The Scorpion King: Rise of a Warrior (2008)

The Scorpion King: Rise of a Warrior (2008)
  • Time: 109 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Fantasy
  • Director: Russell Mulcahy
  • Cast: Michael Copon, Randy Couture, Karen Shenaz David, Simon Quarterman


In Ancient Akkad, Mathayus grows up as the proud son of Ashur, a captain in the world-renowned military corps of Black Scorpions, first-rate bodyguards, most of which are sent to courts wide away. By objecting to young Mathayus joining the corps, Ashur incurs the undying enmity of ruthless generalissimo Sargon, gets killed and the orphaned knave is shipped off to a desolate training camp for six years by king Hammurabi’s clemency. When he returns as a Black Scorpio, Sargon has bloodily seized the throne and demands cruel proof of blind loyalty. Mathayus refuses, becoming a chased hero. With youth friends, the resourceful Greek Pollux and various mercenary warriors, he embarks on a daring quest to obtain a legendary sword from Sargon’s magical ally, the war-goddess Astarte.

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  • Matahyus can’t seem to cut a break when it comes to straightforward storytelling. Originally being introduced in The Mummy Returns (2001) played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the character would earn himself enough popularity to warrant a spin-off with Johnson reprising the role in The Scorpion King (2002). Although the prequel explaining the origins of the character had a screenplay that wasn’t exactly clear and suffered from goofy acting, it was still a competently made film with steady camerawork and entertaining action sequences. With the success of that, came this entry which sounds interesting but doesn’t really have much to offer other than the ability to waste time if needed. Unfortunately, there just isn’t much substance to this and it’s surprising since this film has 17 more minutes than the original. Although labeled with a “2” in its poster art, this sequel is in fact another prequel. Why does Mathayus have to have such a backward story line?

    In basic plot the title speaks for itself, it explains (if that’s what you call it) how Mathayus (Michael Copon) earned his way up in the ranks from childhood to young adult to overthrow and evil king named Sargon (Randy Couture). If that were the case alone it would be somewhat doable but instead the film suffers from misguided direction headed by Russell Mulcahy (The Shadow (1994) & Highlander (1986)). The story starts out with Mathayus as a kid when his father Ashur (Peter Butler) was alive. However that is quickly thrown to the wayside due to Randall McCormick’s screenplay, which focuses much longer than needed on Mathayus in his young adult years on a journey for a powerful artifact. A lot of it is a borefest. Much of the journey is just Mathayus and a few followers going from point A to point B running into obstacle after obstacle. These setups quickly lose their appeal after being done time after time after time.

    The protagonists in their journey are all right in some respects because of their distinguished personalities. Although Michael Copon as Mathayus is perhaps too young looking for the role, he at least has the physique to look like he’s on his way and he can passably act for what it’s worth. Along side Mathayus is Layla (Karen David), a childhood friend/potential lover. She’s fun to watch in her action sequences but her role is not defined clearly enough. Why include a possible love interest when clearly she would not return in Mathayus’ future? Then there’s Ari (Simon Quarterman), a Greek poet who runs into Layla and Mathayus and persuade them to find the ancient artifact. Don’t expect much for special antagonists though. Randy Couture as Sargon could’ve possibly pulled off being an okay villain if he had more to do than scowl/stand and speak with an enhanced voice-over. It’s obvious that Couture is not acting material but he at least could’ve done something. Sure he flips over some people but that’s about it. Next to him is Natalie Becker as a goddess named Astarte. Although she actually does a couple things like battling and explaining how Sargon got his powers, she’s not all that interesting to get to know. What was her motivation to even give Sargon her powers?

    That’s the problem; even with all these issues, if the script was at least written so the audience could relate to Mathayus and his father in some fashion and developed them, perhaps the drama between them would’ve been more understandable. As mentioned before, the action sequences do have a certain amount of energy thrown into them. Like a lot of other ancient movie settings, sword fights and mystical devices are essential at the minimum and that’s at least taken care of. It’s not anything special or out of the ordinary in performance but it at least tries. The special effects on other hand looked like they were wasted. There was only one setting which actually looked decent and that was when the protagonists headed into the underworld where the dead becomes apart of the habitat. That at least looked real and like actual creativity went into it. However, that doesn’t make up for everything else where every creature was either concealed entirely by darkness or up close camera shots so that the whole image could not be seen. Lame.

    The cinematography handled by Glynn Speeckaert was adequate however. The entire film does not have wide shots of landscape but for the moments that do, it looks believable. If the setting to this movie takes place in ancient times near Egypt, there has to be a couple of desert shots. It’s where this whole spin-off franchise started. The music was a shock on the other hand. Composed by Klaus Badelt (best known for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) score), the score was not only forgettable but was also difficult to find physically. The sound is organic but unfortunately lacks any flare the original score by John Debney had with its mix of hard rock and orchestra. It is because of that the music sounds very anonymous with no recognizable signature. Plus since this is a franchise, one would expect some type of main theme by now but nope.

    It has okay action sequences, distinguishable protagonists, steady camerawork but with only these components that work, it makes this prequel to a prequel spin-off series not all that interesting. Its music is generic, the special effects look last minute, the direction is misguided and its villains are not anything to talk about.

    Points Earned –> 4:10

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