For the video game adaptation of the movie, see The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (video game).
The Mummy:
Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Theatrical poster
Directed by Rob Cohen
Produced by Sean Daniel
Bob Ducsay
James Jacks
Stephen Sommers
Written by Alfred Gough
Miles Millar
Narrated by Freda Foh Shen
Starring Brendan Fraser
Jet Li
Maria Bello
John Hannah
Luke Ford
Michelle Yeoh
Isabella Leong
Music by Randy Edelman
Cinematography Simon Duggan
Editing by Joel Negron
Kelly Matsumoto
Studio Relativity Media
The Sommers Company
Alphaville Films
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) August 1, 2008 (2008-08-01)
Running time 111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $145 million[1]
Box office $401,128,639

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor[2] is a 2008 American adventure film and sequel to The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001). The film stars Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, John Hannah, Luke Ford, and Jet Li, and was released on August 1, 2008 in the United States. The film was directed by Rob Cohen, written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, and produced by Stephen Sommers (director of the previous two films), Bob Ducsay, Sean Daniel, and James Jacks. This film departed from the previous Egyptian setting.


In ancient China, Qin Shi Huang, 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. The Emperor's mystics teach him supernatural mastery over the Five Elements. Years later, he begins to grow fearful that all he has accomplished will be lost upon his death. He hears of a sorceress, Zi Yuan, who is said to know the secret of immortality and sends his henchman, General Ming Guo, to bring her to the palace. When Ming finds her, they fall in love. After she seemingly casts a spell on the Emperor in Sanskrit, a language he does not understand, he has Ming executed and impales her with a dagger. Revealing that she has foreseen these events, Zi Yuan immolates and detains the Emperor and transforms his army into the Terracotta Army, and the sorceress flees.

In 1946, archaeologist Alex O'Connell, Rick and Evelyn O'Connell's son, locates the Emperor's tomb with the financial backing of archaeology professor Roger Wilson. Three assistants are killed by booby traps and Alex is attacked by a mysterious woman, but succeeds in bringing the Emperor's coffin to Shanghai. Meanwhile, the British government entrusts the O'Connells to take the Eye of Shangri-La back to China. Wilson is actually a member of a rogue military faction led by General Yang and his deputy, Choi, who see the Emperor as the one who can restore order and greatness to China. The mysterious woman from the tomb, Lin, stabs the mummified body within the coffin and discovers it is a decoy. By accident, the magical fluid within the Eye lands on the statue of the carriage driver, revealing itself to be the Emperor's actual body. The Emperor is revived, trapped in his terracotta undead form. He accepts Yang and Choi's service but kills Wilson. Lin attempts to kill the Emperor with a magical dagger, the only weapon that can destroy him.

Along with Evelyn's brother Jonathan Carnahan, who owns a Shanghai nightclub named Imhotep's, the O'Connells and 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. While attempting to trigger an avalanche with a thrown grenade attached to some dynamite, Alex fails to notice the Emperor throwing a dagger at his back. Rick shoves his son to safety and ends up with a mortal stab wound to the chest. Lin takes everyone to Shangri-La where the sorceress heals Rick's wound. The group discovers that Lin is Zi Yuan's 2000-year-old daughter, both rendered immortal due to the power of Shangri-La's waters. The magical dagger which Lin carries is the same dagger that the Emperor used in his attempt to kill Zi Yuan years earlier. Zi Yuan also reveals that she would have died if the Yetis had not saved her, and warns Alex that if the Emperor is allowed to drink from the Pool of Eternal Life, he will not only be able to raise his army, but be granted the power to transform into ancient and fearsome Chinese animal spirits. Alex and Lin have grown attached to each other, but Lin pushes the relationship away due to her immortality; after watching Zi Yuan mourn General Ming for centuries, she does not know if she can bear falling in love with Alex only to watch him grow old and die.

The Emperor eventually arrives and attacks them in Shangri-La, taking the dagger and shattering his terracotta form before bathing in the mystical waters. It restores his human form and youth, replenishes his powers, and gives him the ability to shapeshift. He transforms into a gigantic three-headed dragon, kidnaps Lin, and flies to his tomb where he raises the Terracotta Army, now aided by General Yang's soldiers. The Emperor announces his plans to conquer the entire world and that once he led his army across the Great Wall, they will be invincible. The O'Connells and Zi Yuan pursue the Emperor to the Great Wall where she sacrifices her and Lin's immortality to revive the workers killed and buried beneath The Great Wall, creating her own undead army, led by a vengeful, revived General Ming. The Army of the Dead, with aid from the group's modern weapons and air support, fights the Terracotta Army while Zi Yuan battles the Emperor; she is mortally wounded but succeeds in securing the dagger. Disguised as one of Yang's soldiers, Alex rescues Lin, who Yang had bound and gagged in a tent under armed guard.

The group gather up again, finding a grieving Lin cradling the dying Zi Yuan in her arms. As this is going on, the Emperor transforms into a horned Ogre to get past Zi Yuan's army and goes beneath the Great Wall in order to use his elemental powers to negate Zi Yuan's spell and draw Ming's army back underneath it. Alex interrupts the Emperor, who transforms into an ogre and knocks Alex into a wall. Rick tries to stab the Emperor, getting thrown into a lit torch stand for his efforts. Meanwhile, Evelyn and Lin fight with Yang and Choi, eventually knocking the general onto some moving gears that crush both him and Choi. The dagger the Emperor hurls at Rick misses and strikes a statue, breaking in two. Rick taunts the Emperor, questioning his honor, turning the battle into a more even fist-fight. While Emperor is gaining the upper hand with his taijutsu skills, Alex grabs the dagger's blade and quietly slips into the nearby water. Rick takes the dagger's hilt and plunges it into the Emperor's chest while Alex stabs him with the blade's tip from behind, simultaneously piercing the Emperor's heart from both sides and releasing the dagger's curse. The Emperor is consumed from the inside and out by molten lava, resulting in the deaths of he and his army. Ming's army briefly celebrates before finally moving on to a peaceful afterlife.

The O'Connells return to Shanghai, where Alex and Lin fall in love again. Jonathan decides to move to Peru with the Eye of Shangri-La, which he has somehow managed to keep a hold of, as he wants to go somewhere with no mummies. But shortly after his arrival, mummies were discovered in Peru.



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."[3] 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.[4] In December 2005, a review of 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.)[5]


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.[6] The following September, Universal Pictures offered director Joe Johnston the helm, who hoped to start filming early in 2007.[7] Later in the month, Weisz expressed interest in reprising her role.[8]

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 from Sommers.[9] 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.[10] In February, casting began for the role of Alex O'Connell. Additionally, John Hannah reprised his role as Jonathan.[2] Also in that month, director Rob Cohen mentioned that Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh would star in the film although the official confirmation wasn't published until May.[11][12]

In April, Brendan Fraser re-joined the cast for the film.[13] Weisz did not, citing "problems with the script" in addition to having just given birth to her son.[14][15] The film was shot in Montreal[16] and China. The film was reported to be titled The Mummy 3: Curse Of The Dragon.[17] In April, Luke Ford was cast as Alex O'Connell,[18] 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.[19] 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'".[20]


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.[21]

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.[21][22]

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.[21] The O'Connell family's drama scenes were shot in an Egyptian-themed nightclub suitably named "Imhotep's".[23]

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.[24]


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 Jet Li's terracotta warriors. The pool of water resembling diamonds took Rhythm and Hues eleven months to complete.[25] 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.[26]


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 by Varèse Sarabande, 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 thirty 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 first film's trailer.

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.[27]

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.[28] Gameloft made game version of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor for mobile phones.[29]

Box office performance

The film premiered in Moscow on July 24, 2008. With it, the first official trailer of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released.[30] The film had a wide release of 3,760 theatres in North America on August 1, 2008.[31]

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 didn't 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.[32]

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.[33] It substantially outpaced comparable openings for The Mummy ($16.7 million) and The Mummy Returns ($21.5 million) in the same markets.[34] 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.[34] 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.[35][36]

Critical reception

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor received generally negative reviews from film critics even though it had high box office returns. The movie scored a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 167 reviews.[37] Metacritic reported, based on 33 reviews, an average rating of 31 out of 100.[38]

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.[39] 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."[40] 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."[41] 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."[42] Ken Fox of TV Guide called the film "passable popcorn fare."[43] Jennie Punter of The Globe and Mail said the film is "kind of fun, but the twists and turns are all too familiar."[44] 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."[45]

Awards and nominations

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

Cancelled sequel and reboot

After the film was released, actress Maria Bello stated that another Mummy film will "absolutely" be made, and that she had already signed on.[46] Actor Luke Ford was signed on for three more films as well.[47] However, in 2012 it was announced that Universal Pictures had cancelled the film, and instead are working on a reboot. Universal has recruited John Spaihts to write a screenplay and have stated the reboot will be darker than its predecessors.[48] On April 4, 2012, Universal announced that they were rebooting the Mummy franchise, with Jon Spaihts to write the film and Sean Daniel returning as producer.[49] Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, after signing a two-year deal with Universal, will also produce through their K/O Paper Products banner.

DVD sales

The film was released on DVD on December 16, 2008. Without including Blu-ray sales or DVD rentals, it has sold 2,554,022 copies, totalling Template:Currency in revenue.[50]


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  2. 2.0 2.1 "The Mummy 3 Gets New Title and Date". Worst Previews. 2007-07-27. Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  3. Steve Head; Brian Linder (2001-11-15). "New Scorpion King Pics and More!". IGN. Retrieved 2006-12-29. 
  4. "Sommers Won't Helm Mummy 3". Sci Fi Wire. 2004-05-19. Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2006-12-29. 
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  12. Michael Fleming (2007-05-04). "Li and Yeoh take "Mummy" roles". Variety. 
  13. Diane Garrett; Michael Fleming (2007-04-11). "Fraser returns for 'Mummy 3'". Variety. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  14. Rachel Weisz Leaves Mummy 3
  15. Beth Hilton (2007-05-07). "Weisz criticised for 'Mummy' decision". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  16. Patricia Bailey (2007-02-27). "Mummy moves back to Montreal". Playback. Retrieved 2007-02-28. 
  17. "New Title for Mummy 3". Bloody Disgusting. 2007-04-20. 
  18. Michael Fleming (2007-04-30). "Ford to star in third 'Mummy'". Variety. Retrieved 2007-05-13. 
  19. Michael Fleming (2007-05-13). "Bello replaces Weisz in 'Mummy'". Variety. Retrieved 2007-05-13. 
  20. YouTube - The Mummy 3 - Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Mummy, The: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor—Shooting in China Accessed on August 1, 08
  22. Chung, Philip W. (2008-08-01). "Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh: From ‘Tai Chi Master’ to ‘The Mummy’". AsianWeek. Retrieved on 2008-08-04.
  23. The Mummy 3 Shanghai Production Video
  24. 'Mummy' Cast & Crew Shared Battleground With Chinese Army - Starpulse Entertainment News Blog
  25. LA-based S'porean creates magic on the silverscreen by Stacey Chia The Straits Times. Singapore Press Holdings. July 26, 2008
  26. IF Captures Grandeur Of China In The Mummy Titles VFX World. Animation World Network. August 1, 2008
  27. Bill Radford (2008-03-23). "Starscream transformed into comic book". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on 2008-06-21. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  28. Sierra Entertainment (2008-05-08). "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor to Rise This Sfummer.". Sierra Entertainment. Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  29. Cosmin Vasile (2008-05-08). "Gameloft Announces "The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" Mobile Game - To be available this summer". Softpedia. Retrieved 2008-07-30. 
  30. Half-Blood Prince teaser trailer attached to The Mummy 3 -
  31. Movies With the Widest Openings at the Box Office
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  34. 34.0 34.1 "'Mummy' wraps up international boxoffice". Hollywood Reporter. 2008-08-03. Retrieved 2008-08-04. [dead link]
  35. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
  36. Holdovers still high overseas
  37. Rotten Tomatoes. "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor". 
  38. Metacritic. "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor". 
  39. Review by Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
  40. Review by Nathan Rabin, A.V. Club
  41. Review by William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
  42. Review by Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
  43. Review by Ken Fox, TV Guide
  44. Review by Jennie Punter, The Globe and Mail
  45. Review by Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun
  46. Shawn Adler (2008-03-10). "'Mummy 3' Star Maria Bello Talks About Taking Over For Rachel Weisz, Fighting An Invisible Baddie". MTV. Retrieved 2008-04-09. 
  47. "Luke Ford Signed For Three 'Mummy' Films". Bloody-Disgusting. 2008-07-16. Retrieved 2008-07-20. 
  48. "U sets 'Mummy' reboot with Spaihts". Variety. 2012-04-04. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  49. "U sets 'Mummy' reboot with Spaihts". Variety. 2012-04-04. Retrieved 2012-04-05. 
  50. "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - DVD Sales". Retrieved 2011-05-14.

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