- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
fter his disastrous appearance in “The Mummy Returns,” I don’t think anyone planned on seeing The Scorpion King again, but Universal had different plans. Supposedly, director Stephen Sommers was so impressed with Dwayne Johnson’s limited performance in the film that he was able to convince the studio to lay down some major moola ($5 million, the biggest paycheck for a first-time leading man) with the promise that Johnson’s devoted following would more than make up for it at the box office. As it turns out, Sommers was right. Not only did moviegoers flock to theaters to see Johnson in action, but the film’s worldwide success helped the burgeoning actor create a new brand name for himself as he prepared to set up shop in Hollywood for good.
Set in an ancient time predating the pyramids, “The Scorpion King” stars Dwayne Johnson as Mathayus, one of the last living members of a mercenary race known as the Arcadians. Hired by a rebel army to assassinate the evil king Memnon’s (Steven Brand) powerful sorcerer, Mathayus’ mission is compromised when the rebel leader’s backstabbing son (Peter Facinelli) warns his new master of the impending attack. To add to the confusion, Memnon’s lucky strategist is actually a beautiful sorceress named Cassandra (Kelly Hu), and deciding that she’s worth more alive than dead, Mathayus kidnaps her and heads deep into the desert. It’s there that he meets a band of rebels (including Michael Clarke Duncan and Bernard Hill) who, under Mathayus' leadership, agree to help end Memnon's reign.
Embarrassingly light on plot, “The Scorpion King” is little more than a big-screen wrestling match between Johnson and a bunch of B-list actors and stuntmen dressed in tight leather. All director Chuck Russell seems to care about is keeping his star at the forefront of whatever action scene happens to be taking place, and though the former wrestler definitely had the looks to take on such a shallow role, he proved pretty early on that he had the charisma to accomplish much more. “The Scorpion King” was never more than a glorified on-the-job training experience for Johnson, but it would have been nice to see him challenged with something other than witty one-liners, chokehold body slams, and his trademark eyebrow raise.
Already a pretty bad movie on its own, “The Scorpion King” loses any integrity it might have had when the filmmakers decide to play dumb about the character’s history (something about selling his soul to Anubis and obliterating an entire city comes to mind) and instead turn their version into a heroic Conan-type. In fact, where the “Mummy” films could be considered “Indiana Jones” clones, “The Scorpion King” is essentially one big “Conan” rip-off. Anyone who enjoys those kinds of movies probably won’t care, and neither will Johnson’s WWE following. After all, what more could you expect from the prequel of a sequel of a remake?
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Unlike the Blu-ray discs for the first two “Mummy” films, the single-disc release of “The Scorpion King” hasn’t been given the deluxe treatment. Instead, all you’ll find is an audio commentary with director Chuck Russell and access to Universal’s U-Control feature. Unfortunately, the wealth of behind-the-scenes footage for this film is seriously lacking, and as a result, the included picture-in-picture falls flat.