SCORPION KING, THE
In a time before The Mummy or The Mummy Returns 5000 years ago, an evil warrior named Memnon (Steven Brand) ruled in the notorious city of Gomorrah. Relying on the visions of the beautiful sorceress Cassandra (Kelly Hu) to predict his army's fate, Memnon's forces of darkness laid waste to the desert's nomadic peoples. Their only hope is Mathayus (Dwayne Johnson), a little known but skilled assassin who manages to kidnap Cassandra and use her as bait. The lone warrior teams up with a motor-mouthed thief (Grant Heslov), an inventor (Bernard Hill), and a tribal leader (Michael Clarke Duncan) and leads his scrappy band of allies back to Gomorrah to confront Memnon.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The B picture is back; this is the film for 15 year olds on a Saturday afternoon, and they can even indulge in a bit of interaction, shouting encouragement to the hero, booing the villain. Sadly, the villain is not quite up to the theatrical levels expected, and the hero is more snarls than smarts, but at least there are a couple of cool effects (like the giant ants that threaten to eat our heroís head as it pokes out of the desert sand) and a comic sidekick character. Indeed, the film seems to have been written with a script recipe book propped up in front of the writers, with all the standard issue ancient adventure elements ticked off. Except a couple under C: credibility and character. The direction and editing assumes that close ups and lots of jump cuts will convince us of the veracity of fight scenes, but it doesnít. Despite all the action, we come away feeling cheated of the vicarious thrill of beating up the baddies. As John Woo has shown, action scenes gain impact if they show the action in wideshot. If itís all close ups, the audience, even without realising it, has no perspective or point of reference, so no matter how much grunting and swashing blades is added in post production, the fights just donít cut it. And in a film where fights is all there is, really, thatís a serious weakness. Preposterous dialogue spoils whatís left of the film, making it seem so much longer than 88 minutes.
Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
Curiously billed as a spin-off - not as a prequel - to its two previous and massively popular blockbusters, The Scorpion King is a big, loud, brash and action-packed $120m Hollywood blockbuster. How brash? Brash enough to turn WWF champion Dwayne The Rock Johnson - who played a mostly computer generated character in The Mummy Returns - into a hulking, flexing, smiling bronzed star. He's a star with a winning swagger, even though he says almost as much as Arnold Schwarzenegger did in the Conan movies, with which this shares a similar look. Yet The Rock holds his own, while his Jar-Jar Binks style sidekick Grant Heslov provides the laughs and Kelly Hu provides the loin-clothed sex appeal. It's every known formula wrapped into one in this Saturday matinee adventure, and if you switch your brain off you might just have a good time. The action is not nearly as inventive or CGI based as the first two films, relying more on the charisma and physique of its former wrestling champ to carry the film. It works to limited effect; I don't think The Rock will enjoy the same meteoric rise to fame as Arnie did post Conan. But The Rock did perform all his own stunts - a dying art among movie stars - even knocking out his more muscular co-star Michael Clarke Duncan. There's a real comic book tone to this adventure, complete with outrageous battle choreography and silly punch lines. It's all so exaggerated and colourful that you go along for the ride. Everyone looks fantastic with their washboard stomachs, oiled tans and hardened bodies. It's nice to know they had the Ab-Rocker 2000 back then, and a plastic surgeon with a gift for breast enhancements. The male extras look like The Rock's WWF buddies and the females look like they've come straight from the beach as Baywatch extras. But that's the joke, and The Scorpion King knows it. An elaborate but instantly forgettable spin-off, it's profoundly stupid fun. Switch off and enjoy.
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SCORPION KING, THE (M15+)
CAST: The Rock, Michael Clarke Duncan, Steven Brand, Kelly Hu, Bernard Hill, Grant Heslov, Peter Facinelli, Ralf Moeller, Sherri Howard
PRODUCER: Stephen Sommers, Sean Daniel, James Jacks, Kevin Misher
DIRECTOR: Chuck Russell
SCRIPT: Stephen Sommers, William Osborne, David Hayter (Jonathan Hales, story)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John R. Leonetti
EDITOR: Michael Tronick, Greg Parsons
MUSIC: John Debney
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ed Verreaux
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 18, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
VIDEO RELEASE: September 18, 2002