After two successful movies, “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns”, that featured their classic monster from Hollywood’s yesteryear, Universal Pictures opted to go in a different direction for the next installment in the franchise by attempting to create a spin-off with “The Scorpion King”. To me, the decision seemed, and most likely was, simply an attempt from Universal to make more money on a successful franchise, and not really produce much of anything that would further the storyline established in the previous two movies. Since this movie was apparently rushed into production directly after “The Mummy Returns” wrapped, I thought I was probably right in the whole “cash cow” approach Universal was taking with the movie, and that we were going to be left with a well-below average movie, and the franchise would most likely suffer a quick, yet painful death because of it.
“The Scorpion King” is the story of an Akkadian assassin named Mathayus (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson), who vows to avenge his brother’s murder at the hands of an undefeated warlord (Steven Brand). To complete his quest for vengeance and fulfill his destiny as foretold in a prophecy stating that Mathayus will become the desert-ruling Scorpion King, he must join forces with a beautiful, yet dangerous sorceress (Kelly Hu), and a rival Nubian warrior (Michael Clarke Duncan). With their tentative partnership, Mathayus and company are in for the fight of their lives as they take on the warlord’s massive army in hopes of toppling his oppressive rule.
Even though I had plenty of doubts about this movie, as did most critics, the film turned out to be not all that bad, and even managed a moderate box office return. While not up to par with either of the previous two films in the series, “The Scorpion King” does an adequate job of providing an entertaining, somewhat campy, and extremely coincidental back-story for the character. The writing was average, which fits in perfectly with the rest of the movie’s various aspects, i.e. acting, fight scenes, dialogue, etc. Some of the dialogue was a little too modernized for me, showing that the team of writers was obviously not wanting to create any semblance of historical accuracy with the movie, which I didn’t expect to find a whole lot here anyhow. The humor was hit-and-miss this time around, not nearly as polished in execution or quality as its predecessors had been, and at times went far too campy to achieve laughs that some of the comedic situations became more annoying than humorous.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (“Walking Tall”), who is no stranger to choreographed fighting due to his time spent with WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), obviously has no trouble handling the action scenes and making them entertaining for the audience. Along with his aptitude for fighting, Johnson also showed that he had some acting chops, plenty of onscreen charisma, and a seemingly good sense of humor; in essence, the future skills of another Hollywood action hero was being honed and developed with this movie. Michael Clarke Duncan (“Daredevil”) shows up in an essentially one-note performance as a rival warrior and eventual comrade to Mathayus. I was disappointed that Michael wasn’t given more to do in this movie, I mean a little more expansion could have been done in regards to the adversarial relationship between his character, Balthazar, and Mathayus; instead, it’s just lightly touched upon and is over with almost as quickly as it began. The other cast members were good in their roles, nothing outstanding or truly noteworthy. Actress Kelly Hu provides the obligatory eye candy for the predominantly male audience and cast, as the warlord’s seductive sorceress. I have yet to see what Kelly’s range as an actress is as she is given little more to do here than she had been given as the essentially mute villain Lady Deathstrike in “X2: X-Men United”. So, I really can’t say if we’ve seen the extent of Kelly’s talents or not, but for some reason Hollywood likes her, so I would think that there must be some level of talent here; although this is the same town that has a fascination with Hayden Christensen, who has proven time and again that he is not a good actor no matter how hard he tries.
The action sequences in “The Scorpion King”, which are many in number, relied much more on physical stunts, wirework, and good ol’ fashioned fight choreography than either of the previous two movies had done. In “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” much of the action was very CGI oriented, with some wirework being done, and a lot of the fights involved gunplay; however, given this story’s timeframe being set much earlier in world history, all the action is done with mostly swords and bows and arrows, giving a much more up close and personal feel to all of the fighting. Most of the stunts were well done, although fairly far-fetched much of the time, generally not to the point that it was distracting from the movie; but, there were a few instances where I thought the stunts had gone too far over-the-top that the director, Chuck Russell (“Eraser”), could have shown some restraint and attempted to ground the film in some semblance of our reality.
“The Scorpion King” is a decent spin-off, something Hollywood is rarely good at achieving, that creates an entertaining, albeit far-fetched, back-story to an intriguing character that was introduced all too briefly in “The Mummy Returns”. Fairly good acting, fun action sequences, and an average story help to make “The Scorpion King” a moderately entertaining piece of movie fluff that will do nothing to impress you, but will provide you with a brief escape from the real world.
“The Scorpion King” is rated PG-13 for violence, language, and sensuality.