Retro Review: Scorpion King

A prequel to a sequel, doesn’t that mean it’s the original movie? Well in the case of the “Scorpion King” it’s really just an exploration of a mythical character mentioned in the sequel to the “The Mummy”, “The Mummy Returns”. It is a little confusing but I will try to sort it out.

“The Scorpion King” is set five thousand years ago where men were men and women were, well half dressed. An assassin barbarian named Mathayus (The Rock) is sent by a rebel king to kill a sorceress (Kelly Hu) who is aiding a vicious dictator named Memnon (Steven Brand).

Before Mathayus realizes it he has become a pawn in a struggle for power and becomes pitted again Memnon and his infamous army.

During his journey, Mathayus will discover friendships, love and eventually his destiny.

First off, “The Scorpion King” is only 90 minutes long and it never claims to be anything more than brainless entertainment. It fills its huge plot-holes with humor and brings forth The Rock upon Hollywood.

“The Scorpion King” is as a film looks great and the action sequences are filled with mind-numbing adrenaline. If you judge this film for anything more than that then you will be disappointed.

There is a reason why The Rock, this gladiator in the wrestling ring, embraced this project so. It will make him a Hollywood star and depending on his next project a bankable action star. The Rock oozes charisma and charm. It is very hard to not like this guy. His wielding of the sword and slicing and dicing villains reminded me a lot of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan series.

The film even scales back The Rock’s dialogue to mostly one-liners. What they failed to recognize is that was needed for Arnie in Conan because he couldn’t speak a lot of English. English is definitely the Rock’s first language. I really enjoyed The Rock as an actor and will be interested to see what he does away from the loincloth.

Kelly Hu as the Sorceress is the perfect example of a better actress than her character. This character has little or no dimension except her perceptions and being a trophy. Hu is a definitely a better actress than that. Her character reminded me a lot of Jane Seymour in the James Bond classic, “Live & Let Die” where we have a gorgeous scantily clad female-seer being swapped between men.

Her relationship with Mathayus also reminded me a lot of the 1980s cartoon series “Masters of the Universe” which involved a barbarian hero, He-Man, being aided by a sorceress named just The Sorceress. It being a cartoon those two never fully explored their relationship.

For me the biggest letdown were the villains in this film. We have Memnon, a two-dimensional dictator played by Steven Brand, who so closely looks like Russell Crowe from “Gladiator” its plain scary.

Then you also have the very useless Peter Facinelli playing Takmet, who you really don’t like but wonder why they kept him alive at all. Finally you have Ralf Moeller as Memnon’s lacky with no explanation to why he even serves Memnon.

Aside from the obvious flaws and there are a lot, “Scorpion King” does what it sets out to do; entertain us. I would have liked this film to be more “Conan the Barbarian” than “Conan the Destroyer” but there you have it. I wanted this film to be a grand scale “sword-and-sandals” epic. But it is just a pure adrenaline-filled testosterone moment.

(3 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

Written: April 22, 2002

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