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Movie Review

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for adventure action and violence.

Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Action, Fantasy, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Horror, Thriller, Sequel
1 hr. 52 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
August 1, 2008 (wide—3,600 theaters)
DVD release: December 16, 2008
Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Universal Pictures

Reincarnation: what’s the Bible say? Answer

Bible Archaeology

BIBLICAL BURIAL SITES—Have the burial sites of any people in the Bible been found?—Answer

Burial in the Bible


Eternal life—What does the Bible say about it? Answer

Kings in the Bible

Copyright, Universal Pictures

Dragons and dinosaurs—discover how they are connected

Dragons in the Bible

Films in this series

The Mummy” (1999)

The Mummy Returns” (2001)

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” (2008)

Featuring: Brendan Fraser
The Mummy,” “The Mummy Returns,” “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” “Bedazzled

Jet Li
The Forbidden Kingdom,” “Hero,” “Fearless
Maria Bello
A History of Violence,” “World Trade Center,” “Payback

John Hannah, Luke Ford, Isabella Leong, Michelle Yeoh, Russell Wong, Liam Cunningham, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Albert Kwan, Tian Liang
Director: Rob Cohen
“xXx,” “The Fast and the Furious,” “Dragonheart,” “Stealth”
Producer: Chris Brigham, Sean Daniel, Bob Ducsay, James Jacks, Josette Perrotta, Marc Pitre, Stephen Sommers
Distributor: Universal Pictures

“A New Evil Awakens.”

“The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” takes place around 20 years after the last film. It a two hour special effect extravaganza filled with mummy battles, Yeti, and lots of violence, but little in the way of character development. In fact, we are teased into believing that a romance is going to develop between Alex O'Connell female heroine Lin, but the film then ends with this story line apparently dropped or forgotten.

The film does return most of the original cast, except for Rachel Weisz who was absent due to pregnancy. She is replaced by Maria Bello, an American actress. The film does have a little of the humor of the first film, but only a little. Like “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull,” it introduces a son into the picture as the next generation of archaeologist/adventurers, but his character is never fully developed, so much of the chemistry from the first two films is gone.

Morally, “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” once again pushed the PG-13 rating, in terms of violence, but one reason it can retain the rating is because of the “fantasy” nature of the violence. For example, the Dragon Emperor appears to start bleeding, but upon closer inspection it is mud rather than blood. He is transformed into a clay statue. This takes place with many soldiers, and it is rather gruesome, as is the scene where one character explodes. Once again, it is molten lava rather than blood that we see, so this somehow makes it more “acceptable” for a PG-13 rating.

Of course, there is plenty of realistic violence as well from Rick O'Connell accidentally sticking a flycasting in his neck to a scene where a man is about to be torn limb from limb (the camera cuts away). Add to this the decapitation and death of hundreds of animated mummies and it is clear that this is not for young children. Sexually, there is a brief sex scene early in the film, but no nudity. We also see Rick O'Connell apply cold ice to his crotch after a fight. Language wise, there are a few bad words, and in one instant one of the characters shouts, “there is no call for bad language,” but this does not stop him. I did not hear any f or s-words, however. In one case, the mummy is told to burn in hell, which we presume he literally will do, for the Bible does not support the occultic legends espoused in this film.

The occult is obviously present, as in the other films. It is played out in adventure form and not taken seriously, but children need to understand that “it is appointed for men to die once and then comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). There are no immortal mummies or undead creatures awaiting magic powers to resurrect them. Only Christ can resurrect the dead and the wicked will rise only to destruction and judgment (John 5:29).

Plotwise, the story seems intriguing. The Dragon Emperor and his Terracotta army are raised to conquer the world. If the Dragon Emperor reaches Shangri La he will become immortal. If the army passed the Great Wall of China, they too will become immortal. Our heroes must stop them. That is basically it. The story never really develops beyond this.

This movie obviously made some changes from the first two films. For one thing Rob Cohen replaces Steven Sommers. A quick look at Cohen's resume, however, shows only one memorable film (“Dragonheart”) and this film is nothing like that one. Perhaps that is the fault of the script. It has a promising idea but nothing seems to go anywhere. In one scene Alex O'Connell comments on his father's plan saying, “that seems a little short on details!” Unfortunately, so was the script. Fans of special effects laden action films will probably enjoy this one, but if you are expecting something like the first mummy movie, then you best wait for home video.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Neutral—Having just seen the movie, with my wife and son, thought I would add my comments to the aforementioned ones.

Overall, the movie is average. It seems to be missing the “magic” of the last two Mummy movies, as the chemistry that is seen in the earlier Mummy movies is present. This could be due to not only the female lead, Maria Bello, replaced Rachel Weisz, but also that too many years have gone by in the lives of the major characters. There are many holes during the 20 movie years since the last Mummy movie. In many ways, it asks more questions than answers, and one is left with the impression that it tries to cover more time and territory than was really impossible to cover in the movie.

Offensive language is left to a minimum, and there are several suggestive scenes within the movie. Several are what one would normally be seen between a married couple, but whether they add anything to the movie is debatable (unless for more character development). In one seen, where Mario's character is feeling a bit romantic, she finds Brendan asleep in the chair.

When the movie does finally pick up, the action is none-stop. The scenes of the mummy army are good, and I was left wondering if this was a recreation of how armies fought during this time. Scenes were blood was actually shown was very limited, and in many cases where one would expect to see blood, mud was shown. When Jet Li's character turned to clay was fairly intense; so was when Jet Li's character was finally defeated. These were probably the most intense scenes of the movie.

Biblically, there was little to say about this movie. It did show, as all the mummy movies show (past and present) a strong, anti-Biblical viewpoint. As Christians, we know that the only Resurrection that will happen is when Christ returns to Earth. Then Christians will be resurrected from the dead, not to wonder and torment the humans on Earth, but instead to the glorious presence of God. The second resurrection is one that none of us want to be at; when God brings all to life again, and then those people will, due to their own actions, be sent to Hell.

Also, there were several scenes where magic and spiritism is prevalent, with pagan worship and cultic practices. Caution is advised here, especially with the very young, as they hold all that is seen and heard, and the interest in Satanic magic can come back to plague years down the road. We all know, as Christians, that such practices are Satanic. Matter of fact, one of the early commands from God was to not suffer a witch to live. God knew that the attraction of such things would eventually contanimant the Jewish Nation and would also contaminate Christians.

However, having said that, there is a lot of Chinese History in this movie, about the first Chinese Emperor. For those who like History (or Archeology), the movie has a lot of fascinating and historically accurate information about the early days of Chinese history. The Terra Cotta soldiers do exist, the First Emperor was a major player in China (he did consolidate China into a single country), this Emperor was fascinated in immortality, and was very paranoid. Historically, there are several fallacies within the movie, but as with all movies, it is meant to entertain and not be used as historical fact.

However, as Christians, we need (repeat NEED) to be aware that almost all movies we see are from worldly people, who have no desire or wish to look at things in a Biblical viewpoint. We need to be wise as serpents, but also as parents to shield our young ones from all appearances of evil.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—David, age 58
Negative—This movie was… bleh. If you're just looking to waste a few more hours of your life and distract yourself from work and your inevitable death, this movie will do it. If you want something with a decent plot and casting, this is not it. The first Mummy movie was really good. The second was decent and fun. This one fell flat.

What's wrong with this one? The acting feels weak. The plot is much more incoherent and much lamer than the others. The other movies were good because of halfway decent action with good acting and a good script. This movie has lame acting, bad casting, bad plot, and none of the awesome wit and humor. And RACHEL WEISZ IS GONE! She's replaced by some other actress who doesn't do 1/10 of the good job Rachel did. Evy, played by Rachel, was a wonderful, funny, sweet, adorable, and lovable character in the other movies. In this one… the new actress just couldn't do it. Epic fail as we say now.

And, from a Christian's point of view, there's weird spells of immortality and turning people into clay and dragons and stuff, and they give the viewers NO explanation on how ANY of that stuff works. In the other two movies, they at least gave us some weak explanations. Here? Nope. Violence? People get shot, stabbed, ripped apart, etc.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Andrew Benson, age 18 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—This was a great movie for it's genre. There are a handful of bad words and one scene with blood, and that's about it. However, there is an occult theme, which to me was the most offensive. Violence is definitely present, but there is NO gore. The plot was unfortunately very predictable, and the special effects were less than perfect. Overall, though, this was a very good movie for the action/adventure movies nowadays. I was expecting to walk out of the theatre feeling a little “dirty” but instead I felt excited! I would definitely recommend this movie to any Christian into action/adventure.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Chelsie W., age 15
Positive—This is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. I took my girlfriend to go see this incase she loved the first 2. (note I hadn't seen the other 2.)
But it was easy to pick up where they left off. The action was amazing and the special effects was (no words to discribe.)

There was a lot more language then what I had hoped for but one part near the end (the guy whos in the plane shooting at the mummys) yelled “die you mummy b*****ds die” and then the pilot replied, “there's no call, for foul language.”

In the end its a great movie to see (and I hope to see the other ones soon.)
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Jakob Wolf, age 14
Positive—The movies acting, costumes, stunts, and plots were fantastic. The cons were that there was lots of swearing, a kissing scenes by a husband and wife and a brief “embracing” scene in the beginning of the film, a bar scene, some sexual dancing (belly dancers), and incantations by this “witch.” The plots and acting were phenomenal. The costumes and special effects were amazing. Don't get me wrong, despite the flaws in the film, you should still see it, but get it edited. Little children might get frightened when the witch puts a spell on the emperor and his eye starts to secrete mud and his entire body bursts into flames along with his army. There are other scary scenes that little children should not watch. Overall, this movie gets two thumbs up. (But get it edited on DVD).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Danielle, age 14
Negative—…it's nothing like the first two. They got a new director, writers and some new actors. The actor they replaced for “Evie” was a terrible decision, and she didn't even sound British! And, also, the new character Lin is a terrible actress and the writers could have left her out of the movie.

This movie isn't very offensive other than some fantasy violence and some language. The language wasn't too bad, a few h-ll words her and a few d--n word but its pretty clean. I found no Spirtual content in here but the movie does tell you the dragon emperor does go the bad place.

Now I'm not to critical when it comes to movies, but this movie was terrible! It is even worse that Superman III. It is so boring that I read one of my books I got for Christmas. It is pure boring, and it's not even slow. It's predictable, the characters came to a point where you don't even care who dies! I hope this is the last movie in the series because I'm telling you I'm not wasting my time on the next installment. Don't waste your time watching this movie. The only good thing about this movie I can say is that the special effects were amazing, but otherwise its a bombastic film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 1½
—Langston, age 11 (USA)
Movie Critics
…Given the must, dust and rust emanating from this third installment, it's clear the time has come for this ‘Mummy’ franchise to be truly mummified once and for all. …film comes off as both old hat and low-grade…
—Todd McCarthy, Variety
…‘The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor’ taps into a fond pop-culture memory. For those of us of a certain age, it feels like kin to the stuff of Saturday-afternoon TV, where Sinbad could be seen battling Ray Harryhausen's audacious creatures. Is the ‘Mummy’ good? Well, were any of those afternoon delights?
—Lisa Kennedy, The Denver Post
…For kids who have seen only a few action-adventure movies, ‘Dragon Emperor’ should be entertaining. It's loud, and has sort-of-scary monsters and some great computer-generated special effects. But once you've seen ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ it's too late. …
—Michael Machosky, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
…Third ‘Mummy’ loses sense of fun… Focus is on wrong actor in convoluted shadow of first film…
—Daniel Neman, Richmond Times-Dispatch
…why did I like this movie? It was just plain dumb fun, is why. It is absurd and preposterous, and proud of it. The heroes maintain their ability to think of banal cliches even in the most strenuous situations. …
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…Aimless ‘Mummy 3’ never comes to life… an also-ran in the summer sweepstakes. …
—Christian Hamaker, Crosswalk