When the first "MUMMY" of the newest UNIVERSAL franchise, came out, it left most viewers craving more. The first film blended "INDIANA JONES" style of action, with fair amounts of humor, and a semi-epic feel to it. Unfortunately, the films that followed, and the spin-offs of spin-offs, have all left much to be desired. Few things have called into question, Roger Ebert's well-being, as much as the fact that he praised "THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR." It's certainly the worst of the franchise, and remember,..this includes "THE SCORPION KING 1 & 2!"
While Brendan Fraser continues to make the most of what he's been given, Maria Bello is simply awful here! She makes Kate Capshaw's performance in "TEMPLE OF DOOM" seem like Katherine Hepburn in comparison to what is done here! Bello is nothing, in looks or demeanor, like Rachel Weisz. And, it's a shame. In the part of Evelyn, Bello's gestures, looks, and everything imaginable feels just dead-wrong, and completely annoying! When their son, now grown-up, Alex, discovers the tomb of Emperor Han, along with his terracotta army, evil is unleashed, seeking to reunite the Emperor with the power of Shangri-la, and thus ruling the world. It's up to the parents, a female warrior(Michelle Yeoh) and some others to prevent the Emperor from finalizing his evil plan.
Unfortunately, the audience must go along for the entire ride, and Rob Cohen drags them there, kicking and screaming, as he revisits the same kind of action sequence again and again and again! AARGH! It's amazing to find that no matter how bad a film is, as in the case of virtually all of Cohen's films, if they make money, the director can keep making more bad films. Cohen has made one decent, albeit flawed, film, "DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY." Cohen has single-handedly brought a deteriorating franchise to its lowest depths here. He has no style other than to be redundant. The CGI effects are all over the place, and seldom even look good! While younger audiences might somehow enjoy the film, especially if not having seen the other, superior films of the series, it's often painful to watch.
UNIVERSAL has provided the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio for the dvd (16:9 enhanced) as well as the blu-ray. The dvd image lacks real depth, and colors are typically subdued. Blacks are hardly deep, limiting detail in darker scenes. The CGI effects don't hold up well in this average looking presentation. However, the blu-ray offers a completely different level of quality. It's fantastic! Detail jumps off of the screen in virtually every shot. While CGI effects vary greatly from scene-to-scene in quality, they can't look better than they do here! Inkhy blacks and perfect color saturation, provide a reference material blu-ray presentation. The image is close to flawless!
UNIVERSAL provided a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for dvd and DTS-HD Master Audio mix for blu-ray. The dvd mix offers an aggressive use of surrounds and bass, however dialogue is frequently overshadowed by the layers of effects. The lossy DTS-HD mix, in comparison, offers wonderful balance throughout, and deeper bass. No matter how bad the actual film is, "THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR," looks and sounds incredible in this UNIVERSAL BLU-RAY release.
The same extras offered on the 2-disc dvd are offered on the blu-ray, however, the blu-ray offers many of these in HD. Surprisingly, our favorite extra is the commentary with Cohen. He's actually a very likeable guy. He also seems pretty bright and worldly, as he blends various historical facts with his revisiting the production. Unfortunately, being a nice guy doesn't mean making a great or even a "good" film, and that's the case here. There are extended, deleted scenes, and much, much more!
A great feature, UNIVERSAL developed on their own, U-Control, is arguably the best option for enjoying a blu-ray presentation, and it's a shame other studios haven't tried to buy licenses to use it. Bravo, UNIVERSAL, BRAVO!