The Scorpion King (2002)

scorpionking_2002_poster
The Scorpion King (2002)
  • Time: 92 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Fantasy
  • Director: Chuck Russell
  • Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kelly Hu, Michael Clarke Duncan, Steven Brand

Storyline:

In an ancient time, predating the pyramids, the evil king Memnon is using the psychic powers of his sorceress Cassandra to fortell his great victories. In a last ditch effort to stop Memnon from taking over the world, the leaders of the remaining free tribes hire the assassin Mathayus to kill the sorceress. But Mathayus ends up getting much more than he bargained for. Now with the help of the trickster Arpid, tribal leader Balthazar and an unexpected ally, it’s up to Mathayus to fufill his destiny and become the great Scorpion King.

One review

  • The ability to win over new fans is not easy when one is shoved into the limelight so quickly. After briefly appearing as The Scorpion King in Stephen Sommers’ anticipated sequel The Mummy Returns (2001), Universal Studios believed that it was time to create their spin-off starring none other than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Originally only taking part in wrestling, Johnson was bit by the acting bug and agreed to star in this film as his feature debut. As known by many, this spin-off movie was a prequel, to a sequel of a movie that was a remake of an older movie. Sounds confusing, but it can be understood. Once you think about it, it does make sense. As for being a well-written story,..not really. There are a lot of pluses to this film but it has its drawbacks too.

    As a film that tells the background to how Mathayus, The Scorpion King (Dwayne Johnson) got his name, it doesn’t really declare itself publicly. Yet somehow, everyone knows by the end. Originally, Mathayus belonged to a group of hired assassins during a time when a ruthless dictator known as Memnon (Steven Brand) was looking to conquer everybody and anybody. Mathayus and his fellow assassins were hired to take out Memnon and a powerful sorceress (Kelly Hu) who sees visions of the future. All the same like other assassins hired to kill, they end up getting caught caring too much. This happens when Mathayus and the sorceress become attached to each other. As an origin story, the narrative is mostly predictable. Also, since it is a prequel, audiences already have an idea of what is going to happen. However, this doesn’t make the viewing experience unwatchable. Aside from the story being a touch too cliche, there are a couple of other setbacks.

    The first belongs to the sorceress’ powers to see into the future. There isn’t any logic behind this other than it just being shown that she has these powers. In other words, the audience just has to accept this as a fact and not care about the reasoning. Yet for viewers who have a harder time shutting off their brain or are just more inquisitive, the understanding behind how she acquired her powers would’ve been appreciated to have. The other issue is the tone of the script, which constantly flip-flops in the midst of goofy and serious. Thus, the end result tends to be an entire cheese fest because you want to take the story seriously but can’t because of how certain situations are handled. Having a character give a rather immature nod to the audience because someone went to bed with them, kind of breaks the rules on how serious a viewer can take this story. Another example is pairing up the protagonist with mildly unneeded sidekick named Arpid (Grant Haslov). Most of his comments are just too obvious to be even said.

    As for who wrote those moments into the script, it most likely belonged to William Osborne (best known for writing Twins (1988) & everyone’s hated Stallone film Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992)). The other writing credits belong to Stephen Sommers (rightfully so) and David Hayter (X-Men (2000), X-Men 2 (2003) & Watchmen (2009)). So it’s not like every writer behind this production didn’t have the credentials. The directing was also headed competently by the underrated Chuck Russell (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987), The Blob (1988) remake & The Mask (1994)). Even with its cheese factor, the main cast is able to perform okay. Dwayne Johnson was no doubt the right choice to be Mathayus because what would a spin-off origin movie be if the actor doesn’t return to play the role he made? Steven Brand is a worthy opponent to Johnson but it probably would’ve been an even better idea if Michael Clarke Duncan (who plays along side Johnson) was the enemy. It just would’ve been a better showdown.

    Kelly Hu is attractive in her own right and doesn’t give a bland performance either. The rest of the cast (including Grant Haslov) also act okay but nothing that is of much importance. They do help near the end and add to the overall cheese at times but they a necessity. Cinematography was ably contributed by John R. Leonetti who was able to mimic Adrian Biddle’s work from Sommers’ The Mummy (1999) universe. There are lots of desert shots, while the set pieces appear grand and ancient. The action was also well choreographed and since sword fights aren’t exactly the most used types of action sequences; it entertains. For the musical score, John Debney composed behind the film. For this listening experience, Debney uses a blend of organic orchestra with what also sounds like occasional rock/pop beats. This was probably used in order to accommodate Johnson’s fans but the beats actually don’t mess with the score too much. The action cues sound appropriate with the scene it follows and it’s in line with the genre. If the story to this movie was taken a little more seriously, this probably would’ve entertained more.

    Its script is not clear on everything and its unequal tone makes the actors look occasionally cheesy on film. It’s okay in some ways and others not so much. Luckily, the camerawork, action, music and main cast are able to manipulate it in their favor to entertain on very mindless level.

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