The Scorpion King
A True Guy MovieBy Brian Loux
Written by Jonathan Hales
Directed by Chuck Russell
Starring The Rock, Michael Clarke Duncan, Steven Brand, Kelly Hu
The Scorpion King is a great guy movie because it follows the basic rules for good guy movies. I should have erased my fears when I saw Vince McMahon (CEO of the WWF) was the executive producer of the movie. Take the three-star rating with a grain of salt; you’re not going to walk away from this movie with some new outlook on life, but I’m willing to bet you’ll leave smiling.
Like its predecessors, The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King is built on a relatively deep history and mythology. But this film does not get bogged down in the intricacies of reality. McMahon made a smart move in crafting the movie independently of The Mummy series, giving the entire project more freedom. In fact, as you may have guessed from the language of the trailers and commercials (“a warrior who defied an empire”), the movie takes more from Gladiator and other famous action movies than it does from The Mummy.
A ruthless emperor named Memnon (I don’t know where the “Aga” went) is able to win battles thanks to a sorceress who can foresee how victory can best be achieved. In fact, Memnon is played by Stephen Brand, who looks like an evil version of Maximus from Gladiator. With the exception of a few bands of rebels, Memnon rules the world from his mighty capital city of Gomorrah, which doesn’t look as sacrilegious as the prophets make it out to be.
In comes Mathayus (The Rock), who is for some reason the last hope to “unite the clans” and beat back the invading hordes. The plan is to seize the sorceress prophet and cripple the army’s confidence. The problem is this sorceress Cassandra (Kelly Hu) turns out to be hot, and of course we must obey the first rule of guy movies: The Hot Girl Doesn’t Die. And if you caught onto the Greek myth symbolism (the Trojan War), Cassandra doesn’t actually like using her gift. She’s really not that bad a girl, and she can foretell the death of the evil Memnon. So the Rock takes her hostage and prepares for a final assault on Memnon himself all the while defending against those that hunt him.
For the last hour, the Rock delivers everything you would want for a good action movie. The Rock evades the palace guard! The Rock rides a camel in a sandstorm! The Rock takes arrows and sword cuts but slaughters whole platoons! The Rock faces Balthazar (Michael Clark Duncan) in a no holds barred match! The Rock makes young friends, smart friends, attractive friends, funny friends, and minority friends and is loved by the millions!
This doesn’t mean the movie lacks flaws. For the most part, the comedy tends to fall a little short. Sidekick Takmet (Peter Facinelli) is usually a good source of jokes, but in some places the gags are just stretched too far. Second, The Rock isn’t as good a hero as William Wallace or Maximus, and that’s mostly from the lines. I’m guessing the writers wanted to make sure that he didn’t choke on his own lines so they made them as few and far between as possible. This limited dialogue made him seem stolid and wooden, even though he has performed amazingly well on Saturday Night Live. Also, while his deer-in-the-headlights eyes work well when being manhandled by Hulk Hogan, they do not sufficiently show surprise and fear on the big screen.
Some may also be turned off by some of the silly assumptions the movie makes. Not only will you find just about every single race and culture represented, but also their trademark weapons. I noticed longbows, bolos, martial arts, bokken, flat and curved blade swords, shuriken, spears and tridents, throwing knives, catapults, scythes, and even Chinese gunpowder. Globalization comes a few thousand years early in this world. But the movie follows guy movie rule #2: If It Doesn’t Make Sense, It Had Better Be Cool. Aside from some boring sword clashing, most of the weapon battles make for some great moments, especially the climactic gunpowder scene that makes you wonder why the Chinese aren’t ruling the world here.
A WWF reference satisfies guy movie rule #3. While fleeing the elite guards, Rock stumbles into Memnon’s harem. The multitude of women fawn over his physique and beg him to stay. This elicits nothing less than the people’s eyebrow from our hero, and a round of applause from the crowd with whom I watched the preview.
All right, if you’re not prepared to give The Rock that much credit, then don’t go to see the movie. If you are, however, prepare to put your brain in neutral and be entertained.