The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

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The Mummy:
Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
The Mummy - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRob Cohen
Produced by
Written by
Based onCharacters
by Stephen Sommers
Lloyd Fonvielle
Kevin Jarre
Music byRandy Edelman
CinematographySimon Duggan
Edited by
  • Joel Negron
  • Kelly Matsumoto
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • July 24, 2008 (2008-07-24) (Moscow)
  • August 1, 2008 (2008-08-01) (United States)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$145 million[1]
Box office$403.4 million[1]

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor[2] 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.[3] 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 premiered in Moscow on July 24, 2008 and was released in the United States on August 1, 2008. The film received mostly negative reviews from critics. The film grossed $403.4 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, Hannah, Ford and Bello 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 and only installment 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. The Emperor 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 him 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, turning them 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 the Emperor'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 (a huge pear-shaped gemstone) 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 the Dragon Emperor is the one who can lead China out of the chaos following World War II and plans to resurrect him 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 the Emperor's mummified body. He accepts Yang's service but kills Wilson and escapes, despite the O'Connells' attempt to stop him in a pursuit.

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 the Emperor discovers Shangri-La's location. Alex attempts to trigger an avalanche. The Emperor throws a sword at him, but Rick shoves Alex aside 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.

The Dragon Emperor and General Yang eventually arrive and attack them in Shangri-La, and the Emperor bathes in the mystical waters, which not only restores his human form and youth, but also allows him to shapeshift. Transforming into a dragon, he kidnaps Lin and flies back to the tomb, raising his Terracota Army, and gives a speech declaring his intention to conquer the world before sending his soldiers to go past the Great Wall, after which they will be invincible. The O'Connells and Zi Yuan pursue their foe to the Great Wall where Zi Yuan 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 the Emperor and is mortally wounded, but secures the dagger. Zi Yuan gives the dagger to the group before dying. Meanwhile, the Emperor goes into the Great Wall to use his elemental powers to negate the undead spell. Rick and Alex attack him while Evelyn and Lin fight and kill Yang and Choi. The Dragon Emperor gains the upper hand over Rick, but Rick and Alex manage to stab him in his heart with the broken dagger, killing him and defeating the Terracotta Army. Ming's army briefly celebrates before turning into dust, and disappearing into the air.

The O'Connells and Lin return to Shanghai, where Lin and Alex start a relationship, while Jonathan decides to move to Peru with the Eye of Shangri-La, as he wants to go somewhere with no mummies, only for credits on the screen to reveal that mummies were recently discovered there.


  • Brendan Fraser as Rick O'Connell
    A retired adventurer, Evelyn's husband and Alex's father.
  • Jet Li as Emperor Han
    A warlord who desired immortality. Though he becomes immortal, he is also stone. Once revived, he seeks to enslave the world.
  • Maria Bello as Evelyn Carnahan-O'Connell
    Rick's wife and Alex's mother, also a retired adventurer/librarian turned novelist. The part was played by Rachel Weisz in the first two Mummy films.
  • John Hannah as Jonathan Carnahan
    Evelyn's elder brother.
  • Luke Ford as Alex O'Connell
    Rick's and Evelyn's son, now twenty-one years old, who has a crush on Zi Yuan's daughter Lin.
  • Isabella Leong as Lin
    Zi Yuan's daughter and protector of the Dragon Emperor's Tomb.
  • Anthony Wong as General Yang
    A rogue Kuomintang General and the Emperor's supporter.
  • Jessey Meng as Choi
    Yang's assistant.
  • Russell Wong as General Ming Guo
    The Emperor's former first in command, Zi Yuan's lover, and Lin's father.
  • Liam Cunningham as Mad Dog Maguire
    A pilot who helps the O'Connells make their way to Tibet on their journey to Shangri-La.
  • David Calder as Professor Roger Wilson
    Alex's supporter in his expedition of The Dragon Emperor's Tomb, but secretly a collaborator with Yang and Choi.
  • Michelle Yeoh as Zi Yuan
    An immortal whom the Emperor sought in order to obtain the secret to eternal life she possesses.
  • Albert Kwan as Chu Wah
    A worker at the initial dig site who is killed by an acid trap.


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."[4] 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.[5] 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.)[6]


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.[7] The following September, Universal Pictures offered director Joe Johnston the helm, instead of Jurassic World but Johnston declined.[8] Later in the month, Weisz expressed interest in reprising her role.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11] In February, casting began for the role of Alex O'Connell. Additionally, John Hannah reprised his role as Jonathan.[2] 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.[12][13]

In April, Brendan Fraser re-joined the cast for the film.[14] Weisz did not, citing "problems with the script" in addition to having just given birth to her son.[15][16] The film was shot in Montreal[17] and China. The film was originally reported to be titled The Mummy 3: Curse of the Dragon.[18] In April, Luke Ford was cast as Alex O'Connell,[19] 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.[20] 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".[21]


Principal photography started at Montreal's Mel's Cite du Cinéma. 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.[22]

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.[22][23]

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.[22] The O'Connell family's drama scenes were shot in an Egyptian-themed nightclub suitably named "Imhotep's".[24]

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.[25]


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.[26] 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.[27]


The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
The Mummy Returns soundtrack cover.jpg
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJuly 29, 2008
LabelVarèse Sarabande VSD-6916
The Mummy soundtrack chronology
The Mummy Returns The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic3.5/5 stars[28]

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,[29] by Varèse 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 Léo Delibes from his opera Lakmé.



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.[30]

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.[31] Gameloft made game version of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor for mobile phones.[32]

Box office performance[edit]

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.[33]

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.[34]

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.[35] It substantially outpaced comparable openings for The Mummy ($16.7 million) and The Mummy Returns ($21.5 million) in the same markets.[36] 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.[36] 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.[37][38] It is the lowest-grossing film in The Mummy trilogy.[39]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 13%, based on 176 reviews, with an average rating of 3.67/10. 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."[40] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 31 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[41] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B−" on an A+ to F scale.[42]

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.[43] 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."[44] 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."[45] 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."[46] Ken Fox of TV Guide called the film "passable popcorn fare."[47] Jennie Punter of The Globe and Mail said the film is "kind of fun, but the twists and turns are all too familiar."[48] 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."[49]

Awards and nominations[edit]

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

Cancelled sequel[edit]

After the film was released, actress Maria Bello stated that another Mummy film will "absolutely" be made, and that she had already signed on.[50] Actor Luke Ford was signed on for three more films as well.[51] However, in 2012, Universal Pictures cancelled the film, and was instead working on a reboot, titled The Mummy.


On April 4, 2012, Universal announced their plans to reboot the franchise.[52] The film was intended to be the first installment of the Dark Universe, simply titled The Mummy, and was released in June 2017.[53]

DVD sales[edit]

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 US$41,768,192 in revenue.[54]


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  2. ^ a b "The Mummy 3 Gets New Title and Date". Worst Previews. July 27, 2007. Retrieved July 27, 2007.
  3. ^ "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor". Turner Classic Movies. United States: Turner Broadcasting System. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
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  5. ^ "Sommers Won't Helm Mummy 3". Sci Fi Wire. May 19, 2004. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved December 29, 2006.
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  14. ^ Diane Garrett; Michael Fleming (April 11, 2007). "Fraser returns for 'Mummy 3'". Variety. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  15. ^ "Rachel Weisz Leaves Mummy 3". April 12, 2007.
  16. ^ Beth Hilton (May 7, 2007). "Weisz criticised for 'Mummy' decision". Digital Spy. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
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  21. ^ The Mummy 3 - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor on YouTube
  22. ^ a b c Mummy, The: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor—Shooting in China Accessed on August 1, 08
  23. ^ Chung, Philip W. (August 1, 2008). "Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh: From ‘Tai Chi Master’ to ‘The Mummy’" Archived September 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. AsianWeek. Retrieved on 2008-08-04.
  24. ^ The Mummy 3 Shanghai Production Video Archived May 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "'Mummy' Cast & Crew Shared Battleground With Chinese Army - Starpulse Entertainment News Blog".
  26. ^ LA-based S'porean creates magic on the silverscreen Archived September 8, 2008, at the Wayback Machine by Stacey Chia, The Straits Times. Singapore Press Holdings. July 26, 2008
  27. ^ IF Captures Grandeur Of China In The Mummy Titles, VFX World. Animation World Network. August 1, 2008
  28. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]". Retrieved July 22, 2014.
  29. ^ "Randy Edelman — The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)". Retrieved July 22, 2014.
  30. ^ Bill Radford (March 23, 2008). "Starscream transformed into comic book". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on November 7, 2015. Retrieved March 23, 2008.
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  32. ^ Cosmin Vasile (May 8, 2008). "Gameloft Announces "The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" Mobile Game - To be available this summer". Softpedia. Retrieved July 30, 2008.
  33. ^ "Movies With the Widest Openings at the Box Office".
  34. ^ "'Dark Knight' Soars Past $400 Million". Box Office Mojo. August 6, 2008. Retrieved December 20, 2008.
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  40. ^ "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)". Rotten Tomatoes.
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  42. ^ "Home - Cinemascore".
  43. ^ Review by Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
  44. ^ Review by Nathan Rabin, A.V. Club
  45. ^ Review by William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
  46. ^ Review by Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
  47. ^ Review by Ken Fox, TV Guide
  48. ^ Review by Jennie Punter, The Globe and Mail
  49. ^ Review by Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun
  50. ^ Shawn Adler (March 10, 2008). "'Mummy 3' Star Maria Bello Talks About Taking Over For Rachel Weisz, Fighting An Invisible Baddie". MTV. Retrieved April 9, 2008.
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External links[edit]