A swashbuckling, wise-cracking adventurer; archaeological digs; a precocious son; an argumentative love interest and fans waiting for years for news of a sequel… No, we're not talking about Indiana Jones, but rather that series' most well-known knock-off - 'The Mummy' trilogy.
Seven years on from 'The Mummy Returns', Brendan Fraser is back in the saddle as adventurer Rick O'Connell. Though no way near as hugely anticipated as Harrison Ford's fedora-clad comeback, Fraser's return will nonetheless attract much interest from younger generations. Sadly for them, they're in for a big disappointment.
'The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor' is by far the weakest movie in the trilogy, tedious and dull for long periods and devoid of the fun and fine action sequences which place Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas' Jones series aeons beyond these irredeemable copyists.
Wisely, Rachel Weisz has passed on reprising her role as Fraser's love interest, with Maria Bello now taking the reins. Director Stephen Sommers has also left the project, leaving the limited Rob Cohen to sit in his seat. Perhaps, though, the biggest absentee is a mummy itself, with Jet Li's fascist emperor not really fitting the criteria set out previously.
The film opens with a long-winded exploratory narrative involving Li's evil Dragon Emperor and his quest for eternal life. Fast forward hundreds of years and it's 1946. Inept adventurer Rick O'Connell (Fraser) and wife Evelyn (Bello) are retired and living in a plush English mansion.
But when a call comes for them to courier a priceless diamond to China, they accept the challenge. Coincidently, they bump into son Alex (Ford) while in Shanghai and become embroiled in the reawakening of the dragon emperor (Li), who has plans to rouse his vast army and take over the world. Facing a race against time, it is left to Alex, Rick, Evelyn and beautiful Chinese heroine Lin (Leong) to save the day.
As ever with 'The Mummy' series, the plotline is ludicrous and the script is awful. However, unlike the previous two outings, there's little fun to be had. It seems as if Fraser has shown up only to pick up the pay cheque and he's noticeably absent within his character. Unlike the previous outings he also has little to do and the chemistry between Bello and him isn't on a par with that of himself and Weisz.
As Alex, Ford brings little to the script and his real-life age of 27 simply makes him unbelievable as the couple's son. Along the way we get 'family' arguments and 'moments' on screen, which only serve to further the tedium.
Reprising his role as Jonathan, John Hannah has even less to do than previously. This also goes for Liam Cunningham's underwritten Mad Dog Maguire.
One of the biggest problems, however, - which all three 'Mummy' movies share - is the preposterous amount of CGI used. In action movies like this it certainly curtails expenses, yet you can't beat live action sequences.
CGI has the effect of making the movie seem claustrophobic, and lacking movement. Although most of the action takes place around China, the lack of live action means you rarely feel that you're there. More to the point, the feeling that you're watching scenes simply filmed in a large warehouse studio is inescapable. Eye-catching moments are also noticeably absent and Fraser is too often reduced to lines such as "Welcome to the Twentieth Century" rather than the snappy one-liners of past.
Lacking humour, good acting, well-thought out action sequences and a story of any value, 'The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor' marks a terrible end to a trilogy one would assume will now be mummified, placed in a tomb and left unopened for some time to come.