The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Information

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a 2008 American action-adventure fantasy film directed by Rob Cohen, written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, and produced by Stephen Sommers (director of The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001)), Bob Ducsay, Sean Daniel, and James Jacks. The film is set in China, departing from the Egyptian setting. It is the third and final installment in The Mummy trilogy. The film stars Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Luke Ford, Anthony Wong and Michelle Yeoh.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was premiered in Moscow on July 24, 2008 and was released in the United States on August 1, 2008. The film grossed $401.1 million worldwide and is the lowest-grossing film in The Mummy trilogy. A sequel was in the works, titled, The Mummy: Rise of the Aztec with Fraser, Bello, Hannah, Ford reprising their roles and Antonio Banderas to play the villain. However, the film was cancelled and Universal Pictures instead opted to release a reboot in 2017 as the first instalment in the Dark Universe franchise.


In ancient China, a brutal and tyrannical warlord unites the country's kingdoms into an empire and becomes the Dragon Emperor. He orders the construction of the Great Wall of China to bury and curse his dead enemies, eventually learning power over the traditional Chinese Wu Xing elements of fire, water, earth, wood and metal. Emperor Han soon grows fearful that his death will end all he has accomplished and summons Zi Yuan, a sorceress who is said to know the secret of immortality. She seemingly casts a spell on Han in Sanskrit, before he executes General Ming, his trusted friend and Zi Yuan's secret lover. He stabs Zi Yuan with a dagger, but having foreseen this event, she immolates and imprisons the Emperor and his soldiers in clay, transforming his army into the Terracotta Army, and flees.

In 1946, Alex O'Connell, Rick and Evelyn O'Connell's son, and his archaeology professor Roger Wilson locate Han's tomb. Though attacked by a mysterious woman, they succeed in bringing the coffin to Shanghai. Meanwhile, the British government entrusts the O'Connells to take the Eye of Shangri-La back to China. However, they learn that Wilson works for a rogue military faction led by General Yang, who had provided the financial backing of Alex's expedition. Yang believes that Han is the one who can lead China out of the chaos following World War II and plans to resurrect the Emperor using the Eye, which contains the Elixir of Life. They open it, but it accidentally lands on the statue of the carriage driver, which is revealed to actually be Han's mummified body. He accepts Yang's service but kills Wilson and escapes.

Along with Evelyn's brother Jonathan Carnahan, the O'Connells and the mysterious woman, Lin, travel to a stupa in the Himalayas that will reveal the path to Shangri-La when the Eye is placed on top of it. With the help of Yetis summoned by Lin, the group hold off Yang's soldiers but Han discovers Shangri-La's location. Alex attempts to trigger an avalanche. Han throws a dagger at him, but Rick shoves Alex and is stabbed instead. Lin takes the group to Shangri-La, where Zi Yuan still lives and heals Rick's wound. The group discovers that Lin is Zi Yuan's daughter, both rendered immortal due to the power of Shangri-La's waters. As Rick heals, Alex and Lin have grown attached to each other, but Lin refuses due to her immortality, unable to bear falling in love with Alex only to watch him grow old and die, just as Zi Yuan mourned for General Ming.

Han and General Yang eventually arrive and attack them in Shangri-La, and Han bathes in the mystical waters, which restores his human form and youth, and gives him the ability to shapeshift. Transforming into a dragon, Han kidnaps Lin and flies back to the tomb, raising his Terracota Army, planning to cross the Great Wall, where they will be invincible. The O'Connells and Zi Yuan pursue Han to the Great Wall where she sacrifices her and Lin's immortality to create an undead army from beneath The Great Wall, led by a revived General Ming. As Alex rescues Lin, Zi Yuan fights Han and is mortally wounded, but secures the dagger. Zi Yuan gives the dagger to the group before dying. Meanwhile, Han goes into the Great Wall to use his elemental powers to negate the undead spell. Rick and Alex fight off Han while Evelyn and Lin fight and kill Yang and Choi. Han gains the upper hand over Rick, but Rick and Alex manage to stab Han in his heart with the dagger, killing him and defeating the Terracotta Army. Ming's army briefly celebrates before finally moving on to a peaceful afterlife.

The O'Connells return to Shanghai while Jonathan decides to move to Peru with the Eye of Shangri-La, as he wants to go somewhere with no mummies. However, in postscript, it is revealed that upon his arrival, mummies were discovered in Peru.


  • Brendan Fraser as Rick O'Connell
  • Maria Bello as Evelyn Carnahan
  • John Hannah as Jonathan Carnahan
  • Luke Ford as Alex O'Connell
  • Jet Li as Emperor Han
  • Michelle Yeoh as Zi Yuan
  • Isabella Leong as Lin
  • Anthony Wong as General Yang
  • Russell Wong as Ming Guo
  • Liam Cunningham as Maguire
  • David Calder as Roger Wilson
  • Jessey Meng as Choi
  • Tian Liang as Li Zhou
  • Albert Kwan as Chu Wah
  • James Bradford as Butler Jameson
  • Daniel Giverin as Benjamin Fry


In November 2001, director Stephen Sommers, who directed the previous Mummy films, said about directing a third film, "There is a demand for it, but most of the gang would only be up for it again if we could find a way to make it bigger and better." In May 2004, he expressed his doubts about having the energy to make a third film, though the cast of previous films had expressed interest in returning. In December 2005, he reviewed a script written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar was about a Chinese mummy (China's first emperor, who wants to take over the world with his army of accursed warriors in 1940).

The idea of The Emperor and his army is based on the real-life Qin emperor Qin Shi Huang, who was buried amidst thousands of crafted and fired terra cotta soldiers, called the Terracotta Army, dated at latest to 210 BC. (Incidentally, the Terracotta Army is actually mentioned at the end of the novelization as something that will be discovered in the future, although its relation to The Emperor's army, or rather how the destroyed army made it into the site, is left unexplained.)


In March 2006, actor Oded Fehr, who played Ardeth Bay in the first two films said Sommers had told him a third film was in development and being written, with only Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz's characters returning. The following September, Universal Pictures offered director Joe Johnston the helm, instead of Jurassic World but Johnston declined. Later in the month, Weisz expressed interest in reprising her role.

In January 2007, Universal announced Sommers would not be attached to direct the third film. It was then announced that Universal entered talks with director Rob Cohen to take over directing duties. Later in the month, the story was revealed to center around Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz's characters, as well as their adult son. Negotiations with the actors were in progress at that time. In February, casting began for the role of Alex O'Connell. Additionally, John Hannah reprised his role as Jonathan. Also in that month, Cohen mentioned that Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh would star in the film although the official confirmation wasn't published until May.

In April, Brendan Fraser re-joined the cast for the film. Weisz did not, citing "problems with the script" in addition to having just given birth to her son. The film was shot in Montreal and China. The film was originally reported to be titled The Mummy 3: Curse of the Dragon. In April, Luke Ford was cast as Alex O'Connell, replacing Freddie Boath in the role and in May, Maria Bello was cast to replace Weisz in the role of Evelyn. Bello commented during an interview that the new "Evy" is different from the original "Evy". "She has the same name, but she is quite a different character," said Bello. At a news conference in Shanghai, Bello told the audience that Rob Cohen has "created a new Evelyn. In the first two Mummy movies she was all actiony and lovely, but this Evelyn might be a little more... forceful in terms of her martial art skills and shooting skills".


Principal photography started at Montreal's Mel"?s Cite du Cinema. There, the Eye of Shangri-la scenes were shot by production designer Nigel Phelps. The team then shot on the courtyard set of gateway to Shangri-la. The courtyard was dressed with fake snow, created by effects supervisor Bruce Steinheimer"?s team.

At the city's ADF stage, Phelps"?s team created sets of the Terra Cotta mausoleum. Set decorator Anne Kuljian designed 20 different statue heads that were sculpted by 3D Arts team and interchanged between shots. One soldier and horse statue was bought from China, and copies of it as well as "The Dragon Emperor" were made (Jet Li's statue was sculpted by Lucie Fournier, Tino Petronzio, and Nick Petronzio in a workshop in Montreal). Propmaster Kim Wai Chung supervised the making of the horses"? bridles and mausoleum ornaments in China. Meanwhile, at Mel"?s, the brutal battle between the Emperor and Rick was filmed, the first scene shot with Jet Li.

On October 15, 2007, the team moved to China. At Shanghai Studios, a set depicting the city in the 1940s was used for the chase sequence and was shot in three weeks. General Yang"?s camp was filmed in a Ming village near Tian Mo. At the studio, Chinese cultural advisers aided Cohen in depicting the Qin Dynasty language and ceremonies. The O'Connell family's drama scenes were shot in an Egyptian-themed nightclub suitably named "Imhotep's".

The crew frequently had to halt in and near Shanghai when soldiers marched. The desert battlefield's setting was actually a training facility for the Chinese army that was leased.


The visual effects were done by two Los Angeles-based VFX houses. Rhythm and Hues Studios designed the Yetis and dragons, while Digital Domain handled the battle scenes with the Emperor's terracotta warriors. The pool of water resembling diamonds took Rhythm and Hues eleven months to complete. The A.I. software Massive, used for the Lord of the Rings films, was used to create the undead battle scenes.

Design company Imaginary Forces created the opening title sequence and end titles. IF designers also shot real paint splatters and brushstrokes. To portray an "accurate and historic China," they turned to calligrapher T.Z. Yuan for ink brush writing.


}} Most of the film's score was composed by Randy Edelman and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The soundtrack features numerous different Chinese and Middle Eastern ethnic instruments along with classic British folklore. The soundtrack was released on July 29, 2008 by Varse Sarabande label, two days before the film's release. Composer John Debney (who had previously scored the music for the Mummy franchise's spin-off The Scorpion King) provided additional re-scored material for most of the bigger action sequences. The Hollywood Studio Symphony recorded 30 minutes of Debney's music in less than ten hours at the Fox Scoring Stage in July 2008, shortly before the film's release, however, the soundtrack album features Edelman's score and none of Debney's. The trailer prominently features the cues "Armada" by Two Steps From Hell and "DNA Reactor" by Pfeifer Broz. Music, the latter which also plays at the end of the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix trailer. It also plays Vampire Hunters by Wojciech Kilar, which was used in the trailers of the first and second films.

The soundtrack features "The Flower Duet" by Lo Delibes from his opera Lakm.



The Mummy Movie Prequel: The Rise & Fall of Xango's Ax, a comic book limited series by IDW Publishing, was published to promote the film. The comic explores the relationship between Rick and his son Alex.

Sierra Entertainment made a game version of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor for Wii, PlayStation 2, and Nintendo DS, which was released on July 22, 2008 in North America to mostly negative reviews. Gameloft made game version of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor for mobile phones.

Box office performance

The film premiered in Moscow on July 24, 2008 and had a wide release of 3,760 theatres in North America on August 1, 2008.

The film was the top-grossing film the day it opened, earning $15.2 million (The Dark Knight was in second place with $12 million) on Friday. However, the film did not become number one overall in the box office on opening weekend, claiming only $40.4 million, which allowed The Dark Knight to claim the top spot for the third consecutive week with $42.6 million.

The film however scored a bigger success at the international box office where it opened at the first position in 26 of the 28 released markets over the weekend and grossed over $59.5 million in the three-day period. It substantially outpaced comparable openings for The Mummy ($16.7 million) and The Mummy Returns ($21.5 million) in the same markets. The film also set opening records for the distributor in Korea (drawing $13.3 million), Russia ($12.7 million), Spain ($6.7 million), and Thailand. As of October 10, 2008, the film's domestic total stands at $102,491,776, with a much stronger international intake of $298,636,863. This brings its worldwide total to $401,128,639. It is the lowest-grossing film in The Mummy trilogy.

Critical reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 12% based on 172 reviews and an average rating of 3.7/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With middling CG effects and a distinct lack of fun, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor finds the series past its prime." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 31 out of 100 based on 33 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a positive review, awarding it three out of four stars. Ebert remarked, "Now why did I like this movie? It was just plain dumb fun, is why." Ebert also stated that it is the best in the series. Nathan Rabin of The Onion's A.V. Club stated that the film "succeeds largely through sheer excess", albeit within a context that "plods along mechanically through its first hour." William Arnold of Seattle Post-Intelligencer gave a mildly positive review, saying that "anyone in the market for an overblown and totally mindless adventure-comedy will certainly get his money's worth." Dallas movie reviewer Casey C. Corpier said that the film was almost as enjoyable as the original and liked the fact that it delivered what it advertised. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said the film "has some good things [but] does not have enough of them to make the third time the charm." Ken Fox of TV Guide called the film "passable popcorn fare." Jennie Punter of The Globe and Mail said the film is "kind of fun, but the twists and turns are all too familiar." Michael Sragow of the Baltimore Sun said the film is "like an Indiana Jones movie without rhythm, wit or personality, just a desperate, headlong pace."

Awards and nominations

Award Subject Nominee Result
Saturn Awards Best Horror Film
CDG Awards Best Costume Design - Fantasy Sanja Milkovic Hays
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing - Dialogue and ADR Becky Sullivan, Daniel S. Irwin, John C. Stuver and Michelle Pazer
National Movie Awards Best Action/Adventure Film
Best Male Performance Brendan Fraser
Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Created Environment Mike Meaker, Richard Mahon, Jason Iverson and Sho Hasegawa
BMI Film Awards Best Music Randy Edelman

Cancelled sequel

After the film was released, actress Maria Bello stated that another Mummy film will "absolutely" be made, and that she had already signed on. Actor Luke Ford was signed on for three more films as well. However, in 2012, it was announced that Universal Pictures had cancelled the film, and was instead working on a reboot.


On April 4, 2012, Universal announced their plans to reboot the franchise. The film is intended to be the first installment in a series of classic stories known as the Dark Universe, simply titled The Mummy, and was released in June 2017.

DVD sales

The film was released on DVD on December 16, 2008. By mid-2011, excluding Blu-ray sales and DVD rentals, it had sold over 2.5 million copies, totalling in revenue.

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