Greatest Movie Series
Franchises of All Time
"The Mummy" Films

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)

Mummy Films (Trilogy)
The Mummy (1999) | The Mummy Returns (2001) | The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)

Mummy Films (Spin-Offs)
The Scorpion King (2002) | The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior (2008) | The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption (2012)
The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power (2015) | Scorpion King: Book of Souls (2018)

"The Mummy" Films - Part 3
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)
d. Rob Cohen, 112 minutes

Film Plot Summary

A female narrator provided backstory for the film, regarding tyrannical warlord Han (Jet Li) in 221 BC, who became the first emperor of China - The Dragon Emperor. Anticipating personal assassinations, he thwarted such efforts and conquered much of the land. Realizing that his ambitions outweighed his life-span, he sought immortality through the supernatural powers of a sorceress/witch:

Long ago, a mythic battle between good and evil played out in ancient China. The country was torn by civil war with many kingdoms struggling for land and power. But one king had a ruthless ambition to make himself emperor by the sword. The other rulers hired assassins to kill the king before he could conquer them all. Kingdom by kingdom, his army swept away everything in its path and anyone who resisted met a terrible fate. The country was his. He was now Emperor of All Under Heaven. He enslaved his conquered enemies and forced them to build his Great Wall. When they were dead or useless, he had them buried beneath it. The Emperor's mystics taught him mastery over the five elements - fire, water, earth, wood and metal. His power seemed without limit. He was master of millions, but like the lowliest peasant, he could not stop growing old. He needed to defeat his last enemy, death itself. One day, news came of a powerful witch who was rumored to know the secret to eternal life. He ordered General Ming [Russell Wong], his oldest friend and trusted ally, to find her. The witch was named Zi Yuan [Michelle Yeoh] and she was nothing like the general expected.

When he met with the beautiful witch at his palace, warlord Han ordered Ming: "No man is to touch her. She is mine."

On the western border stood the Monastery of Turfan. There was housed the greatest library in the ancient world, and Zi Yuan was sure the secret to eternal life was here. It was the long lost oracle bones, a collection of all the mystical secrets of the ancient world. The Emperor's answer was here along with other magic beyond imagining.

Inevitably, Ming fell in love with Zi Yuan (and made love to her) during their discovery and research of the sacred oracle bones, and a spy reported their indiscretion. Hiding his jealousy, Emperor Han rewarded Zi Yuan with anything she desired for her work, and she replied: "I want to spend my life with General Ming." She read from the oracle bones in front of Han, (chanting in Sanskrit) and uttered a curse: "She cast the spell in Sanskrit, an ancient language that the Emperor did not understand." He felt that he had achieved immortality, although she had deceived him into believing he was invincible. Afterwards, the Emperor captured General Ming in his courtyard, where he was tied to four horses from each of his limbs - drawn and quartered. Han challenged Zi Yuan: "Become my queen and I will let him live." She denied his request: "You will never keep your word," and Ming's body was cruelly ripped apart. Enraged, Zi Yan attacked the Emperor, but was stabbed in the side by the Emperor's own 3-headed, dragon-shaped dagger and wounded, as he threatened: "Now, join General Ming in hell." She retaliated with a punishment or curse that was activated upon the Emperor's evil deed, and his eyes began to weep mud - she explained what she had done: "I cursed you and your army." Grunting in pain, the Emperor became coated or covered in the brown muddy earth, and then caught fire - a pyre of burning mud. The heat of the flames hardened the mud into stone. The same curse afflicted Han's army stationed around the palace. He and his military became imprisoned or trapped in hollow statues of terra cotta clay. The narrator concluded: "The curse must never be lifted or the Emperor will rise again to enslave all of mankind. On that dark day, there will be nothing and no one to save us." Wounded, Zi Yuan fled on horseback to an unknown destination with the oracle bones.

After the title credit, the film shifted to England in the year 1946 (13 years after the events of The Mummy Returns). Retired Richard "Rick" O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) was struggling to learn fly fishing in Oxfordshire, where he lived in an extravagant manor with author/wife Evelyn (Maria Bello). As he changed his clothes, he fondly recalled his past days as an adventuresome soldier in the French Foreign Legion. Evelyn was in London at a Cummins store book reading, excerpting portions from her new romantic adventure novel titled The Mummy Returns, a sequel to her best-selling novel The Mummy. She had disguised her family's adventures as romantic action tales, with two heroic characters: Dash and damsel/lover Scarlet O'Keefe. An audience member asked if the female character was based on herself - she replied: "Honestly, I can say she's a completely different person." She also expressed how her life wasn't as exciting as it was before the war, and her domestic life was bordering on boring with her husband, while she was also experiencing writer's block.

Meanwhile in China, in Ningxia Province, an archaeological dig was proceeding, uncovering the head of a giant statue of the Dragon Emperor, named The Colossus. The excavation was headed up and funded by Professor Roger Wilson (David Calder) (an old friend of "Rick" O'Connell's), working with 21 year-old student Alex O'Connell (Luke Ford) [who it was later revealed had dropped out of school without his parents' knowledge], who had discovered the Bembridge Journal (written by Sir Colin Bembridge who went searching for the tomb 70 years earlier, and whose skeletal corpse was in the ruins). The diggers announced finding the entrance to the underground chamber (holding the tomb of Emperor Han and his massive Terra Cotta Army). Inside the magnificent chamber where rows of terra cotta soldiers were lined up, various booby traps were triggered (corrosive gases, the mechanized firing of arrows, and a flying razor disk), killing a number of digging assistants (Wilson: "This kind of danger goes with the territory"). Alex deciphered the chamber's puzzling feng shui compass, causing the floor to open up under his feet, and revealing a lower concealed room with terra-cotta horse statues, and the dead Emperor's sarcophagus held on a horse-drawn chariot. After falling down into the chamber, Alex yelled out to Wilson above him: "It's only the greatest find since King Tut...It's definitely him." He thought to himself, "If he is awakened, all mortals should despair." Suddenly, a mysterious female assassin using martial-arts skills knocked out Wilson. Alex was also attacked, but he shot back at the hooded and cloaked assailant and engaged her in combat, when her masked face was uncovered and revealed her to be a pretty young Chinese woman - she fled when fired upon by a revived Wilson. They planned to transport their discoveries-finds to Shanghai.

Meanwhile, Foreign Office agent Benjamin Fry visited Rick and Evelyn in England and offered them "one last assignment" - to "courier" an ancient relic to post-war Shanghai in China and keep it safe; the historical artifact or object was the Eye of Shangri-La, recognized immediately by Evelyn for its mythical importance: "it points the way to the Pool of Eternal Life." Historically, it was smuggled out of China in 1940, and the government wanted it returned to the Shanghai Museum "as a sign of good faith to the Chinese people." Although the O'Connells had promised to themselves that they would settle down after the war, they decided to accept the assignment, although under the guise of visiting Evelyn's brother Jonathan Carnahan (John Hannah), who owned an Egyptian-themed Shanghai nightclub named Imhoteps.

The action moved to Shanghai, at the time of the celebratory Chinese New Year in 1947. Alex was visiting his Uncle Jonathan inside the nightclub when his parents unexpectedly arrived. Also there was Mad Dog Maguire (Liam Cunningham), an ex-pilot who knew Rick when they had served together in the French Foreign Legion in 1923. The O'Connells, not knowing that son Alex had quit college, felt estranged from him, remarking: "We can't let Alex become some stranger in pictures on our mantle." They vowed to "fix" the problem together.

At a paramilitary outpost in Western China, misguided nationalist General Yang (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) was informed by his scar-faced lover and second-in-command Colonel Choi (Jessey Meng), that the O'Connells were in Shanghai, in possession of the Eye of Shangri-La. Yang announced to his trained and faithful soldiers (his plan was to use the eternal-life elixir derived from the stolen Eye to resurrect the Emperor): "It is my dream to raise our Emperor from his tomb. Only He can bring order out of this chaos." He told them that their great battle would begin that night to restore China to greatness - he would resurrect the Emperor and the Emperor's army of terra-cotta mummies, and serve as the Emperor's faithful general.

Back in Shanghai, Evelyn and Rick accompanied Alex to the Shanghai Museum, congratulating their astonished son on his "first big discovery." They viewed the remains of the mummified, terra-cotta stone chariot carrying the Emperor's sarcophagus - he told them that the coffin wouldn't be opened until later. Evelyn was complimented by Rick about her newfound glow: "I guess mummies bring out the best in me," she added. Professor Wilson also arrived as they admired his "latest discovery." After Rick handed over the Eye of Shangri-La to the professor, he pulled a gun on them and introduced General Yang (and Colonel Choi), explaining his nefarious association with them: "He is the man who financed Alex's dig. We're in this together." The General had also provided enough bribe money to "pull strings at the Foreign Office to make sure it was you two who delivered the Eye." Yang wanted the Eye because "it contains the elixir from the Pool of Eternal Life" to awaken the Emperor and resurrect his army of Terra-Cotta soldiers (Rick: "Raising an army of mummies is insane"). Yang bullied Evelyn to open the Eye's enclosure by reading its ancient Chinese inscription, as Rick cracked open the Emperor's sarcophagus with a crow-bar: "The inscription says that only a drop of blood from a person of pure heart can open the Eye." Choi used a dagger to slice open Evelyn's finger to provide the blood needed - and then, when the Eye glowed, small golden serpents surrounding the diamond slithered away, and lotus petals opened up surrounding the diamond and the Elixir.

In another section of the museum, Alex spoke to Lin (Isabella Leong), the mysterious female who had attacked him in the excavated Dragon Emperor's Tomb, although he had since developed a crush on her. She proposed saving his parents as she watched them being intimidated by Yang, who took the Elixir over to the opened coffin: "Once this touches him, the Emperor will rise to rule again." Lin and Alex swung on ropes into their midst to cause chaos and interrupt the Emperor's resurrection. The magical Elixir, however, splashed onto the stone statue of the chariot driver, as Lin attacked the mummified Emperor in the opened sarcophagus ready to stab him, but she soon discovered it was only a decoy ("It's not him. This is a eunuch. It's a decoy!"). Evelyn fought hand-to-hand against Colonel Choi and sent her flying into debris, as Alex held Professor Wilson at gunpoint. The outer shell of the statue of the chariot driver chipped away, revealing the undead corpse of the Emperor beneath the terra cotta surface. The chariot horses also came to life, as the Emperor breathed deeply and was revived. Yang (and Choi) vowed allegiance to Emperor Han: "I live to serve you, my Lord. I can help you become immortal" - and were threatened if lying: "If you are lying, you will burn." They joined him on the chariot, but Professor Wilson, who also begged to join them, was decapitated (the Emperor slashed off his head with his molten left arm). Lin and Alex grabbed onto the undercarriage of the chariot as it crashed out of the museum and emerged into Shanghai's streets. A great chase ensued, with Rick and Evelyn in pursuit in a hijacked, open-bed truck (carrying wooden crates of fireworks) - picking up Jonathan outside his nightclub (Jonathan screamed: "You guys are like mummy magnets"). They lit a giant firecracker rocket that soared toward the chariot but missed, and exploded - creating a shower of sparks. To divert them, the Emperor hurled fire to detonate a large box of fire-crackers on the back of their truck, as Lin struggled but was unable to kill the Emperor with her magical dagger ("the only weapon that can kill him"). The frenzied chase ended when the sarcophagus was detached from the back of the chariot, and the crash of the truck resulted in a massive explosion of fireworks.

The entire disheveled McConnell group returned to the nightclub in a taxi, where they treated their wounds and discussed how the resurrected Emperor mummy had superpowers: "He's got control over fire, water, metal, and who knows what else." Evelyn wanted to deflect blame from them: "Wilson manipulated all of us." Lin introduced herself, describing how her "family has watched over the Emperor's tomb for centuries." The Emperor could only be killed by being stabbed in the heart with the sacred dagger. She claimed: "My mother put a curse on it long ago." She also feared: "If the Emperor reaches Shangri-La and drinks from the Pool of Eternal Life, he will raise his army and no one will be safe...The gateway to Shangri-La lies in a mountain pass high in the Himalayas. Beyond it is a golden tower. Once the diamond is placed at the top, it will point the way to Shangri-La." She predicted that Yang and the Emperor would proceed there, and that they should follow and prevent them from discovering the path to Shangri-La that would provide the Emperor with immortality at the Pool of Eternal Life. Evelyn agreed about the legend: "All the legends of the Eye mention the Gateway." Lin volunteered to be their guide - she had been there once: "I remember the way." Rick hired Mad Dog Maguire to fly them there, and in the rattle-trap plane (carrying a yak named Geraldine in the back), they landed half-way up the mountain - when they miraculously survived, Jonathan told them the reason for an awful stench: "The yak yakked."

In the Himalayas, Mad Dog remained at the plane as the McConnells hiked to their destination through the snow. He radioed that Yang had also arrived, watching them emerge from a plane. The McConnell group camped at night, and was only a half-day's hike away from the Gateway. Alex discussed the small probability of a romantic connection with Lin: "We're complete opposites, you and me, right? You guard tombs. I raid them. You like ancient knives. I'm into guns. Those are some pretty insurmountable odds...Besides, you're not my type." However, they agreed to "take down" the Emperor together. The next day, the group came upon a rope-bridge - across from the Gateway of Shangri-La. According to Rick, plan A of battle was to hit the Emperor "high, hard, and fast" with their vast weaponry. Plan B was for Jonathan to blow up the gold tower with dynamite. Alex disagreed, fearing: "If the explosion doesn't kill us, the avalanche will." He proposed instead: "We ambush him with long-range rifles and silencers." Under the command of the Emperor, General Yang was ordered: "Clear a path to the Golden Tower. Prove yourself to me." Heavy bazooka fire was unleashed on the tower area, and Alex, Rick and Evelyn were overpowered, forcing their retreat from crossfire. To support them, Lin (speaking in a foreign language) summoned three Himalayan Yeti ("Abominable Snowmen") to overcome Yang's troops - and although they were mostly successful, the Emperor unleashed sharp icicles, and scared off the Yeti with a powerful blast of sound. He extinguished the fuses burning toward the dynamite (Jonathan complained: "I hate mummies, they never play fair"), and ascended the side of the golden tower with the diamond in his hand, while hurling fireballs at Alex and Rick to keep them from thwarting him. He placed the diamond on the tower's top, and it revealed a zig-zagging pathway to Shangri-La higher up on the mountain.

Yang threw a sword at Alex to prevent him from heaving a cluster of dynamite, but Rick pushed him out of the weapon's path and took a direct hit in his stomach - with a fatal wound. A massive avalanche was triggered by the explosion, as the Yeti jumped into its path and covered the O'Connells to protect them when everything was buried. After digging out, Evelyn pleaded to save Rick: "We've got to take him to Shangri-La. It's our only chance." They trekked there and entered Shangri-La through a cave opening, where at the Pool of Eternal Life, they met Zi Yuan - revealed to be Lin's over 2,000 year old, now-immortal mother. Rick was healed and saved by the magical waters. Zi Yuan explained how General Ming, the only man she ever loved, was Lin's father - he was murdered by the Emperor. She was saved from death herself when the Yeti found her and brought her to the pool. And Lin had been guarding the Emperor's tomb for over two milleniums, carrying the magical dagger that Han had used to stab Zi Yuan, that subsequently had a curse placed upon it. Zi Yuan warned: "The Emperor must never be allowed to reach the pool, or he will have the power to raise his army. And once he becomes immortal, he can transform himself into the most hideous creatures ever seen."

The relationship between Alex and Lin strengthened, but she feared that due to her immortality, she didn't want to love him, and then mourn as he grew old and died: "My mother has mourned my father for centuries. I don't know if my heart can bear it." Shortly later, Zi Yuan asked her daughter Lin for "one more sacrifice" - to give up her immortality. At that moment, Emperor Han (with support from General Yang) attacked them in Shangri-La, and as he seized the dagger, the terra-cotta covering broke free from his restored body. He noticed Lin, remarking: "General Ming's daughter. Your child will be mine." He stepped into the life-giving waters and became immortal - in his restored and replenished healthy form, he then had the ability to shape-shift, and he emerged from the pool as a giant, fire-spewing three-headed dragon. The creature reached out for Lin, grabbed her, and then flew off, with General Yang perched on his back. The kidnapped daughter was taken back to the Emperor's tomb in China, where he planned to raise his Terra-Cotta Army, although it wouldn't become "indestructible until it crosses the Great Wall." Zi Yuan explained how she would revive an 'undead' army of her own soldiers, buried beneath the wall, to fight against the Emperor: "When the Emperor built the wall, he buried his enemies underneath it and cursed their souls to hold it up for eternity. Most of them were conquered soldiers. I will call them to battle once again."

The O'Connells pursued the dragon, with the aid of the Yeti and Mad Dog's airplane, returning back to China to the Emperor's Tomb, where General Yang (reunited with Colonel Choi) had set up an adjacent military training camp. Now in human form, Emperor Han commanded: "AWAKE!" - raising his army of terra-cotta soldiers who marched from underground. He announced to his troops his plan for world conquest: "I will restore order. I will retake what is mine. I will crush any idea of freedom. I will slaughter without mercy. I will conquer without compassion. I will now lead you past the Great Wall. Once you cross, you will be indestructible. I raised you for one purpose, to enforce my will on the entire world." Simultaneously, in the underground tomb with the oracle bones, Zi Yuan chanted to revive General Ming and the 'undead' army (buried under the Great Wall) to combat the Emperor, by sacrificing her own and Lin's immortality: "I sacrifice my immortality and that of my daughter so that you may rise this day. Bring down the wrath of the oppressed on this Emperor and all who follow him. I call upon the hundreds and the thousands that you may rise up and seize this moment to take your victory, to take your justice, and to take your revenge!"

A great fault line in the earthen ground erupted, as the skeletal Army of the Dead was resurrected by Zi Yuan, and they surged forward for battle, led by 'undead' General Ming. (The O'Connells were teamed up with Ming, once he heard them say the name Zi Yuan, and they assisted in the fight with "20th century" weapons. Jonathan and Mad Dog also provided air support from two WWII fighter planes.) Emperor Han also rallied his own Terra-Cotta Army to meet their war-challenge, crying out "Death to General Ming" as they charged forward to cross the Great Wall. Alex infiltrated into the General's camp and rescued kidnapped Lin - and they escaped on stolen motorcycles. In a stand-off, Zi Yuan (now mortal) fought against the Emperor in a sword duel. She was impaled in her mid-section and mortally wounded with the Emperor's sword, but as she fell backwards off a large mound, she snatched the magical dagger from the Emperor's waistband. (As she died shortly later, she gave the dagger to Lin, with her last words: "Pierce through his heart. You must live and fight on.") He then shape-shifted into a giant beastly horned Shishi, and ventured into the tomb chamber beneath the Great Wall to try and reverse Zi Yuan's spell and once again entomb Ming and his army.

Attempting to stop both Rick and Alex, Colonel Choi and General Yang were presumably killed by a bomb dropped onto them by Jonathan from the last remaining airplane. As the Emperor began to retomb Ming and his soldiers, Alex challenged him in the chamber: "I dug you up and I'm gonna put you down," but he was tackled by the beastly form of Han. With the dagger, Rick lept into the action and half-stabbed the Emperor, although both O'Connells were outmatched, and the dagger was broken in two during the fight. As Evelyn and Lin approached to assist them, both General Yang and Colonel Choi - both miraculously surviving the bomb blast but badly burned, attacked them. Lin kicked Yang into a large, revolving cog mechanism, and as he was about to be crushed, Choi chose to grasp his hand and not let go, and join him in death. Rick challenged the Emperor to fight hand-to-hand "like a man" - without his supernatural powers, using only martial arts and combat skills. With a simple "divide and conquer" strategy written by Alex in the sand, both Rick and Alex coordinated to use the two halves of the magical dagger - Rick plunged the broken dagger hilt into the Emperor's chest, while Alex stabbed him with the short tip of the blade from behind. Both pieces of the dagger pierced his heart from front and back as the sacred dagger was reconnected - releasing its curse upon him (Rick: "Now you can rule in hell"). The Emperor's heart glowed as he was consumed by fiery molten lava from the inside - and flames burned him before he exploded. Immediately, his Terra-Cotta Army crumbled, exploded, and turned back to dust. Ming celebrated in victory and hailed: "The Emperor is dead" - before he and his troops also reverted to clouds of dust.

In a brief epilogue at Imhoteps nightclub (now managed by Mad Dog Maguire), romantic couple Alex and Lin danced and kissed during a slow dance. Nearby, Rick told Evelyn as they also danced: "So I guess Dash and Scarlet have their next adventure?" She replied: "Why write about it when you can live it" - she thought the idea of "vanquishing the undead" was "incredibly romantic" - and they also kissed. Jonathan was leaving the casino, saying goodbye to Shanghai and on his way by plane to "someplace where they don't have mummies" - he was carrying the Eye of Shangri-La diamond in a bag, vowing: "Peru, here I come." However, an ending caption stated: "Soon after, mummies were found in Peru."

Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)

Although chronologically the fourth movie in the series, it was the third Mummy franchise film, with the action taking place in ancient and 20th century Far Eastern China rather than Egypt. It was preceded by the prequel spin-off The Scorpion King (2002).

It was produced by Stephen Sommers, who was the director/writer of the first two films. It was somewhat different from the 1999 and 2001 films, with Maria Bello replacing Rachel Weisz as Evelyn. Brendan Fraser and John Hannah (as Evelyn's brother) were the only two actors to appear in all three Mummy films.

With a production budget of $145 million, and box-office gross receipts of $102 million (domestic) and $401 million (worldwide).

With the tagline: "A New Evil Awakens..."

With no Academy Awards Oscar nominations.

Emperor Han
(Jet Li)

General Ming Guo
(Russell Wong)

Zi Yuan
(Michelle Yeoh)

Richard "Rick" O'Connell
(Brendan Fraser)

Evelyn O'Connell
(Maria Bello)

Alex O'Connell
(Luke Ford)

Professor Roger Wilson
(David Calder)

Jonathan Carnahan
(John Hannah)

Mad Dog Maguire
(Liam Cunningham)

General Yang
(Anthony Wong Chau-Sang)

Colonel Choi
(Jessey Meng)

(Isabella Leong)

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