Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kelly Hu, Ralf Moeller, Bernard Hill | Directed by: Chuck Russell | Produced by: James Jacks, Kevin Misher, Stephen Sommers, Sean Daniel | Written by: Stephen Sommers, David Hayter, William Osborne, Jonathan Hales | Distributor: Universal Pictures
Prequel/Sequel: “The Scorpion King 2: Rise of the Akkadian” (2008)
Archeologist love to study the artifacts of ancient Egypt. They try to take these relics and pictures and piece them together into a historical context. Each piece presents Egypt as the birth place of civilization. Even now, scholars are rewriting history to include information about a Scorpion King. They have found a Scorpion Tableau that tells about a battle between a Scorpion King and King Naquada. The purpose of this conflict was to unite Northern Egypt. Archaeologist now believe that the very first writing system may have been developed to catalog the Scorpion King’s riches. They also assert that this form of picture writing predates all other forms of known writings by 200 years. His burial site even contains a model of his palace. It is out of this historical investigation that we have the fictional unveiling of “The Scorpion King”.
Hollywood has enjoyed many successes from well built men. We’ve had Steve Reeves as Hercules, Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan, and who can forget Lou Ferrigno as The Hulk. “The Scorpion King” is a 21st century attempt at this successful area of film industries stock and trade. Dwayne Douglas Johnson (aka “the Rock”) does an outstanding job in this sword-and-sorcery genre. He has the physique and the finesse to carry out the role. Mr. Johnson is not only a professional wrestler (which is all an act anyway), but a former college football player. He has a likable wit and charm. Who can resist that raised eyebrow? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson looks like what a barbarian is supposed to look like.
Dwayne reprises his exaggerated cameo from “The Mummy Returns”. This film is a prequel for Universal Studios and a financially lucrative spin of a popular franchise. It is their latest attempt at B-movie action and that cult-campy humor we love to enjoy. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s roots in this flic are found in a character named Mathayus.
Mathayus is one of the last survivors of the Akkadians, an ancient tribe of assassins. He is hired to kill or capture the blood-thirsty warlord Memnon (Steven Brand) who is aided by a sorceress (Kelly Hu) that enables him to rule with a prophetic advantage. His kingdom headquarters are in the city of Gomorrah. I’m sure that any resemblance to the famed twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah is purely intentional. When Arpid the thief (Grant Heslov) enters the city with Mathayus he declares “hey, this isn’t so bad.”
Mathayus is also aided by the Balthazar (Michael Clark). The two of them try to unite the oppressed people in the land to defeat Memnon.
The violence in “The Scorpion King” is way over the top for other PG-13 films of this genre. It’s not as scary as the two “Mummy” movies, but Director Chuck Russell (“Nightmare On Elm Street 3”) gives the swordplay a gruesome accent. The addition of well-timed sound effects, blood, and severed heads can and should be too disturbing to ignore. Some may disagree, but even the MPAA expressed their concern to Universal as they looked at some of the dailies.
The sensuality is, as Roger Ebert expressed, within “one centimeter from an R-rating.” This is more than the adolescent peek-a-boo looks that Hollywood used to throw in—there is a lot of skin throughout this film (what ever happened to cover-ups and sunblock in the sand?!). Add to this prostitution, pre-marital sex, harams and sex with more than one partner, and it’s obvious who the producers are aiming at. Gut reservations cautioned me to keep my 11 and 16 year old sons at home, and I’m glad I did. I strongly encourage other parents to exercise such caution as well. Wait for the better ones that are sure to be released in the next few months.
This film is not offensive. Just not very good. Predictable, self reliant on fight scenes and a poor bring down from the great Conan Era.
—James Fogg, age 24