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The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) -vs- The Mummy (1999)

Tyger TorrezThe Smackdown

For years, everyone knew the Big Three of Classic Horror: Dracula, The Wolf Man, and Frankenstein.  That other Undead Dude, The Mummy was second-tier, a guy with a few flicks but not the endorsements (‘Count Chocula’, anyone)?  It’s like he was the forgotten step-child.  All that changed, of course, when Universal decided to dust off the title to remake (sorry, ‘re-imagine’) and cast Brendan Fraser (Link from the classic  ‘Encino Man’) in the 1999 version of “The Mummy.”  The re-boot made a load of dough.  Money means more Mummy Mayhem, namely: “The Mummy Returns”, a sequel of-sorts; “The Mummy: The Scorpion King;” and recently, “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”  Four films in less than a decade.  Let’s see how the original (well, the new original) holds up against the upstart, or our latest installment.  Let the mummification begin!

The Challenger

The prologue to “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” starts in Ancient China where an Evil Emperor, Han (Jet Li) is conquering the known world.  He has a vast army and his priests have shown him how to shape shift and control the elements.  But that’s not enough: he wants Immortality!  It just so happens there’s a Witch (Michelle Yeoh) who knows the Secret. The Emperor wants her for himself but she’s in love with his general.  She gets the point (literally) that Han’s not a nice man and puts a curse on him and his army, turning them in Terra Cotta statues (because, apparently, in the Far East they didn’t believe in wrapping their mummies in bandages).  The proverbial sands of time pass and Alex O’Connell, the grown Son of Rick (Fraser), finds the Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.  When bad guys awaken him, Alex is joined by his parents Rick and Evelyn (here played by Maria Bello) who are all too eager to quit their boring retirement and kick some mummy ass.   Rick goes three-for-three by putting down the Emperor with the requisite magic blade and saving the world (again).

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The Defending Champion

The prologue to “The Mummy” actually does start in ancient Egypt where an evil Pharaoh is conquering the known world.  He has a vast army (sound familiar)?  The High Priest, Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo) has eyes for the Pharaoh’s girlfriend, Anuk-su-namun.  They plan to run away but are caught.  She’s killed.  He’s cursed and mummified (old school: with the bandages).  Those reliable sands of time pass and Rick O’Connell (Fraser), finds Humunaptra, the City of the Dead, where the Mummy is buried.  It’s Evelyn (here played by Rachel Weisz) who reads from an Ancient Book that resurrects Ole Imho.  Our heroes are joined by Ardeth Bay (Oded Fehr), a desert dwelling descendant of Pharaoh’s Guards who watches over the Mummy’s tomb.  Together they kick mummy ass and save the world (until the next sequel).

The Scorecard

Both Mummy movies have pretty much the same elements: action, romance, and comedy (with tongue firmly planted in cheek).  However, returning from the first “The Mummy” in “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” is Fraser’s annoying hair.  With those distracting two strands in front of his eyes, how could he see the mummies?  What “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” has going for it, besides action auteur Rob Cohen (who also directed “The Fast and the Furious”), is the kung-fu factor.  Jet Li is such a bad ass, he doesn’t need to say anything (which he usually doesn’t since his English is limited).  Instead, he lets his fists do the talking.  And they have a conversation with Michelle Yeoh that’s a Smackdown worth seeing.  “Mummy” succeeded with Stephen Sommers (who directed the awful “Van Helsing,” the ‘re-imagining with the Big Three).  They both have CGI Armies clashing in battles that’d make Braveheart weep.  But “Emperor” goes overboard:  Jet Li morphing into a three-headed, flying dragon AND a furry, horned beast? (Don’t even get me started on the Abominable Snowmen)!  In “The Mummy” (classic version), Imhotep was evil but all he really wanted was to be with his lady, Anuk, and for that he paid the ultimate price. {A related note: The imminent release of the straight-to-video prequel, “Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior” (sans, The Rock) proves there’s still plenty  of blood to be drawn from the sand, er, stone}.

The Decision

Call me old fashioned, but I like a little more substance with my splash.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the over-the-top action that only special effects can provide (and both films deliver) but a little heart goes a long way.  I dug the kung-fu and costumes in “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor” but Jet Li’s villan wanted ONLY world domination.  Vosloo’s Imhotep did it all for love, and that, for my money, gives him the bandaged leg up.  Take the classic in this one, not the classic-lite.  The winner, by T.K.O., is “The Mummy”.

4 Comments on The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) -vs- The Mummy (1999)

  1. Usually I don’t learn post on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to try and do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thank you, very nice article.

  2. The Mummy has no endorsements? I think you’ve forgotten about Fruity Yummy Mummy cereal.

  3. Hello! I’ve seen them both. I don’t know why you guys have those problems with Brandon the way you do, as I don’t have them. Hmm. Going backwards, Monday evening I saw “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”. Saturday afternoon, uh, yes, that was “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, but not in 3-D. I did see how much more fun it might have been though. Hmm. Now the Saturday afternoon before that one, was “Mamma Mia” I think. Then the Saturday afternoon before that one, was “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor”. I enjoyed it, but I wondered a lot about what happened to Rachel Weitz! I was too tired to see “The Mummy Returns” when I attempted to see it, so I don’t know. Rather, I didn’t know. Now thanks to you guys, I see it was a simple recasting of the role. I missed the see-though outfit from before!Uh, I guess I’ll end my commentary now.

  4. Assuming somebody’s got the nerve to see one Brendan Fraser film this summer, do you recommend THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR or JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH?

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