When The Mummy Returns was in theaters, one of the selling points that all the trailers referenced was that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was in it, but his role actually ended up being pretty brief. Since his star power was beginning to break through outside of the wrestling world, it only made sense to do a spin-off with his character. Now while I am a wrestling fan and liked The Rock’s character, I honestly didn’t plan on going to see this movie. Honestly, the main thing I liked about the movie at the time was the soundtrack. Still, I did eventually end up watching it and it was more entertaining than I thought it would be so I wound up picking up a copy. Let’s see if that purchase was worth it as I watch The Scorpion King.
The plot: In the time before the pyramids, a barbarian tribe is in their main hut, where the leader is talking about all of the races they have fought and killed before approaching their prisoner, saying they have never killed an Akkadian before. The Akkadian, Jesup, warns them that his brother is coming for them, just as his half brother Mathayus enters the hut and begins killing the warriors in order to free his brother. Meanwhile, a warlord named Memnon leads his horde of invaders to conquer the ancient lands and only a few tribes are left to oppose him as he has a sorcerer that is able to predict the battles’ outcomes. King Pheron, one of the last leaders of the free tribes, is holding a meeting with the other leaders when Mathayus, Jesup, and Rama, the last of the Akkadians, appear and Pheron explains that he hired them to kill the sorcerer. While most of the assembled men are happy with the news, as the Akkadians are known for their assassination skills, Pheron’s son Takmet is upset that his father used the last of their treasure to hire them while another leader, King Balthazar, doesn’t like the Akkadians due to their mercenary nature. The Akkadians make their way to Memnon’s camp, taking out the sentry’s and saving a horse thief named Arpid from being executed. As they make their way towards the sorcerer’s tent, Mathayus notices movement in some of the other tents and calls out a warning just as the tents open to reveal Memnon’s men. Jesup and Rama are shot with arrows but Mathayus manages to escape and makes his way into the sorcerer’s tent. As he is about to kill the sorcerer, the sorcerer is revealed to be a sorceress named Cassandra, who says she knows why Mathayus is there and that he has been betrayed. Instead of killing her, Mathayus begins killing Memnon’s soldiers that appear but he is eventually captured. Mathayus then sees Takmet enter the tent, who admits to killing his father and swears his allegiance to Memnon. Memnon then has Jesup, who is still alive, brought to him and he proceeds to kill him in front of Mathayus but when he goes to kill Mathayus, Cassandra stops him. She says that the gods wish him to survive the night and that he won’t be killed by Memnon or any of his soldier’s hands so Memnon has Mathayus knocked out. When he regains consciousness, Mathayus finds himself buried up to his neck in the sand next to Aprid, as one of Memnon’s guards begins putting small torches down some ant hills to coax the fire ants out to kill them. Aprid manages to escape and knock out the guards, then rescues Mathayus after getting his word that he won’t kill him. They head towards Memnon’s city, and Mathayus knocks out Aprid and uses the bounty on his head to get access to the city. Once inside, Mathayus revives Aprid and buys him some wine to apologize for hitting him, then heads towards Memnon’s palace. Along the way, he encounters some street urchins, who steal the pouch with the blood rubies, but Mathayus is able to get it back, then offers one to the urchin he caught if he can get him inside the palace. The urchin leads him inside and the reach the workshop of Philos, Memnon’s court magician, who tells Mathayus where Memnon is. Mathayus pays the urchin then takes up a position to shoot Memnon but when he sees the urchin was captured and about to have his hand cut off, Mathayus saves him, exposing his position in the process. As the guards try to kill Mathayus, he runs back into Philos’ workshop, then uses a catapult that Philos built to escape the room. Mathayus ends up landing in Memnon’s harem room but as the women distract him, they secretly take all of his weapons and proceed to alert the guards. Mathayus is able to escape and ends up in Cassandra’s room, where he quickly takes her prisoner as he escapes the city. Mathayus rejoins Aprid, who was trying to take Mathayus’ camel, and they head towards the Valley of the Dead, with Cassandra explaining she was Memnon’s prisoner along the way. Meanwhile, Memnon sends his general Thorak to retrieve Cassandra and kill Mathayus, handing him an arrow laced with scorpion venom to kill him with. Mathayus, Cassandra, and Aprid reach the valley and when Mathayus sees Thorak approaching, he has Cassandra and Aprid take shelter, then rides out to face Thorak and his men, using an oncoming sandstorm as cover. Mathayus is able to kill several men in the storm and when they try to take shelter in a cave, starts picking them off one by one. He eventually fatally stabs Thorak but when he goes to kill the last of Thorak’s men, Thoraks stabs him in the leg with the poisoned arrow. When the storm passes, Cassandra and Aprid go to find Mathayus and Cassandra is able to use her powers to save Mathayus’ life. MAthayus and the others soon meet up with Philos, who had escaped the city after being accused of being a traitor, and he happily tells them he found the secret to his magic powder (gunpowder). As the group stop at an oasis to rest, they are captured by rebel forces and taken to the main camp. Once there, Balthazar plans on killing them but Mathayus is able to get free and fights Balthazar, eventually beating him. That night, Cassandra has a vision of the village being massacred by Memnon’s men and she goes to tell Mathayus what she saw. He sees this as a way to kill Memnon but she has a vision and tells him that he will die if he faces Memnon. Mathayus says that he chooses to make his own destiny and kisses her. Mathayus and Cassandra end up sleeping together, after which she wakes up and takes Mathayus’ camel and rides back to Memnon’s city in order to spare the village. When Mathayus wakes, he plans on going after her and Balthazar stops him at first but then accompanies him with some of his warriors. At the city, Memnon is having a feast to celebrate his army’s impending victory in the morning but one of his generals says the men are talking about Cassandra not being there as a sign the gods are not with them. When Cassandra appears, she tells the men that she sees victory for them and Memnon kills the general that questioned him, then says the feast is over. Memnon then tells Takmet to seal the city while he takes Cassandra into his chambers. Once there, he says he feels something is different about her and has his men place four cobras in some vases, then has them spun around before making her choose the two vases that are free from the cobras. Meanwhile, Mathayus and the others make their way into the city before separating to go on their own missions. In Memnon’s chamber, Cassandra correctly picks one vase but when she chooses the next one, she grabs the cobra that is in it and threatens Memnon with it. Memnon easily kills the cobra but when he goes to kill her, Mathayus bursts into the room and begins fighting with Memnon. Meanwhile, Philos and Aprid head underneath the city and place sacks of gunpowder around the main support column for the temple. On the palace grounds, Balthazar and the Amazon warriors fend off the palace guards, with Balthazar killing Takmet during the fights. Memnon manages to grab Cassandra and exits the chamber but Mathayus follows after him. When Memnon gets the upperhand on Mathayas and one of his guards shoots him in the back, just as Cassandra had seen. As the rest of Memnon’s soldiers arrive at the scene, Aprid sets the gunpowder on fire, just as Mathayus stands up, pulls the arrow from his back, and shoots Memnon with it. Memnon is consumed in the explosion before crashing to the ground in front of his army and as they see Mathayus standing atop the temple, they kneel and declare him their new king as per their tradition. The next day, Balthazar and his people leave, with Balthazar telling Mathayus he is a king now but they will be watching him. Cassandra says that she foresees a time of peace and prosperity for his kingdom and when he asks how long it will last, she says nothing lasts forever but Mathayus says that he will make his own destiny.
The Scorpion King met with mixed to negative reviews from the critics, holding a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is that, “Action adventure doesn’t get much cheesier than The Scorpion King.” Dwayne Johnson said that he intentionally shied away from using any of his signature moves as The Rock in the movie, with the only exception being “The People’s Eyebrow”, which he used after he landed in Memnon’s harem. The movie was a box office hit, earning $165.3 million off of a $60 million budget, and ended up spawning 3 direct to video sequels.
This is a pretty basic over-the-top action movie but it can be entertaining. The acting was good, with Dwayne Johnson (Mathayus), Kelly Hu (Cassandra), and Michael Clarke Duncan (Balthazar) doing good jobs in their roles, while Grant Heslov (Aprid) and Bernard Hill (Philos) making for some good comic relief. The story was interesting, since it was a prequel to a movie, which in turn was a sequel to another movie. As for the actual plot itself, it was pretty basic to be honest with nothing really special or original to it. The special effects were ok but I honestly thought they could have been better for a big budget picture like this. It is interesting to watch to learn about the character’s history but unless you are just in the mood for an mindless action movie, there isn’t much reason to watch this movie.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5