The Scorpion King
June 30, 2003
Dust off that loin cloth, string that mighty bow and rub on that baby oil – WWE Superstar The Rock stars in yet another Mummy spin-off, The Scorpion King.
Not since Schwarzenegger in True Lies back in 1994 has Hollywood had a decent, blockbusting action hero to call its own. That void left by Arnie has been filled temporarily by a hesitant Keanu Reeves, an egotistical Tom Cruise, an aging Mel Gibson and at times, smooth as silk George Clooney. None of these are long term replacements in the action hero genre to the Austrian Oak however, which is why the void needed shoulders of a substantial broadness to fill it. Enter Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. ‘The Rock’. With an already massive fan base and history in front of the camera his transcendence into film is set up to be a natural one. The Scorpion King sees Rocky in his first full length feature, and his chance to shine.
Rock had one of his first serious acting roles outside of the WWE when he guest starred in an episode of Star Trek Voyager. Playing a deadly game known as Tsunkatse Rock was ‘The Champion’, a character not unlike Rock himself, and ‘Rock Bottoming’ Seven of Nine did little to help distinguish between the two characters either. Rock’s performance in Voyager was very impressive, using what little dialogue and screen time he was given to display an ability to perform in front of the cameras in a dramatic role. Naturally his screen presence was immense too, how could it not be? It was only a matter of time before Hollywood came knocking, and sure enough the great one was called up to play the Scorpion King in the Mummy Returns. Given even less screen time in The Mummy Returns than he was given in Voyager Rocky had to make good use of his opportunity. What he did he did well, well enough for Universal and Vince McMahon to collaborate on a Rock star vehicle. It was a no brainer really, take the biggest star in the world today and throw him into an action movie; gives you a licence to print money.
The Scorpion King is set some few thousand years before the events of the Mummy, where the people are under rule of a tyrant named Memnon. Memnon, played by Steven Brand is the peoples best warrior, able to deflect arrows with his sword and defeat anyone that challenges him – hence his rule. They choose their greatest warrior to lead them, more fool them. To aid him in his battles he has the help of a sorceress; Cassandra. This blending of ancient Greek and Egyptian myth seems not to bother anyone. Cassandra may be called sorceress, but she’s more of a prophet or mystic in the sense that her powers extend solely to foreseeing the outcome of future conflicts.
As the last of the people’s rebellion is being crushed by Memnon, they embark on one last ditched effort to usurp their ruler. To do this they need a champion, a people’s champion if you will (heh, couldn’t resist) so they enlist the help of three akkadians, assassins comprising of Renegade regular Brandscome Richmond, Esteban Cueto and of Course the Great One.
The akkadians are charged with killing Memnon’s sorceress, thus depriving him of his advantage in battle. These akkadians are famed assassins, long since thought extinct yet impossible to kill. Naturally, for the sake of the storyline two of them don’t prove quite so impossible to kill, no prizes for guessing which two.
Through a series of Conan the Destroyer type adventures Rock battles and defeats several warriors, picking up comedy side kick Arpid (Grant Heslov) along the way. Does the Rock really need a comedy side kick? Probably not, but it seems that all insecure action movies give their lead a comedy side kick to make up for the deficiencies in the script; Judge Dredd is a classic example. Aliens, Terminator 2, Die Hard; no comedy side kick. Judge Dredd, Eraser and Scorpion King all feature a comedy side kick to cover the lack of decent scripting. It’s a well used formula. Shame though because Rock has enough talent not to need a comedy foil.
This basic annoyance aside, the Scorpion King is a thoroughly entertaining film. As I said, it’s more Conan the Destroyer than Conan the Barbarian yet still manages to hold enough excitement and well rehearsed combat sequences to lift it above the norm.
Kelly Hu as Cassandra has many tangible assets that she brings to the role, and Steven Brand keeps up the tradition of an English accent signifying the evil bad guy. Those wacky Americans and their colonial views of the English!
This DVD also comes packed with extras that any WWE fan will be thrilled to see, including some great interviews with the people’s champion. It seems that Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan are good friends and it was Rock who talked Michael into appearing in the film. There is a great out take where Rock knocks Michael out cold when he connects with an elbow to the face, and they both offer different slants to the tale. Rock says he knocked Michael out cold for several minutes while Michael maintains that he was knocked to one knee, momentarily. Clearly the two had great fun making the film, and it comes across on screen. You’re also given a wealth of trailers, music videos and deleted scenes showing yet more of the great one in action, making this a pretty heavily stacked DVD.
If we compare The Scorpion King to other similar genre films such as Indiana Jones, The Mummy or even Conan the Barbarian then it falls some way short, but when compared to Schwarzenegger’s first feature attempt ‘Hercules in New York’ it stands head and shoulders above it. With Rock now taking time out from the WWE to shoot Helldorado with Christopher Walken, and on double the salary he earned for Scorpion King he’s well placed to secure the role as Hollywood’s leading action star. This does mean however, that as his marketability rises and his wages increase he’ll soon find himself as the highest paid actor in film, and the WWE will seem a very small and distant past. Finally the Rock hasn’t come back to the WWE? Quite possibly.
Mark the Scorpion King down as a landmark film; it represents the birth of a new action hero who will dominate Hollywood for at least the next twenty years. Schwarzenegger is dead, long live the king (scorpion that is).