US Release Date: 04-19-2002
Directed by: Chuck Russell
- Dwayne Johnson, as
- Mathayus the Scorpion King
- Michael Clarke Duncan, as
- Steven Brand, as
- Kelly Hu, as
- Bernard Hill, as
- Grant Heslov, as
- Peter Facinelli, as
- Ralf Moeller, as
- Conrad Roberts, as
- Roger Rees, as
- King Pheron
- Branscombe Richmond, as
- Sherri Howard as
- Queen Isis
Dwayne Johnson and Kelly Hu in The Scorpion King.
Remember those cheesy fantasy movies from the early 1980's? You know, Beastmaster, Red Sonja, Dragonslayer, among others. Well, The Scorpion King fits quite comfortably along side those movies. It just has a slightly higher production value than those movies did.
Brought to you by the same people who brought you the two recent Mummy movies, The Scorpion King takes a minor character from The Mummy Returns and builds a not-so elaborate story around him. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson reprises his role from that movie as the title character.
The plot is completely uncomplicated, as befits a movie clearly aimed at the male, 12 year-old, video-gaming playing, WWF fans, as this movie clearly is. It begins with Mathayus and his brother agreeing to assassinate Memnon's Sorcerer. Memnon is an evil King who is sweeping the land, conquering all before him, with the aid of said Sorcerer. From there the plot takes them to the camp of King Memnon, where Mathayus's brother is killed and we also discover that the Sorcerer in question is in fact, a beautiful young woman. Mathayus, who of course is attracted to the Sorceress and vice versa, then vows revenge for his brother's death. The movie continues in the same vein, straight and linear, a series of bumps, with one fight scene leading to another.
A consequence of having such a young target audience for this movie, is a watering down of the sex and violence. The fights, while obviously well choreographed, are very tame, with very little blood, and all injuries are shaken off immediately, whether they be from falling fifty feet or being shot with an arrow. That is, if you're a good guy. If you're one of the villains, then the same injury is certain to kill you. The humor is also very juvenile. A joke in this movie is along the lines of, someone is annoying Mathayus, so Mathayus must then punch him to shut him up. Any of the tongue in cheek humor from The Mummy movies is clearly and sadly lacking from this movie.
As for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson himself, about the best I can say is that he isn't horrible. He can read a line without sounding wooden, and of course he handles the fight scenes as if he'd been doing fake fights for years. Go figure, huh? But who are we kidding, this is about as far from Shakespeare as it is possible to get. He swings a sword, shoots a bow, rides a camel, and makes statements about killing people and avenging others, right up there with the best of them.
Violent, in a cartoony kind of way, and lacking in originality, this movie is lackluster in its attempts at adventure, and just generally lacks bite. Or to use one of those puns so common in movie reviews, this is one Scorpion lacking a sting at the end.
Michael Clarke Duncan and Dwayne Johnson in The Scorpion King.
In Scott's review, he wrote that The Scorpion King is about as far from Shakespeare as you can get. I agree, and I am greatful for it. I can enjoy The Bard's work often enough, but I can also enjoy mindless entertainment.
Have you ever watched mindless comedy like the Three Stooges? Some of their movies are 70 years old. As juvenile as it is, it can still cause laughter when watched today. The same can be said about The Scorpion King. Yes, this is entertainment aimed at young males. Whoever said that juvenile entertainment couldn't be enjoyable? I sat through this movie with my mind on pause and just let the adventure take me on a childish vacation.
The action is plentiful. The Rock does a great fantasy hero. That is to say, he has lots of muscles and little dialogue. I even laughed when he punched his new companion out cold and used him to get inside the city. I know, it is childish, but harmless fun.
I recently saw the new version of The Time Machine. It is based on a classic piece of science fiction literature. Even so, the movie sucks. The Scorpion King fulfills its promise of lots of action and lots of scantily clad women. Sure, it is aimed at 8-15 year old boys. But so what? At least it accomplished what it set out to do.
Dwayne Johnson in The Scorpion King.
I really didn't expect to like this movie. I disliked The Mummy and detested The Mummy Returns. I am, however, a fan of Dwayne Johnson, so that helped a lot. At any rate, I'm with Eric on this one. The Scorpion King is mindless, old-fashioned matinee cinema meant to spark the imagination of an adolescent male. As such it certainly succeeds. I was able to unlock that place in my mind where my younger selves reside. The 12 year old in me enjoyed this picture quite a bit and my 17 year old self enjoyed ogling The Rock's beefcake.
Scott called it a throwback to those cheesy old action/fantasy movies from the 1980s and he's not wrong. It blatantly rips-off plot points and characters from Conan the Barbarian (1982) for one thing. Going back an additional 30 years, I was also reminded of those cheesy sword and sandal B-movies of the 1950s. Especially in its lack of bloodshed. The Scorpion King features less graphic gore and more cartoonish violence than Conan had 20 years earlier. It really is a throwback that goes all the way back to the silent era with Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad (1924).
Dwayne Johnson has become one of the biggest international stars of this millennium. He is also one of the hardest working. Since The Mummy Returns in 2001, he's appeared in more than 25 feature films. Compare that to Tom Cruise's output of 38 movies since 1981, then add in several made for television movies, numerous video games, and even a couple of television series and it makes you wonder if this guy ever sleeps.
His acting has certainly improved since his days as Mathayus but his charisma, presence and comic timing were already evident. Here was a Hollywood movie star being born the old-fashioned way. He was chosen by those wonderful people out there in the dark, to quote another great star. The Scorpion King has impressive sets and stunts, solid direction, with a pace aimed at an 8 year old's attention span (he liked it too), and it heralded the arrival of a massive new star to the pantheon.
Photos © Copyright Universal Pictures (2002)