Action Movie October Edition: The Scorpion King

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: The Scorpion King
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release: 2002
Genre: action, adventure, fantasy
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Steven Brand, Kelly Hu, Bernard Hill, Grant Heslov, Peter Facinelli
Director: Chuck Russell
Writer: Stephen Sommers, Jonathon Hales, William Osborne, David Hayter
Distributor: Universal
Budget: $60 Million
Box Office: $166 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 41%

Gingersnaps Rating: Two and a Half Cookies!

Summary:

The known world is under siege, the King Memnon commands a vast army and seeks to conquer all those who oppose him on his quest to become the King of Legend, the Scorpion King. Harried and losing numbers, the remaining free Kings hire a group of Assassins to take out Memnon and the Sorcerer that does his bidding. Before the assassins can kill the Sorcerer, they are betrayed and only one survives, Mathayus. Mathayus swears vengence on Memnon for killing his brothers and in turn kidnaps the Sorcerer that Memnon relies on. The Sorcerer believes that he is the one who can unite the free lands and kill Memnon and free the people. But he also may die in the attempt to become the true Scorpion King.

Review:

Let’s be honest, at this point The Scorpion King has absolutely no bearing on the Mummy Franchise outside the fact that there is a character who was in the Mummy Returns that bore the same name. The Scorpion King has turned into a direct to DVD franchise of its own that the only relationship is that it is set in the “ancient” world and possibly involves big bugs. (I haven’t seen 2 through 4 so I can’t really say.) They still haven’t had the King (now played by how many actors) get his butt beat and make a pact with Anubis. I don’t know if it is currently worth my time to track down two through four to watch them and review. Maybe if I run out of other movies to watch. (This could be a while.)

The Scorpion King, what little he features in the Mummy Returns was set up to be a big bad. This big bad guy who had a lot of power and a bunch of minions didn’t even really have any motivation. The O’Connells just needed to beat him so Imhotep wouldn’t. Why Imhotep wants to take over the world is rather fuzzy as well. But I guess that is what big evil guys do?

But, the Scorpion King movie doesn’t ever address the Scorpion King as a “bad guy.” The story revolves around how Mathayus becomes the titular Scorpion King. In fact, this guy turns out to be the hero of the story, rather than the villain. How disappointing. Basically, in order to watch this movie, you have to throw out everything that the Mummy Returns told you. As we go back to Abrahamic times to Sodom and Gomorroh before God destroyed them with fire and brimstone. We have a man, Memnon, setting out to conquer the known world with the help of a Sorcerer who can predict the future. This makes them less of a sorcerer and more of an oracle but moving on. So Mathayus is hired to kill the sorcerer in order to take out Memnon. Surprise, the sorcerer is actually a woman! Mathayus is betrayed. And yeah, cue the fight over the woman to begin. Sigh.

They tried. They really did. This was a low budget prequel to an already low budget film. They reused the costumes for goodness sake. Stephen Sommers was at least a writer on this movie. He understands this franchise. The dialogue and humor that is hallmark of this franchise was there though a bit stiff and forced in places. “I feel you are somewhat diminished.” I mean, what the hell was that about? What was missing was a certain amount of acting chops. For a low budget film, the Mummy and the Mummy Returns really sold it on the acting. Here, the acting was more carried by the music than by the actors. Dwayne and Michael really did get into it. But the rest went through the motions of acting. Kelly Hu in particular was stiff as a board without any inflection. I’m eating half of the cookie because honestly the only reason to watch was Dwayne and Michael.

Was there a big explosion? Yes. Yes there was. It was complete unnecessary and I’m not sure if it was even historically possible. But it was there. One cookie.

The fights were entertaining. Apparently, in the fight between Michael Clarke Duncan and Dwayne Johnson the swords did break, which was totally unscripted and they had to improvise around it. One cookie.

What is really disappointing about this story is the Sorceress. I’m not sure if she was ever given an official name even. That’s how “important” she is. At one point they yell out “Cassandra,” but given that is the name of a Greek oracle who was never believed. I’m not sure if that was a reference to Greek or the character’s actual name. Given how strong the female characters are in the Mummy Franchise, this Sorceress character is a huge step back. She’s sexualized throughout the entire movie. She’s powerless it seems and doesn’t even know how to lie properly. Sure, she picks up a sword later and uses a snake for a weapon but spends most of her time cowering and waiting for Mathayus to save her. She’s not smart. She’s not clever. I know this is Mathayus’ story, but apparently she’s not even important enough in it to merit his romancing her even in the smallest fashion. Totally and completely depressing. I’m eating the entire cookie.

Honestly, at this point they really need to stop trying to ground this in “the ancient world.” They don’t know history, they don’t know geography and they’d be better off going “On an alternate timeline on Earth.” The catapult, the Chinese formula, and I’m not sure what was up with their version of Mesopotamian geography because it was weird. Are we in the mountains or at a delta or maybe a hidden oasis and here we are in the desert? It’s unfortunate. I wish they’d just focused on one thing instead of trying to show everywhere. (I’m guessing the next movies get worse.) They were relying way too much on a viewer’s ignorance to carry the movie. But it was jarring and didn’t work. No cookie.

The Scorpion King is a halfhearted attempt at a low budget movie. Watch this movie if you enjoy Dwayne Johnson and Michael Clarke Duncan but be prepared to check your brain at the door due to spotty dialogue and poor acting. Two and a half cookies.

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