By EW Staff
Updated July 30, 2008 at 04:00 AM EDT
Jasin Boland

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

  • Movie

Rob Cohen knows how to walk away from a franchise. The director behind such high-octane hits as XXX and The Fast and the Furious wasn’t involved in what he calls the ”lackluster sequels” to his movies that studios churned out without him. So what made Cohen take on the third iteration of a franchise he had no part in creating? One word: China. ”Ever since I converted to Buddhism and made Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, I’ve wanted to make a movie about China,” he says.

Cohen got his wish. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a globe-trotting, time-traveling epic that spans over 2,100 years and unearths China’s legendary terra-cotta army, some three-headed dragons, and, yes, a mummy, this time played by Jet Li. Filmed half in China, half in Montreal, the movie reunites Brendan Fraser with the franchise that made him an action star. But not with Rachel Weisz, his costar in the last two Mummy movies. Instead, Mummy 3 finds the reluctant hero teaming up with Maria Bello and Australian newcomer Luke Ford, who plays Fraser’s son. ”When I made the decision to make the son 21,” says Cohen, ”I got a very angry phone call from [Weisz’s] agent, saying she’ll never play the mother of a 21-year-old. I said, ‘Okay, good, fine, bye.’ It was critical to me to have this old-bull/young-bull family element. The father can’t yet recognize the son’s manhood, so it was important for the kid to not be a baby.” (According to Weisz’s reps, the actress never read the script and didn’t consider doing the film because it would require a five-month trip to China with her infant child.)

The jovial Ford, it turned out, was a bit of an on-set prankster. The day the movie wrapped, Ford presented Cohen with a gift: a pirated DVD of the movie that he said he’d bought on China’s infamous black market. ”For a minute there, knowing the nature of China, your heart skips a beat,” says Cohen. ”Then I realized it was a joke. He really got me.” (August 1)

Episode Recaps

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 114 minutes