What was Roger Ebert smoking?
On the front it says, "The BEST in the SERIES!" - Roger Ebert.
Cool beans, says I.
But now I have to ask, what was the man smoking?
It was horrible!
Firstly, and I apologize to Maria Bello, but Evie was badly cast, badly written, and pathetically directed. Gone, gone, gone was the combination of vulnerability and stubbornness that made Evie so wonderful. The only thing Evie did well in this movie was the fight scenes.
The Evie who gloriously proclaimed "I am a librarian!" was replaced by a woman who wrote sexy stories about their mummy adventures and wanted to write another one to read to adoring fans. It was so wrong. Evie was into serious inquiry. She'd be writing esoteric, fabulously intricate, scholarly works while not fitting into society much better than her husband Rick. She might have written the romance, but she'd be shy and embarrassed about it. (One wonders, did Rachel Weisz read the script and bail?)
Now, this wrongness about Evie was likely made worse by the fact that some bright-bulb decided that the "human interest" element and arc was to be Rick's estrangement from his son, Alexander. Oh, please! Rick's character is simply not, at all, the sort of aloof male that can't unbend around children. Let Alexander attempt to make his own name as any young man with a famous father might do, no matter how close their relationship, but please let us not take out this old saw and substitute it for plot!
Now, the action plot wasn't bad. It had it's moments but all in all it was a fun action plot.
What made the movie hard to watch was how any glimmer of human interaction was destroyed by the dialog. I can think of only a handful of moments that were "real"... the looks between the witch and general... Alexander wanting to go back after Chinese members of his archaeology crew that had been killed... Alexander's first eye contact with Lin (but nothing after that)... the smile of understanding after the witch asked her daughter to sacrifice her immortality... the thoughts that crossed the witch's face when she saw a way to recover the special dagger...
And I am deliberately excluding the horrible father-son touchy-feelie moment. (Although Brenden Fraser shirtless is hard to beat.)
Too much of the dialog was artificial bob-talk. "As you know Bob, or as you can't possibly know, but in any case we must inform the audience... I have the dagger which is the only possible way to kill the Emperor." The dialog over personal matters seemed just as contrived.
While double checking character names and spellings I came across this review that suggests it would have been better to have had Evie die than to replace her with a different actor. I concur. It would also have given father and son a personal story more compelling than trying to pass Rick O'Connell off as an uninvolved father. It *also* would have resonated tremendously with the witch's thousands of years of mourning her dead lover and her daughter's reluctance to let herself love Alexander because she'd have to watch him die and couldn't bear it.