Neither 1999's "The Mummy" nor 2001's "The Mummy Returns" were very
good films. Without sturdy characterizations or involving storylines,
the only element that made them tolerable were the assorted creatures
on display and cheesy visual effects. A prequel to both pictures,
but with little to do with either, "The Scorpion King" falls into
the same trap as its predecessors, but it lacks creatures or even
very many effects. Without anything worth spending your time on, save
for a climactic fight sequence that is well choreographed, one must
wonder why director Chuck Russell (2000's "Bless the Child") even
bothered bringing this lame project to the screen.
The plot is convoluted and achingly weak. Mathayus (The Rock) is an
assassin in Egypt who is hired by an outcast ruler to kill the wicked
Memnon (Steven Brand), a warrior king whose henchmen are hell-bent
on destroying their opposition. Mathayus first wants to kill clairvoyant
sorceress Cassandra (Kelly Hu), whom Memnon achieves his powers from,
but when he can't go through with it, he kidnaps her. Cassandra, who
despises Memnon as much as everyone else down, becomes a willing partner
of Mathayus'. With the help of a wisecracking thief (Grant Heslov)
and powerful warrior Balthazar (Michael Clarke Duncan), the four set
out to defeat Memnon once and for all.
The character of Mathayus, a.k.a. The Scorpion King, was derived from
The Rock's cameo appearance in "The Mummy Returns." What makes no
amount of sense, however, is that Mathayus was a villain in that movie,
and is somehow a good hero here. Because there are no distinct hints
of Mathayus' doomed future found, it makes "The Scorpion King" appear
to be a film whose sole purpose is to squeeze the dollars out of audiences
who are fans of "The Mummy" series.
With an unmistakably lower budget without the funds for many special
effects, "The Scorpion King" comes off as more of a rip-off of "Conan
the Barbarian" and the "Indiana Jones" pictures. Scenes are directly
stolen from these respective movies, causing one to question how a
collective three screenwriters (David Hayter, Will Osborne, Stephen
Sommers) couldn't find a single moment to splash something original
on the screen for any of its 93 minutes.
With material worthier of his natural charisma, WWF superstar Dwayne
"The Rock" Johnson shows signs that he could become an action star
in the vein of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Rock isn't a master thespian
by any stretch of the imagination, but his muscular build and engaging
personality hold promise. As the enchanting Cassandra, Kelly Hu (1995's
"Strange Days") has a firm grasp on the required exoticism of her
role, but struggles with bringing depth to a character who is often
relegated to holding the arm of Mathayus.
When you see a motion picture as creatively bankrupt as "The Scorpion
King" make it into theaters, it pulls your spirits down. The only
reason for this film's existence was most obviously money, as no attempt
to turn it into solid entertainment was made. There is a place for
mindless popcorn fare, to be sure, but "The Scorpion King" proves
that some things are even too mindless to enjoy your popcorn with.
Copyright © 2002 Dustin Putman