Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
|Directed by||Rob Cohen|
|Produced by||Sean Daniel
|Written by||Alfred Gough
|Narrated by||Freda Foh Shen|
|Music by||Randy Edelman|
|Editing by||Joel Negron
The Sommers Company
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date(s)||August 1, 2008|
|Running time||111 minutes|
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a 2008 American adventure film and sequel to The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001). The film stars Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Luke Ford, and Jet Li, and was released on August 1, 2008 in the United States. The film was directed by Rob Cohen, written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, and produced by Stephen Sommers (director of the previous two installments), Bob Ducsay, Sean Daniel, and James Jacks. This film departed from the previous Egyptian setting.
In ancient China, Han, a brutal and tyrannical warlord, unites the country's kingdoms into an empire and becomes The Dragon Emperor. He orders the construction of the Great Wall of China to bury and curse his dead enemies. The Emperor's mystics teach him supernatural mastery over the Five Elements. Years later, Emperor Han begins to grow fearful that all he has accomplished will be lost upon his death. He hears of a sorceress, Zi Yuan, who is said to know the secret of immortality and sends his right-hand man, General Ming Guo, to bring the sorceress to the palace. Ming finds Zi Yuan and they fall in love. After Zi Yuan supposedly casts a spell on the Emperor in Sanskrit, a language he does not understand, he has Ming torn apart by horses and impales Zi Yuan with a dagger. Revealing that she has foreseen these events, Zi Yuan immolates and detains the Emperor and transforms his army into the Terracotta Army, and the sorceress flees.
In 1946, Alex O'Connell, the son of Rick and Evelyn O'Connell, locates Emperor Han's tomb with the financial backing of Professor Roger Wilson, an archaeology professor. There, three assistants are killed by various traps, and Alex is attacked by an unknown woman, but succeeds in bringing the Emperor's coffin to Shanghai. Meanwhile, the British government entrusts the O'Connells to take the Eye Of Shangri-La back to China. It is later revealed that Wilson is in league with a rogue military faction led by General Yang and his second-in-command, Choi, who see the Emperor as the only one who can bring order and greatness back to China. The mysterious woman from the tomb attacks the mummified Emperor in his coffin, which turns out to be a decoy. By accident, the magical fluid within the Eye lands on the statue of the carriage driver, which is revealed to be the actual body of the Emperor. The Emperor is brought back to life, although he remains trapped in his terracotta undead form. Han accepts the service of Choi and Yang but kills Wilson. The woman from the excavation site, Lin, attempts to kill the Emperor with a magical dagger, the only weapon that can destroy him.
Along with Evelyn's brother Jonathan Carnahan, who owns a Shanghai nightclub named Imhotep's, the O'Connells and Lin travel to a stupa in the Himalayas that will reveal the path to Shangri-La when the Eye is placed on top of it. With the help of the Yetis summoned by Lin, the group hold off Yang's soldiers but Emperor discovers the location of Shangri-La. He throws a dagger at Alex, but Rick jumps in the way and is mortally wounded. Using a thrown grenade attached to some dynamite, Alex triggers an avalanche to reach Shangri-La and meet with Zi Yuan. After Lin vouches for the O'Connells, the ancient sorceress heals Rick's wound. The group discover that Lin is Zi Yuan's 2000-year-old daughter, both rendered immortal due to the power of Shangri-La's waters. The magical dagger which Lin carries is the same dagger that the Emperor used to try to kill Zi Yuan years ago,. Zi Yuan also reveals that she would have died if she had not been saved by the Yetis, and warns Alex that if the Emperor is allowed to drink from the Pool of Eternal Life, he will not only be able to raise his army, but be granted the power to transform into ancient and fearsome Chinese animal spirits. Alex and Lin have grown attached to each other, but Lin pushes the relationship away due to her immortality; after watching Zi Yuan mourn General Ming for centuries, she does not want to fall in love with Alex only to watch him grow old and die.
The Emperor eventually arrives and attacks them in Shangri-La and takes the dagger, breaks free of his terracotta form and bathes in the waters, which restores his human form and youth, replenishes his powers, and gives him the ability to shapeshift. He transforms into a gigantic three-headed dragon, kidnaps Lin, and flies to his tomb where he raises the Terracotta Army, now aided by General Yang's soldiers. The Emperor announces his plans to conquer the entire world and that once he leads his army across the Great Wall, they will be invincible. The O'Connells and Zi Yuan pursue the Emperor to the Great Wall where Zi Yuan sacrifices her and Lin's immortality to revive the workers killed and buried beneath The Great Wall, creating an undead army of her own, led by a vengeful, revived General Ming. The Army of the Dead, with aid from the group's modern weapons and air support, fights the Terracotta Army while Zi Yuan battles the Emperor; she is mortally wounded but succeeds in securing the dagger. Alex rescues the captive Lin, who was bound and gagged in a tent under armed guard.
The gang finally catches up, and Lin grieves after they find Zi Yuan dying soon after. Then, Emperor Han transforms into a horned Ogre and goes beneath the Great Wall in order to use his elemental powers to negate Zi Yuan's spell and draw Ming's army back underneath it. However, he is stopped by Alex. Yang and Choi are pushed into moving gears by Evelyn and Lin when they attempt to interfere, crushing and killing them both. Rick and Alex tackle the Emperor with the dagger, but they are overpowered by the Emperor's transformation into an ogre with Alex being knocked unconscious and Rick onto a lit torch and the dagger is broken. Rick questions the Emperor as to where his honor is, and challenges him to a fair fight. His honor called in question, Emperor Han doesn't understand Rick's English, but agrees to fight Rick without using his sword or any of his powers. Rick, however, is still easily outmatched by the superiority of the Emperor's taijutsu skills, overpowered, and knocked across the floor. Alex, meanwhile has come to, grabbed the blade of the dagger, and jumped into the nearby water. Rick sheaths the dagger's hilt and manages to gain the upper hand against the Emperor and ultimately plunge the broken dagger's hilt into the his chest while Alex stabs him with the tip of the blade from behind, simultaneously piercing the Emperor's heart from both sides, releasing the dagger's curse. The Emperor is consumed from the inside out by a fury of molten lava, resulting in the death of the Emperor and his army. Ming's army celebrates briefly before finally moving on to a peaceful afterlife.
The O'Connells return to Shanghai, where Alex and Lin fall in love again. Rick and Evelyn, and Alex and Lin, share kisses during a slow dance at a bar. Jonathan decides to move to Peru with the Eye of Shangri-La, which he has stolen himself, as he hopes there are no mummies in Peru. But shortly after his arrival, mummies were discovered in Peru.
In November 2001, director Stephen Sommers, who directed the previous Mummy films, said about directing a third Mummy film, "There is a demand for it, but most of the gang would only be up for it again if we could find a way to make it bigger and better." In May 2004, Sommers expressed his doubts about having the energy to make a third Mummy, though the cast of previous films had expressed interest in returning. In December 2005, a review of a script written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar was about a Chinese mummy (China's first emperor, who wants to take over the world with his army of accursed warriors in 1940). The idea of the emperor and his army is based on the real-life Qin emperor Qin Shi Huang, who was buried amidst thousands of crafted and fired terra cotta soldiers, called the Terracotta Army, dated at latest to 210 BC. (Incidentally, the Terracotta Army is actually mentioned at the end of the novelization as something that will be discovered in the future, although its relation to the emperor's army, or rather how the destroyed army made it into the site is left unexplained.)
In March 2006, actor Oded Fehr, who played Ardeth Bay in the first two Mummy movies, said Sommers had told him a third film was in development and being written, with only Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz's characters returning for the sequel. The following September, director Joe Johnston was offered the helm by Universal Pictures, who hoped to start filming early in 2007. Later in the month, Weisz expressed interest in reprising her role.
In January 2007, Universal announced that Stephen Sommers, director of the first two Mummy films, would not be attached to direct the third film. It was then announced that Universal entered talks with director Rob Cohen to take over directing duties from Sommers as the director of the third Mummy. Later in the month, the story was revealed to center around Brendan Fraser's and Rachel Weisz's characters, as well as their now grown-up son. Negotiations with the actors were in progress at that time. In February, casting began for the role of Alex O'Connell. In addition, John Hannah reprised his role as Jonathan. Also in February, director Rob Cohen mentioned that Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh would star in the film although the official confirmation was not published until May.
In April, Brendan Fraser re-joined the cast for The Mummy 3. Weisz did not, citing "problems with the script" in addition to having just given birth to her son. The film was shot in Montreal and China. The film was reported to be titled The Mummy 3: Curse Of The Dragon. In April, Luke Ford was cast as Alex O'Connell, and in May, Maria Bello was cast to replace Weisz in the role of Evelyn. Bello commented during an interview that the new "Evy" is different from the original "Evy". "She has the same name, but she is quite a different character," said Bello. At a news conference in Shanghai, Bello told the audience that "Rob Cohen has 'created a new Evelyn ... in the first two Mummy movies she was all actiony and lovely, but this Evelyn might be a little more ... forceful in terms of her martial art skills and shooting skills'".
Principal photography started at Mel’s Cite du Cinema in Montreal. There, the Eye of Shangri-la scenes were shot by production designer Nigel Phelps. The team then shot on the courtyard set of gateway to Shangri-la. The courtyard was dressed with fake snow, created by effects supervisor Bruce Steinheimer’s team.
At the ADF stage in the city, Phelps’s team created sets of the Terra Cotta mausoleum. Set decorator, Anne Kuljian designed 20 different statue heads that were sculpted by 3D Arts team and interchanged between shots. One soldier and horse statue was bought from China, and copies of it as well as "The Dragon Emperor" were made (Jet Li's statue was sculpted by Lucie Fournier, Tino Petronzio, and Nick Petronzio in a workshop in Montreal). Propmaster Kim Wai Chung supervised the making of the horses’ bridles and mausoleum ornaments in China. Meanwhile at Mel’s, the brutal battle between the Emperor and Rick was filmed, the first scene shot with Jet Li.
On October 15, 2007, the team moved to China. At Shanghai Studios, a set depicting the city in 1940s was used for the chase sequence and was shot in 3 weeks. General Yang’s camp was filmed in a Ming village near Tian Mo. At the studio, Chinese cultural advisers aided Cohen in order to depict the Qin Dynasty language and ceremonies. The O'Connell family's drama scenes were shot in an Egyptian-themed nightclub suitably named "Imhotep's".
The crew frequently had to halt in and near Shanghai when soldiers marched. The setting of desert battlefield was actually a training facility for the Chinese army that was leased.
The visual effects were done by two Los Angeles-based VFX houses. Rhythm and Hues Studios designed the yetis and dragons, while Digital Domain handled the battle scenes with Jet Li's terracotta warriors. The pool of water resembling diamonds took Rhythm and Hues 11 months to complete. The A.I. software Massive which was used for the Lord of the Rings films was used to create the undead battle scenes.
Design company Imaginary Forces created the opening title sequence and end titles. IF designers also shot real paint splatters and brushstrokes. To portray an "accurate and historic China," they turned to calligrapher T.Z. Yuan for ink brush writing.
Most of the film score in Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was composed by Randy Edelman. The soundtrack features numerous different Chinese and Middle Eastern ethnic instruments along with classic British folklore. The soundtrack was released on July 29 by Varèse Sarabande records, two days before the film's initial release. Composer John Debney (who had previously scored the music for the Mummy franchise's spin-off The Scorpion King) provided additional re-scored material for most of the bigger action sequences. The Hollywood Studio Symphony recorded 30 minutes of Debney's music in a little under ten hours at the Fox Scoring Stage in July 2008, shortly before the film's release. The trailer prominently features the cues "Armada" by Two Steps From Hell and "DNA Reactor" by Pfeifer Broz. Music, the latter which also plays at the end of the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix trailer. It also plays Vampire Hunters by Wojciech Kilar, which was used in the trailer for the first film.
The Mummy Movie Prequel: The Rise & Fall of Xango's Ax, a comic book limited series by IDW Publishing, was published to promote the film. The comic explores the relationship between Rick and his son Alex.
Sierra Entertainment made a game version of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor for Wii, PlayStation 2, and Nintendo DS, which was released on July 22, 2008 in North America to mostly negative reviews. Gameloft made game version of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor for mobile phones.
The film premiered in Moscow on July 24, 2008. With it, the first official trailer of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released. The film had a wide release of 3,760 theatres in North America on August 1, 2008.
The film was the top-grossing film the day it opened, earning $15.2 million (The Dark Knight was in second place with $12 million) on Friday. However, the film did not become number one overall in the box office on opening weekend, claiming only $40.4 million, which allowed The Dark Knight to claim the top spot for the third week in a row with $42.6 million.
The film however scored a bigger success at the international box office where it opened at the first position in 26 of the 28 released markets over the weekend and grossed over $59.5 million in the three-day period. It substantially outpaced comparable openings for 1999's The Mummy ($16.7 million) and 2001's The Mummy Returns ($21.5 million) in the same markets. The film also set opening records for the distributor in Korea (drawing $13.3 million), Russia ($12.7 million), Spain ($6.7 million), and Thailand. As of October 10, 2008, the film's domestic total stands at $102,491,776, with a much stronger international intake of $298,636,863. This brings its worldwide total to $401,128,639.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor received generally negative reviews from film critics. The movie scored a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 167 reviews. Metacritic reported, based on 33 reviews, an average rating of 31 out of 100. Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the film a positive review, awarding it three out of four stars. Ebert remarked, "Now why did I like this movie? It was just plain dumb fun, is why." Ebert also stated that it is the best in the series. Nathan Rabin of The Onion's A.V. Club stated that the film "succeeds largely through sheer excess", albeit within a context that "plods along mechanically through its first hour." William Arnold of Seattle Post-Intelligencer gave a mildly positive review, saying that "anyone in the market for an overblown and totally mindless adventure-comedy will certainly get his money's worth." Dallas movie reviewer Casey C. Corpier said that the film was almost as enjoyable as the original and liked the fact that it delivered what it advertised. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said the film "has some good things [but] does not have enough of them to make the third time the charm." Ken Fox of TV Guide called the film "passable popcorn fare." Jennie Punter of The Globe and Mail said the film is "kind of fun, but the twists and turns are all too familiar." Michael Sragow of the Baltimore Sun said the film is "like an Indiana Jones movie without rhythm, wit or personality, just a desperate, headlong pace."
After Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was released, actress Maria Bello stated that another Mummy film will "absolutely" be made, and that she had already signed on. Actor Luke Ford was signed on for three more films as well. However, in 2012 it was announced that Universal Pictures had cancelled the film, and instead are working on a reboot. Universal has recruited John Spaihts to write a screenplay and have stated the reboot will be darker than its predecessors. On April 4, 2012, Universal announced that they were rebooting the Mummy franchise, with Jon Spaihts to write the film and Sean Daniel returning as producer. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, after signing a two-year deal with Universal, will also produce through their K/O Paper Products banner.
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