The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The flick provided a good but not flawless transfer.
The most noticeable concerns related to sharpness. I witnessed mild edge enhancement through the film, and that led to softness in some wider shots. Nonetheless, the majority of the film looked well-defined and accurate. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and source flaws remained absent.
Colors fared well. During the film’s first half, Tomb favored a fairly warm, earthy palette, while matters took on an appropriately chilly blue tint when the participants went to the frigid Himalayas. The DVD delivered the tones with good clarity. Blacks seemed dark and firm, while shadows appeared clean and well-developed. Only the edge enhancement and occasional softness marred this otherwise solid presentation.
Virtually no concerns stemmed from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Tomb. With its many action elements, the audio boasted plenty of opportunities for vivid audio, and the film took advantage of them. It featured massive battles, fireworks, gunfire, explosions, aircraft, and a host of other exciting components. The soundscape allowed them good localization as well as the room to breathe. This meant they were able to engulf us and create a consistently involving soundfield.
Audio quality delivered as well. Speech was natural and concise, as I noticed no edginess or other issues. Music seemed lively and vivid, and effects were always really strong. Those elements showed great range and clarity; low-end respond was deep and firm, so expect your subwoofer to get a lot of use. The audio of Tomb excelled.
Plenty of extras appear across this two-disc Special Edition. On DVD One, we find an audio commentary from director Rob Cohen. He offers a running, screen-specific chat that looks at story, characters and historical influences, cast and performances, sets and locations, stunts, action and effects, visual design, audio, and a few other production issues.
Cohen doesn’t make particularly good movies, but he offers interesting commentaries. He goes over all the appropriate subjects here and keeps the track moving at a good pace. I expect some listeners won’t be happy to hear Cohen inject his politics into the equation – he makes a pre-election plug for Obama – but that section passes quickly. Cohen throws out a lot of good info and makes this a winning discussion.
Nine Deleted and Extended Scenes fill a total of 10 minutes, 46 seconds. We find “Secret Lovers” (1:22), “General Ming’s Death” (0:32), “Conversation In Shanghai” (1:00), “Night in Himalayas” (2:07), “Tea Time: Yang and Choi” (0:37), “Motorcycle Grenade Toss” (0:22), “Female Fight in Cog Room” (0:45), “Emperor Reassembles” (1:18), and “Jonathan and Maguire at Club” (2:43).
The majority of these simply provide minor extensions to existing scenes. Nothing particularly noteworthy appears, though we do see a more graphic depiction of Ming’s demise. “Club” adds to the film’s ending, though not in a useful way; it simply gives Jonathan a slightly different departure. The scenes are mildly interesting to see at best.
DVD One opens with some ads. We get promos for The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, Coraline, My Own Worst Enemy, Beethoven’s Big Break, Blu-Ray Disc and the Wanted: Weapons of Fate videogame.
A mix of featurettes crops up on DVD Two. The Making of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor runs 22 minutes, 48 seconds and includes comments from Cohen, producers Stephen Sommers, Bob Ducsay and Sean Daniel, costume designer Sanja Hays, carpenter William Picard, set decorator Anne Kuljian, 2nd unit assistant camera Taylor Matheson, action unit director Vic Armstrong, stunt coordinator Mark Southworth, Fire for Hire’s Colin Decker, Production Services Company representative Bill Kong, special effects coordinator Rick Thompson, 2nd unit 1st AD Terry Madden, and actors Luke Ford, Brendan Fraser, David Calder, Isabella Leong and Maria Bello. The show looks at Cohen’s impact on the production, sets and locations, stunts and action, effects, and a few other aspects of the shoot.
“Making” combines the standard “behind the scenes” featurette with the feel of a production diary; though it branches off at times, it tends to follow the shoot from start to finish. The emphasis on footage from the set makes it more interesting than usual. The interviews fill out the visuals well and turn this into a useful program.
During the 15-minute and 44-second From City to Desert, we hear from Cohen, Bello, Ducsay, Armstrong, Fraser, Sommers, Calder, Armstrong, 1st AD PJ Voeten, director of photography Simon Duggan, executive producer Chris Brigham, producer Sean Daniel, boom operator Louis Piche, line producer Lee Chiu Wah, and actors Michelle Yeoh, John Hannah, Anthony Wong, and Jet Li. The show looks at the flick’s locations and related issues. It covers those topics well and give us more interesting behind the scenes footage along the way.
After this we head to Legacy of the Terra Cotta. It lasts 13 minutes, 35 seconds and features notes from Cohen, Daniel, Sommers, Ducsay, Fraser, Li, Hays, Bello, Kuljian, Ford,
Rhythm and Hues senior artist Mike Meaker, and set decorator Daniel Carpentier. We learn about research and influences on the movie’s story, the depiction of the Emperor and his army, and the Asian settings. “Legacy” follows in the footsteps of the first two shows, but it often feels a bit redundant. Though it offers a fair amount of new material, more than a few notes repeat from the earlier pieces. Still, we continue to observe good behind the scenes shots, so “Legacy” works reasonably well.
We hear about the actors in A Call to Action: The Casting Process. The show fills four minutes, 45 seconds with remarks from Cohen, Ducsay, Sommers, Li, Bello, Fraser, Yeoh, and Ford. “Action” examines actors new to the Mummy series and tells us a little about returning performers as well. It’s a quick overview that tells us little.
Preparing for Battle with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li goes for 10 minutes, 41 seconds and features statements from Cohen, Ford, Bello, Fraser, Southworth, Yeoh, Ducsay, Li, and fight choreographer Mike Lambert. Though the title implies it’ll focus on Fraser and Li, “Battle” actually covers the action elements for all the main actors. That makes it more valuable than it otherwise might’ve been, so it becomes another good program.
For the eight-minute Jet Li: Crafting the Emperor Mummy, we hear from Cohen, Ducsay, Digital Domain VFX supervisors Joel Hynek and Matthew Butler, and Digital Domain lead CG effects artist Marten Larsson. “Mummy” goes over the ways the film used visual effects to bring the cursed Emperor to life. It boasts more hard information than its occasionally fluffy predecessors, so it packs a lot of punch into its short running time.
Called Creating New and Supernatural Worlds, the final featurette runs eight minutes, 35 seconds. It includes info from Cohen, Duscay, Sommers, Ford, Yeoh, Bello, Fraser, Daniel, Kulijan, and associate producer Marc Pitre. This piece emphasizes the design and creation of the flick’s sets. It includes some good notes, though it occasionally tries too hard to impress us with lots of praise for the creations.
DVD Two also includes a Digital Copy of Tomb. This lets you transfer the flick to your computer, iPhone, iPod or other modern gizmo the youngsters love. I’ll never use it, but it’s there if you want it.
While the first two Mummy movies entertained, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor turns into a massive dud. Virtually no aspect of it works, as it simply throws out random action and story elements without much coherence or excitement. The DVD provides good picture, excellent audio and a pretty informative collection of extras. I can’t complain about this solid package, but the movie itself disappoints.