been buried for millennia. The Emperor's monument is transported back to Shanghai where another plot is in motion: a military zealot intends to awaken the Emperor and aid him in the re-conquest of China and the raising of his terra cotta army of ten thousand clay warriors.
For more about The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and the The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Blu-ray release, see the The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 15, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Rob Cohen
Writers: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, Luke Ford, Michelle Yeoh, John Hannah
» See full cast & crew
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Blu-ray Review
This 'Mummy' film may leave you crying 'uncle.'
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 15, 2008
Here we go again!
Wrap it up, close the sarcophagus, and seal the entrance. It's time to bury The Mummy franchise for good. What started as a blast of a summer blockbuster, combining the adventure of Indiana Jones with ancient Egyptian mythology and sprinkling in the perfect doses of humor and exciting special effects, has become a franchise that has worn out its welcome, grasping at straws and straying from the charm and novelty of the original picture. Now boasting five total films, which breaks down to two official sequels to The Mummy, a spinoff of The Mummy Returns, and a sequel to a spinoff of a sequel, there is nowhere else for the franchise to go, except down the dubious direct-to-video route, a road already taken by Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior with horrific results. If The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor should be the final big-screen adventure of The Mummy as audiences know it, Brendan Fraser (Journey to the Center of the Earth) takes the series out more with a whimper than a bang, certainly besting the dreadful direct-to-video nonsense noted above, but leaving fans wishing the powers-that-be had retired this franchise years ago.
Civil war has ravaged ancient China. Through the chaos, Emperor Han (Jet Li, Fearless) and his most loyal soldiers go on the rampage, forcing the country into submission, making him Emperor of all the land. Having conquered his mortal enemies, the Emperor sets out to defeat the one opponent no man has yet to conquer: time. Searching for a way to make himself immortal, the Emperor learns of a witch who may have the answer. However, the witch tricks him and his army, turning them into terra cotta, though if the curse is ever lifted, the Emperor will lead an unstoppable army against the world. Fast forward to 1946. Rick O'Connell (Fraser) and his wife Evelyn (Maria Bello, Coyote Ugly) are retired from the adventuring business, living a life of luxury in post-War England. Nevertheless, the couple, bored with the stuffy aristocratic lifestyle, accept a government request to return the Eye of Shangri-La back to China as a sign of goodwill. Meanwhile, the couple's son, Alex (Luke Ford) has unearthed the ancient Chinese Emperor's resting place. Emperor Han is ultimately resurrected, and the O'Connell family, along with the mysterious Lin (Isabella Leong) must prevent him for regaining his full powers and conquering the world.
If one is looking for the primary reason behind the failure of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, a strong argument could be made for the Rachel Weisz/Maria Bello casting snafu. Bello takes the character in a new, practically unrecognizable, direction. Gone is the spirit, fire, vigor, and passion for history Weisz brought to the character, not to mention her homely librarian good looks and clumsy yet resourceful ways. Bello's take on Evelyn has her as a pampered, snotty socialite with a newfound tough-girl, comfortable-around-violent-action, demeanor that seems to have materialized out of thin air, or a casting change. At least the movie pokes fun at the change in characters in one early scene, acknowledging with a wink and smile that it is well aware of the change in actresses. Nevertheless, Bello is still terrible in the role, delivering her more emotionally-charged lines with nary a hint of passion, at one point telling Rick that they had spent their entire lives in search of precious artifacts, and the one thing that is the most important to them, their son, they let slip away. She says it with the passion of a woman who just realizes she has been missing a favorite pair of socks, not a son. The saving grace is the return of Brendan Fraser in his signature role as Evelyn's husband Rick O'Connell. Rick has "gone soft" in his somewhat more advanced age, but Fraser retains the O'Connell charm that defines the character and, in part, makes the franchise. Once Rick is let loose from the confines of his stuffy English manor and returns knee deep to the dusty and dangerous world of archeological adventuring, the film gets going and takes on at least some semblance of a Mummy film.
Sadly, it is not just the Evelyn character that sinks this once sturdy and steadfast ship. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor feels forced at every turn, replete with bad dialogue, a story that pushes the bounds of believability even for the Mummy series, and an almost unforgivable level of predictability. Viewers could conceivably make a game out of figuring out who can most accurately approximate what will happen next, and not just the film's major plot points but the fine details that move the film along. The movie doesn't even just hint at its very move, it spells each plot point out in plain detail so that even the most nonchalant of viewers can fully embrace the story. On a more positive note, the special effects are mostly impressive and remain in the visual style one would expect from a Mummy film. The film also retains the series' trademark subtle golden hue over many shots; if nothing else, the movie is slickly produced and looks and sounds great on Blu-ray. The father-son relationship between Rick and Alex has its moments, in spite of the rather uninspired performance from Luke Ford. One of the best scenes of the movie is a 30-something-second discussion between father and son about their favorite weapons, including the Thompson submachine gun and a Walther P38 handgun. The film's primary action scenes are also a highlight, playing as generally exciting and well-made.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor's 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer sparkles in most every shot. The picture quality is pristine, with excellent color reproduction and wonderfully intricate detail, noted right away via the ornate uniforms worn by the ancient Chinese warriors. Speckles of sand; old, worn bindings on books; and leather covers that reveal every crack and wear mark are but some of the objects that feature a texture so lifelike that it's sometimes hard to remember that it's just a movie. There is a mesmerizing level of depth and clarity to the image. The film's dustier scenes, particularly when Alex discovers the Emperor in chapter five, never falters when the frame is filled with sand, dust, and other airborne debris. The debris obscures some of the detail, but the Blu-ray resolution handles such visuals beautifully. Detail in close-ups of faces is also stupendous; every crevice and pit are rendered in full detail, probably to the dismay of the actors. The elegance of the various artifacts shine through, too. Black levels are also spectacular and deep, and flesh tones are naturally reproduced. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is another example of Universal's consistent high-quality releases and dedication to the format.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor offers listeners another reference-grade DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack from Universal. It is almost to the point that fans can expect nothing less than demo material from Universal's action-oriented new releases on Blu-ray. As expected, this soundtrack produces a prodigious amount of bass in addition to some of the other surefire signs of a fantastic, immersive soundtrack, like exceptional clarity in even the most raucous of moments and fine directionality and presence across the entire soundstage. Every speaker offers the full spectrum of sound, from minor environmental support to lend that last bit of realism to any given scene, to an all-out sonic attack on the aural senses during the most thrilling action sequences. A scene in chapter 10 inside an old propellor-driven cargo plane places viewers right in the middle of the turbulent action; listeners can practically feel the bolts rattling, the cargo shifting, and the plane struggling to barely staying aloft. A shootout in chapter 12 is perhaps the best listen in the film. The soundtrack creates a natural, explosive, and very satisfying experience as shots come from every direction. Short bursts of automatic gunfire and single shots from lever- and bolt-action rifles scream out from every corner, all coming together to form action-scene harmony. Dialogue reproduction is practically pitch-perfect in every scene. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is just the latest in Universal's ever-growing list of reference-quality Blu-ray soundtracks.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor shares its secrets on Blu-ray via a fairly standard supplemental package for a high profile release from Universal. A feature commentary track with director Rob Cohen is first. After a brief introduction, Cohen provides a rather intelligent commentary that delves into the real-life history behind various aspects of the film, the casting of the various roles, the importance of adding an "emotional core" to the film to tie the action together, the advancements of computer generated imagery since Cohen's work on Dragonheart, and plenty more. The track is a bit on the dry side, but informative. This disc is U-Control enabled with five options. Scene Explorer reveals various scenes in several stages of evolution, including traditional hand-drawn storyboards and pre-visualization sequences, in addition to behind-the-scenes footage. The various stages appear together in a picture-in-picture window, and users may choose to view any full-screen. Know Your Mummy shows various common themes throughout the series, recalls various character arcs, and more, all through a unique visual presentation that plays scenes from this film and previous entries in the Mummy series. The Dragon Emperor's Challenge is a "fact" versus "fiction" game where users must answer questions correctly or slowly increase the level of the "curse-o-meter." Visual Commentary with Director Rob Cohen shows the director as he comments on his film. This is the same track as the audio commentary, only with visual accompaniment. Finally, Picture in Picture is a basic behind-the-scenes feature that offers comments from cast and crew on the process of making the film.
Next up are a series of deleted and extended scenes (480p, 10:45). The Making of 'The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor' (1080i, 22:49) runs a quick gamut of what went into the making of the film, looking at the complexities of the production, a look at the stunts and weapons in the film, the various special effects shots, and more. From City to Desert (1080i, 15:44) takes a closer look at the magnitude of the film and the varied shooting locations around the world, a look at the lighter side of the shoot, the challenges of the shoot, Rob Cohen's insistence on historical and cultural accuracy, and more. Legacy of the Terra Cotta (1080i, 13:35) looks at the importance of history behind the film, bringing it to life in the film, the significance and scope of the locations and sets, and plenty more. This disc is also BD-Live enabled, though at time of writing, the feature was unavailable. Disc two of this set is a DVD that offers additional supplements (all presented in standard definition) and a digital copy of the film for playback on personal computers and portable video devices. A Call to Action: The Casting Process (4:45) takes a brief look at what each primary actor brings to their respective roles. Preparing for Battle with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li (10:42) shows what it takes to create highly stylized and exciting fight sequences in a major Hollywood production. Jet Li: Crafting the Emperor Mummy (8:01) looks at the special effects that went into creating the CGI terra cotta version of Li's character. Concluding the supplements is Creating New and Supernatural Worlds (8:35). This rather brief feature looks at the scale of the film and the grandiose sets that inhabit the world of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. The digital copy that comes with this set looks fairly good on a second generation iPod touch. The same usual digital copy issues are prevalent here, including some heavy blocking, but it certainly suffices as suitable quality for viewing on extended trips. Likewise, the sound is adequate but nothing special, rather flat but with a few surprising moments during the action sequences.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor says "flop" in most every frame. While the film is a decent time killer and earned respectable coin during its box office run, due in large part to the allure of the Mummy monicker and the return of Brendan Fraser, domestic gross left the film more than $40 million in the hole, perhaps sealing the franchise's big-screen, big-budget fate once and for all. Though the film boasts of some exciting action sequences, its paint-by-numbers plot, stiff acting, and the irreplaceable loss of actress Rachel Weisz will leave many longtime fans of the franchise disappointed with the film. For those who enjoyed the film, or for curious fans who have yet to see it, Universal has provided yet another reference-grade disc sure to excite the senses. Featuring fantastic picture quality, another in an ever-growing list of demo-worthy DTS-HD MA soundtracks, and an above average selection of supplements, the disc itself is far from a letdown. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is worth a rental for the curious, but fans looking to buy can rest assured that the quality is up to Universal's previous efforts.
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• Today on Blu-ray - December 16th - December 16, 2008
Since the days of Laserdisc, the Criterion Collection has dedicated their efforts to collecting the greatest classic and contemporary films from around the world, and make them available to the general public at the highest quality possible. Today, they release ...
• Specs for The Mummy 3 Announced - October 14, 2008
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor', which is due to hit store shelves on December 16th, day-and-date with the DVD release. Video ...
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