The Scorpion King is a very silly movie. You probably know that from the outset, considering it is based on the character who appeared only very briefly in The Mummy Returns, and that it stars Dwane “The Rock” Johnson. He plays a man named Mathayus, an assassin for hire who is tasked in killing a sorceress (Kelly Hu), who is protecting the tyrant, Memnon (Steven Brand), from being killed. Some betrayal and twists later, he and the sorceress, along with the bumbling fool, Arpid (Grant Heslov), he changes his plans and decides to go after Memnon instead.
That’s as much sense as I can make of the plot. It doesn’t really matter, anyway, as the film isn’t about characters or a plot. It wants to entertain you with action scenes, and when it focuses on that, it’s kind of successful. It’s ridiculous, contains pretty bad special effects — although not as bad as those used in the finale to The Mummy Returns — and doesn’t take itself at all seriously, but it never stops being fun. I can appreciate a cheesy film like this if it’s done right, and The Scorpion King is done well enough to be enjoyable.
Look, sometimes, I just want to watch a movie where The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan go at one another in a weapons and fist fight. The Scorpion King delivers on that, and on so much more. While the CGI is all terrible, there isn’t a lot of it. Most of the film contains big men fighting other big men in close quarters combat. Knives, swords, spears, and fists are all used rather frequently, while a single bow and a couple of arrows factor in prominently in places.
This is The Rock’s first leading role in a film, and I actually thought he carried himself well enough. He’s not a deep actor — like, not at all — but he knows how action scenes should work, and he’s convincing as an action hero. He seemed to be performing most of the stunts, and when he hits someone, or gets hit, it feels as real as these things can get. He’s also a charismatic person — wrestling fans know this already — and you are not often bored while watching him command the screen.
There’s less to be said of the other actors, primarily because none of them get the same kind of screen time as the wrestling star. Kelly Hu gets the second most time, but factors in very little. The villain is non-threatening, even though he’s supposed to be the best swordsman in all the land. I did like seeing Michael Clarke Duncan in the few scenes he gets, but again, he’s pushed aside so that The Rock can be front and center. That’s not necessarily a problem, but if you’re hoping for other actors to share the spotlight, you’ll be disappointed.
This movie was, in part, produced by WWE Studios, after all. That studio wouldn’t want their property having to share the focus with anyone else, especially when there are no real big-name actors in the production. The Rock is supposed to be larger than life, as the television tells me, so it makes sense that The Scorpion King is focused solely on him. Besides, we definitely needed to learn the origins of the villain from The Mummy Returns, right? The ten minutes of screen time in that movie warranted a feature-length spin-off, didn’t it?
What I’m trying to get at is that this is a completely unnecessary movie. Yeah, it’s fun, but the story is throwaway, the action isn’t terribly inventive, and the only real draw is The Rock. The film wants to detail the character’s rise to fame, leading to that deal with Anubis we learned about at the beginning of The Mummy Returns, but it’s your standard action-adventure affair that just happens to be set in the “time before the pyramids.” The character was hardly even in Returns, and wasn’t interesting enough to warrant an entire film dedicated to him.
After seeing The Scorpion King, I maintain that the character isn’t worthy of being explored. Okay, he has to learn that being selfish isn’t the best — the love interest/sorceress takes care of that — but there’s nothing else that’s interesting about him. The film is just action scene after action scene, and the screenplay could have been written with nobody in particular in mind, and then adapted to fit the character by tangentially relating it to The Mummy.
But the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the action scenes, while uninventive, are kind of enjoyable. It’s your standard summer action movie in terms of content, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you might just have fun. Going in with high expectations is something you won’t want to do, although if you’ve seen the Mummy films, chances are you’re not going to have that high of expectations anyway.
The Scorpion King is a summer action movie starring The Rock. He’s always the center of attention here, and gets all of the important scenes and set pieces. It’s kind of fun watching him, and the movie as a whole is enjoyable. Silly, yes, but enjoyable. It’s never boring, and the winking it does at the audience is quite funny. Sure, it’s not terribly inventive, nor is it really good, but if you’re in the right mindset, it can be kind of fun. And that’s about where my expectations were set, so I didn’t have a bad time with it.