Maria Bello, from book club to badass librarian

Maria Bello, whose most recent work includes The Jane Austen Book Club, calls her new gig as librarian Rachel Weisz Evelyn Carnahan O’Connell in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor “the role of my dreams. It is just a blast.” Here’s a reminder of what this replacement looks like:

And what’s in this role of her dreams? Bello says that her Evelyn is “a very different character than Rachel played. She’s a bad-ass action chick. I had to train a lot. I had to do wushu, a martial-art form, some kick-boxing, swordfighting, rifle training for a couple of months before we even started shooting.” Here she is in Toronto, all brunette already:

Sounds good, but I still can’t figure out how this is going to work. Generally when a different character is introduced, I want, you know, a different character. And the truth about the casting change is still out there: Either the script for this movie is great and they wanted to keep it, so they just replaced the actress, or the script stinks (even more than the last one) and Weisz jumped ship. I’m hoping for the first option, because I really can admit to a sneaking admiration for the spoof that was the original installment of The Mummy. And I was definitely a fan of this:

which is the biggest thing I think will be missing in the third movie. Well, that and the fact that Weisz could play a librarian with just the right balance of geekiness and sexiness. But, despite reporting a black eye resulting from an incident with a Winchester rifle, Bello seems game for the part.

The plot, like the casting (or the sequel, for that matter — a flying machine? Really?) could either be genius or silly and slightly offensive. Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh join the cast for an adventure battling The Terra Cotta Army of Xi’an (yep, I said an army of terra cotta): “The film brings the O’Connells and their full-grown son to the forbidden tombs of China and the Himalayas, where they battle a shape-shifting mummy, a former Chinese emperor (Li) cursed by a wizard (Yeoh).”

Yes, I like this casting. I hope, though, that the plot manages not to degrade into a tired parody of a Hong Kong action flick. (I also hope that someday Yeoh gets to play a role that’s a little less typecast.)

Regarding the plot, Bello enigmatically told Sci Fi, “I’m looking forward to the doll, too.” I’m guessing wildly here that this could have something to do with those accursed terra cotta miniatures. (If that’s true, then I’m also praying that the animation won’t look anything like the life-sized chessmen in those icky imaginary scenes from Heavenly Creatures.) With Bello and promises of three-headed dragons, yeti and pools of eternal life, the Dragon Emperor sounds at least as visually entertaining as the original Mummy. We’ll have to wait until next summer to see, but in the meantime, here’s a still.