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 does, 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
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.
©2002 by Dustin Putman