I'm scared to be living in a world where I liked a Mummy movie better than an Indy movie...
But it's true. While not a great movie, and while being really goofy in parts, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a lot more fun than the latest Indy film. Was it lowered expectations, or just that it's a better movie? Maybe a bit of both, and while there were some pretty dumb things in this one (the biggest being a particular shot involving the yetis. Ugh.), nothing was as bad a "nuking the fridge", or "swinging with monkeys". We'll maybe the yeti thing was as bad, but it was so quick you can almost forgive it.
We start with a prologue set several thousand years ago, when Emperor Han of China (Jet Li) is building the Great Wall, and hell-bent on conquering as much of the world as he can. When he realizes growing old will stop him from his goal, he enlists the aid of a witch (Michelle Yeoh) to become immortal. This doesn't go as planned, of course, as he kills her lover, pissing her off to the point of cursing the Emperor and his army, and they are transformed into terracotta statues.
Flash forward a few thousand years, and we find Alex O'Connell (Luke Ford), the son of Rick (Brendan Fraser) and Evelyn O'Connell (Maria Bello, replacing Rachel Weisz), discovering the terracotta army in the Chinese desert. Cut to Rick and Evie back in England, now retired from adventuring, and bored. Though a silly coincidence, they are asked to escort an item of historical importance back to China, when they meet up with Alex, accidentally resurrect the Emperor with said item, and are off on another adventure, encountering immortals, vomiting yaks, the aforementioned Yetis, the undead, and lots of needs to yell the word "mummy!"
While being light, harmless, and mostly hollow entertainment, I was surprise at how much more effective it was at conveying the theme of family and parenthood, when compared to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Now I'm not saying its family dynamics are amazing, or make your eyes well up, or anything. Just that it did it a lot better than a movie that SHOULD have been better did.
In terms of action/effects, the chase through the streets of Shanghai stands out, as it combines some fun (note that I said "fun" not "good") special effects, with some real stunt work, as a set of four bronze horses come to life, and take the newly resurrected Emperor though the town. However, scenes that involve the Yetis are ones that stand out as just being bad (would have love to see them use practical suits, with some CG augmentations, as opposed to full CG for these guys). It's a Mummy movie, so effects are hit or miss.
There's not much more to say. If you like the other two Mummy films, you should like this. If you didn't, this one isn't going to change your mind about the franchise. As for me, I've grown to like the 1st, genuinely liked the 2nd one, and will add Tomb of the Dragon Emperor to the list of movies that were okay in the theater, but I'll sit and watch when they show up on TV, when there's nothing else to do.