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HTF BluRay Review: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - Deluxe Edition


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#1 of 6 Sam Posten

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Posted December 28 2008 - 09:13 AM

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Blu Ray Title: The Mummy – Tomb of the Dragon Emperor – Deluxe Edition
Disk Release Date: 12/16/2008
Rated: PG-13
Screen format: AVC encoded, 1080P, High Definition Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Universal
First theatrical release: 1 August, 2008
Previous releases on disk: Day and Date with Anamorphic Widescreen DVD
Director: Rob Cohen
Starring: Brendan Frasier, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Russell Wong, Liam Cunningham, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong and Michelle Yeoh
Sound Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French and Spanish DTS 5.1
Length: 1 Hour, 52 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French



Plot: 2.5/5

The Mummy franchise recovers from its ill advised trip down the Scorpion King side stories and brings back much of what was to like about the original film(s) but gets slightly tripped up along the way. Intrepid hero Rick O’Connell (Frasier) is enjoying a semi-retired life with wife Evelyn (Maria Bello, who replaces Rachel Weisz) picking up small contracting jobs here in there, but both still long for adventure. Opportunity swings a chance to travel to China their way, and as luck would have it Evie’s brother Jonathan happens to run a swinging nightclub near their assignment, and their son Alex (Ford) has become something of an archeologist himself, with a big dig in the area as well.

Alex unwittingly brings back to life an ancient mummy from his excavation, Emperor Han (Li), who has been cursed to wait millennia entombed as a terra cotta warrior. Alex and family are saved from Han’s initial waking by a mysterious female warrior, Lin (Leong) whose family has history with Han. Lin and her mother Zi Juan (Yeoh) team up with the O’Connels to take Han down, but this entails a treacherous journey to the Himalayas to use a mystical diamond to stop Han from becoming immortal.

I doubt it will come as a spoiler that this is all just a precursor leading to, as all Mummy movies must, and ending featuring a huge battle scene. This one pits a shape-shifting Han and his army of terra cotta warriors against an army of undead ‘victims’ who will return to life to aid Lin and crew.

And it is in these big action event spectacles that Mummy excels, with both the Emperor’s escape, battle against Yetis, and final showdown being the 3 real reasons for this movie’s being. As a summer popcorn-muncher that would probably be enough, but the sad thing is that it seems like half the cast is new to the series and doesn’t quite fit in, and those that are returning seem to sleepwalk their way through the roles. Li in particular doesn’t really add much to his role and it seems much of the CGI portions weren’t all that close to him. Bello doesn’t hold a candle to Weisz and Yeoh hardly gets any of her trademark action in. At least Hannah holds down his end as the comedic brunt of most jokes and he’s probably the best fleshed out character this time around, which isn’t saying much. Ultimately this film doesn’t match the fun or the charm of the first one, but it’s not bad by blockbuster standards and fans of the series will find enough to like, especially in the great looking visuals.

Sound Quality: 5/5

Sound is easily this film’s best strength, as both bass and surrounds are given a full workout and rank up with the best that BluRay has yet to see. First on the bass end the action sequences feature tremendous amounts of rumbling. From The Emperor’s chariot thundering through the streets to the crash of temples being torn asunder, this is easily a new go-to disk for testing out a sub. Surround wise there is a fantastic amount of rear data that swirls and pans throughout the action sequences and maintains a steady presence throughout, providing key environmental support. Rounding out the sound is the excellent score by Randy Edelman which fuses a classic Hollywood symphony with touches of asian influence. It is epic and scope and helps bring the Mummy franchise out of Egypt and into China better than any other aspect of the film does.

Visual Quality: 4.5/5

Dragon Emperor also shows flashes of brilliance in its visual palette as well. Sweeping vistas of the Himalayas combine with nuanced use of CGI (particularly the Yetis and the titular dragon) both outside among snowy temples as well as inside crypts, nightclubs and museums. As expected there is zero print damage or dust, the film is relatively sharp and the colors pop nicely when outside. I never noted a single instance of edge enhancement or other artificial effects. If I had one complaint it was that the actors themselves could have been sharper in many instances but this is likely baked into the film itself and not any defect in the print.

Extra Features: 4.5/5

This deluxe edition lives up to the name with extras that span BDLive, U-Control and traditional menu selectable choices, most in High Def. On U-Control we have a game that challenges viewers to on Mummy Trivia, a second feature that explores the connections between the three films, a Scene Explorer which allows viewers to see a few key sequences from multiple perspectives including story boards, and finally a feature length visual commentary with director Cohen. High def features include a lengthy ‘making of’ featurette, a segment on moving from a city to the desert, another explores the history of Chinese Terra Cotta Warriors, and the visual commentary is also in HD. On the second disk we have deleted and extended scenes, interviews with Frasier and Li, a look at how Li created the Emperor, and additional looks at the special effects creation. There is also a full portable copy of the movie on a second disk along with the Standard Definition Extras, but viewers should be aware that there is a time limit in which to download this so they should do it as soon as they get this disk.

Overall: 4/5 (not an average)

In the end I liked The Dragon Emperor more for its action and special effects than for its rebooting of the repeat story on a different continent or for seeing the characters again, but I am satisfied that that’s enough. The sound is among the best I’ve heard and the visuals are right up there as well, and the extras packed in are well worth viewing, tho again I don’t necessarily feel the cast was honest in their enthusiasm for the project. I really did enjoy the CGI used here and it was well integrated in with traditional effects and some great explosions. I don’t believe this will be the end of the franchise either, more than likely this was designed as a film that would transition the reigns away from Frasier to the Alex character, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

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#2 of 6 Douglas Monce

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Posted December 28 2008 - 04:09 PM

Thanks for the review. I've been on the fence about getting this one but now I think I will.

Doug
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#3 of 6 Southpaw

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Posted December 29 2008 - 01:01 AM

Great review Sam. This is a great disc, especially on the audio front.

#4 of 6 Todd Erwin

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Posted December 29 2008 - 03:54 AM

I enjoyed this movie in the theater, and I'll probably pick it up later this week, once my Besy Buy Points from Christmas shopping finally post.

My only problem with the movie was the recasting of Maria Bello as Evie. But then, you always run that risk when recasting a major role in a popular series...

#5 of 6 Sam Posten

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Posted December 29 2008 - 05:03 AM

Totally agreed Todd, and I think that the choices made for both this and in Batman were about the best you could hope for but glaring in how far off the mark they still were.

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#6 of 6 Ethan Riley

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Posted December 29 2008 - 09:08 AM

Listen, the sole reason I love this movie is because of the scene in the airplane when the Yak gets airsick and they hold up the barf bag to her mouth; that was the single best classic moment of comedy all summer!

Now if only the rest of the plot could have been that clever; it was really a retread of the plot of the first film--just shifted to Asia. But that yak--the look on her face and the sound she made--sheer comic genius.