Movie Commentary: The Mummy-Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Yes, I actually spent time watching another movie. I do enjoy movies, even some that are not the best done. I went with my wife and mother and saw The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. And to the reader, again a reminder that my commentaries when read will include spoilers, so you may want to stop reading if you care about spoilage.

 In terms of the technical merits of the film, it was at best an average action film.  Plenty of fighting, gun shots, explosions, and other special effects fill the screen.  The movie even tends to have some developed themes to the script. The writers and director of the film do not take themselves too seriously. I think of the three mummy films, this one was not as well done as the other two but definitely a fun movie to watch and worth viewing. 

However, the film is not real artful in presenting the product.  The acting is mechanical and devoid of true emotional connection.  The movie does more “telling” the story then showing the story. You really don’t feel the emotion of the conflicts depicted on screen, but really get told they exist, or if shown, shown mechanically. The movie does have a lot of interesting puns, some entertaining, some fall flat. They even have the actress playing Evelyn (Maria Bello, 2nd actress playing role) stating “I’m not that person.”  The funniest moment for me was the Yeti putting up arms for a field goal after kicking a soldier head through some posts of some sort.  

The film of course relies heavily on special effects. The most interesting was the three-headed dragon. The most impressive special effect to me was the avalanche with the evil emperor mummy walling it with a wind for a short period.  There are some instance though that the special effects are not real clear.  Twice the evil emperor mummy transforms itself into some form of beast, but it is not real easy to figure out what he is supposed to be.  Overall, though the film was fun and enjoyable and if you enjoyed the other movies, you should enjoy this one.

Now that the technical merits have been examined, now time to explore the themes of the story.  I will of course examine things, as always from a Christian perspective.  This movie, like most Hollywood movies contains themes that can be related to Christian theology and symbolism, but it is clearly coming from a non-Christian theme.  The movie displays a magical and mystical view of the supernatural with magic being a force used for either good or evil.  And I don’t want to dwell on that fact any further, since there are more interesting theme dynamics to examine.

I think the movie all boils down to a central theme of being when we are reconciled and work together, even if coming from different perspectives, we can defeat evil.  This was really made evident in how they defeated the evil emperor. Rick (Brendan Fraser) initially states that the plan is to divide and conquer.  In the process of fighting the evil emperor, the special dagger that needs to go through the mummies heart to kill him, breaks in two.  Rick and Alex (Luke Ford) come together from different angles and reconcile the knife in the heart of the mummy, resulting in the mummy’s death and defeat. This scene encapsulated the varied themes of the movie into the central theme of ultimately coming together.

 The coming together and reconciling is important in the movie.  Rick and Evelyn at the start of the movie are missing each other and basically living in their own separate worlds.  They also are alienated from their son, who isn’t telling his parents what he is up to.  Everyone is doing there own thing.  When they come together for this adventure, they rediscover what they have in common and ultimately reconcile around those common elements, which ultimately is based on their love for each other, but also the similar ways they interact with the world.

As such, the movie also points out the need to be true to ourselves. We need to be doing that which fulfills how we are wired and created.  When we step back from our place in this world it can lead to dissatisfaction and ultimately conflict and isolation.  Rick and Evelyn came alive when they were back in the action versus being retired and holed up in their mansion.  

The movie does put a lot of emphasis on love.  The movie has love betrayed by the evil emperor resulting in the death of his general.  There is love restored between Rick and Evelyn, and there is the new love being formed between Alex and Lin (Isabella Leong).  Amidst these relationships also runs the theme of the value and importance of sacrifice.  The writers designate that the pure in heart sacrifice for those they love. Evelyn was willing to die for her husband.  Rick received a fatal wound for his son, Alex.  Lin and her mother sorceress Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh) have their immortality sacrificed for a spell to raise those the Han Emperor (Jet Li) unjustly killed building the Great Wall. So by their sacrifices the writers designate the characters as good, pure in heart.

Of course as in any movie with mummies, resurrection is also a theme.  The movie has Han Emperor resurrected by water from a fountain in Shang-ri-la.  There is  Rick being spared from death by same fountain.  There is the resurrection by spell bring back  those wronged by the Han Emperor. There is also the immortality of the sorceress and her daughter.  The resurrections are generally limited to their tasks.  The emperor would become permanently immortal and set to take over the world. The resurrected wronged time ends when the evil emperor is defeated.  The sorceress and her daughter lose immorality in completing task to stop the emperor.  We don’t know the effects of the water on Rick other then keeping him from death.  Actually the movie does also draw from passing on of purpose from father to son, which is a fairly common theme connected to resurrection, that our lives and purpose carry on through our children.

So you have themes of reconciliation, love, sacrifice, resurrection, and purpose. These themes all taken from a standard secular view.  The movie shows love is epitomized through the romantic relationships as well as passing on of through our children.  The secular view is also seen in the reconciliation of coming together under the common bond of purpose, which is that of fighting evil in the film. 

These messages are positive and uplifting and definitely being cause for reflection, but it misses the boat when compared to Christian beliefs. Evil has been defeated through Jesus at the Cross and no need to fear some mummy coming to life to conquer the world. Christians believe there will be on last great political figure intent on taking over the world and who will be defeated when Jesus returns.  My mother  felt a connection to the resurrection of the Saints related to the resurrection of the oppressed and unjustly killed.  However, the resurrection of the Saints will not be just a bunch of flesh rotted corpses and skeletons but with new bodies. 

As a Christian, love is vitally important but love doesn’t stop at those we care about. Love doesn’t stop and burgeoning romance.  Love is to be displayed toward all and not a love that looks out for own needs but matches what is shown in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV) 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

The essence of that love as played out in sacrifice is found only in Jesus who is the true fountain of eternal life.  Eternal life is not some mythical fountain or spring, it is found in the gift of Grace through the sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus is the way the truth and the life.  Any sacrificial love on our part, is reflective of Jesus on the cross.  To have true eternal life, true resurrection, a person simply needs to accept Jesus sacrifice, and turn from the self-seeking and power grabbing that occurs in building kingdoms of self.  God has created true purposes for each person, things to do in the Kingdom of God that truly fulfill how you were created and no matter how successful you are, until you walk in the true purpose in the Kingdom of God you will not be satisfied.

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