What was the main thing that you remember from The Scorpion King? If your answer is “The Rock was in it,” then congratulations, as you’re with the majority. Considering he was front and center of practically every shot, becoming bigger and more important than his character or the plot of the film, I have no idea why they went ahead with this film after he declined to reprise his role. The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior is a prequel, not a sequel like the title indicates, and gives the lead role of Mathayus to Michael “Blue Power Ranger” Copon.
He begins the film as a rebellious young child, betraying his father’s wishes to not become a great warrior. He ends up being selected anyway, and after six years of montage training, he returns to his city to find out that things have changed. Sargon (MMA fighter Randy Couture) has become the new king. He’s the villain of the story, primarily because Mathayus blames Sargon for his father’s death, in which scorpions appeared in a black cloud and started eating the now-deceased warrior. He vows revenge, even though he has no proof at all.
We’re just supposed to go with it, and because Sargon sometimes has pitch-black eyes, we can kind of understand that he’s evil. Upon returning, Sargon appoints Mathayus his new bodyguard, but that lasts about one night, as Mathayus soon escapes after a quick action scene. He eventually teams up with his childhood friend, Layla (Karen David), and a scribe — and our narrator, for some reason — Ari (Simon Quaterman), to travel across the land and eventually bring Sargon down.
Basically, we’re going through a bunch of action scenes again. Although they’re actually less frequent than in The Scorpion King, they’re still the focus, which is for the best. Whenever we have to listen to these characters talk to each other, I cringed. Every. Single. Time. I can’t remember the last movie I saw with dialogue and actors this terrible. Not a single line was convincing. Nobody had an ounce of charisma. I didn’t believe that any of these people could function in society, let alone actually be friends with others.
You notice that Michael Copon is no The Rock right away, but it takes at least a few scenes to find out just how far removed he is from the star of the first Scorpion King. The Rock is hardly the deepest actor around, but he’s charismatic and is believable in action roles. Copon is neither. He can’t deliver any of his lines with any gravitas, and can hardly even keep a straight face. Maybe he knew his lines were terrible. Maybe he wanted to just get a paycheck and then get out of dodge.
Considering how cheap Rise of a Warrior looked, somehow I have to doubt he received a substantial amount of money for the role. The sets look like sets, the costumes look cheap, the special effects are atrocious — like, worse than The Scorpion King‘s CGI — although thankfully they’re sparse. I don’t know why Sargon was given magical powers, especially considering the filmmakers didn’t have the budget to render these powers properly, but that’s exactly what he gets.
That doesn’t make him interesting, but it does raise the stakes a tad from Mathayus’ last adventure. Or is that “future adventure”? Anyway, in The Scorpion King, the villain was just a very well trained swordsman. He could catch arrows in between two swords, which might be impossible, but at least didn’t seem too much like fantasy. Here, Sargon can stop a spear that’s thrown at him, but without even moving a muscle. Oh, and he can conjure black clouds containing scorpions and send it after someone, or so Mathayus believes.
It doesn’t help that Randy Couture is playing the villain here, all but ensuring that we won’t be able to take him seriously. While Copon lacks charisma and gravitas, it’s nothing compared to how lacking Couture is as an actor. The only thing that Couture needed to do was be scary, or at least an imposing figure. He is neither, and falls even harder when trying to deliver lines of dialogue. It’s like watching someone who isn’t an actor try to be menacing — it comes across as pathetic. Perhaps that’s why we shouldn’t hire MMA fighters to act in our films.
Not even the action scenes are terribly entertaining. They’re not inventive, they’re not shot well, and they’re edited together poorly, often leading me to wonder just exactly who just hit whom. I get that prequels are frequently about the journey, and not the destination — we know that Mathayus lives through it and becomes The Rock later on in life — but when the journey is so uninteresting, I can’t help but hating that there’s absolutely no tension. Mathayus can’t die, and since no mention of Sargon is made in The Scorpion King, isn’t the ending predetermined?
The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior is an awful, awful movie. Nothing about it works, nor does anything even come close. It’s letdown most by its actors, although the action scenes leave a lot to be desired as well. It’s also a very cheap looking film, and if I had to guess, I would say its budget was probably less than The Rock’s salary for the original Scorpion King.