The Scorpion King

With the success of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, it comes as no surprise that Universal Pictures have expanded the franchise with a prequel. The beginning of The Mummy Returns showed us how the Scorpion King became trapped as a half-man/half-scorpion, where as The Scorpion King movie shows us how he won his Empire in the first place.

Set thousands of years before The Mummy Returns, the land is ruled by Memnon (Steven Brand), a cruel warlord, who ravages the land and forces the people into a totalitarian rule. At his side is a sorceress, who can predict the outcome of every battle and therefore he always wins. Small bands of rebels escape his evil grasp and remain hidden at the edge of his kingdom.

The rebels band together and hire three assassins, Akkadians, warriors trained for generations in the art of killing. The three assassins consist of Mathayus (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson), his brother and another Akkadian, who set off to kill the sorceress. Unfortunately during the assassination attempt, Mathayus is captured while his brother and the other Akkadian (who was purely cannon fodder anyways – we never knew his name even) are killed. Mathayus is left buried in the desert up to his neck, to be eaten by fire ants. He manages to escape with the assistance of Arpid (Grant Heslov as the compulsory humorous side-kick).

Heading back into the castle seeking revenge, Mathayus fails to kill Memnon, but manages to kidnap the sorceress, Cassandra (played mostly semi naked by the lovely Kelly Hu – by the way what kind of name is Cassandra for an exotic beauty? Everyone else has proper ‘fantasy’ names. Cassandra sounds like a trampy woman from Essex).

After fighting off Memnon’s men in the desert, and the inevitable falling-in-love-with-your-kidnap-victim-who-isn’t-really-evil-but-was-a-prisoner-forced-to-do-villians-bidding (whew!!), the trio team up with a crazy alchemist and the rebels. The leader of the rebels is Balthazar (the massive Michael Clarke Duncan) who team up with the four and leads the rebels back to the castle for the big finale fight.  

That is it in a nutshell. The film is much like the WWF (World Wrestling Federation – and not the World Wildlife Fund), brass, noisy and with the occasional PG-friendly violence. Not to say it all that bad, its just a bit of a none entity really. The villain, Memnon, is one of the most lacklustre and dullest villains to ever grace the silver screen and when compared to the massive Mathayus, it seems that all the Akkadian needs to do is to lay the Smack Down on the weedy Memnon – no sword required. 

Director Chuck Russell seems to play it safe with The Rock’s first leading role, preferring to cut between slow motion shots of the star doing mundane things like pulling out his sword (or even just standing up and pulling off his mask in slowmo) instead of any real acting. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson seems to understand that this is a tongue in cheek affair (even stops to say “Boo” to a horde of barbarians at one point and also does his trademark eyebrow cocking too), but commands the screen much like he commands the ring. Less of the recent Mummy films and more akin to Conan, The Rock is like Schwarzenegger with a fresher, younger look. It will be interesting to see if he falls down the Hulk Hogan trap of doing only crap kiddies films instead of pursuing a proper acting career with more edgy roles – hopefully the latter. Kelly Hu, from TV’s Martial Law, is very sexy and wears not a lot through out – but in a PG fashion i.e. strategically placed sashes, hair etc (bummer!), but isn’t really any thing more than eye-candy. Michael Clarke Duncan, who is an extremely talented actor (see The Green Mile) just cuts loose and enjoys battering people over the head a lot.  

Overall, the film is silly, pointless and very crash-bang-whallop, but it is entertaining  (on some levels) if you don’t take it seriously. All the characters are cartoonish caricatures. At least in The Mummy films, the characters had more substance than here, which added to their appeal. Seeing that The Scorpion King is executively produced by WWF’s top banana, Vince McMahon, he will ensure that his own mighty warrior, the marketing machine, will make sure the film is a hit. Personally, I’d like to see The Rock go against his persona and play either a nasty villain or do something much more gritty and substantial. Remember the film career of Hulk Hogan…… 

SCORE 5/10