The Scorpion King

The spin off like the sequel has long been a staple of Hollywood. Simply put, if a show is a success, and if sequels are pending, then a new creation using situations, characters, or events from the original may be a success on their own. The practice has been successful in television as shows such as “Mork and Mindy”, “Joanie Loves Chachie”, and “Laverne and Shirley” all sprang from the success of “Happy Days” The trend does not work as well in films as we have the disasters of “Supergirl” and “Soldier” as reminders.

While the creators of the Mummy series are planning the third big screen outing for Imotep and his legions, writer Jonathan Hales and director Chuck Russell have devised a new series based on a character from “The Mummy Returns” and have created “The Scorpion King” The film stars wrestler Dwane (The Rock) Johnson as Mathayus, one of the few remaining members of his people who are noted for their skills as assassins. It seems that a evil leader named Memnon, (Steven Brand), has taken power by force and has destroyed the few remaining tribes until only a handful from each remain in opposition to him. Aided by a stunning sorcerer named Cassandra (Kelly Hu), armies are powerless before Memnon as his sorcerer can see what is to come and allow him to plan accordingly. In a last ditch effort; a leader has hired Mathayus and his men to kill the sorcerer thus allowing their forces to stand against Memnon on equal footing.

Things do not go as planned, and soon Mathyaus is battling for his life in one action packed situation after another as he strives to complete his task and find his destiny in doing so.

I expected this film to be fairly uninspired as it was created very quickly following last summers “The Mummy Returns” and seemed to be little more than an excuse to cash in on the previous films in the series. Instead, the film is an action packed romp, which is enjoyable and lightweight. The characters in the film have some jovial moments and this works well with the action. Grant Heslov is good as a thief who seems to get himself into trouble at every turn yet is a devoted and loyal friend to Mathyus. The comedic banter flows well without seeming forces and gave the impression that the cast was having a good time making this film, as there seemed to be a genuine chemistry amongst them. Johnson was good in the title role, as he does not try to do more than he is capable of and works well with the cast. He is capable of being tender and fierce yet is capable of getting a laugh when the scene calls for it. Kelly Hu is dazzling as Cassandra as her beauty and grace light up the screen and bode well for her future work. She seems to be having a great time with the character and even gets involved in the action with Johnson and Michael Clark Duncan when things get intense.

While I could pick on the film for not having a very deep plot, as you have seen this story in films ranging from “The Beastmaster”, “Conan” and “The Sword and The Sorcerer” and some scenes borrow heavily from the Indiana Jones films, I had a good time. I would like to have seen a bit more depth to the character of Mathyus such as how he came to be where he is, how his people were lost and what motivates him, but for what it sets out to be “The Scorpion King” works. This is a film that aims to be a summer popcorn flick with a nod to the action serials that inspired it and it works. The focus is on characters and action rather than a deep plot and character depth. The film moves at a brisk but never hectic pace and is a nice diversion for 90 minutes. Lets hope that should we see another Scorpion King, the filmmakers take a lesson from the first one and let the stars and the action carry the film rather than a ton of special effects.

3 stars out of 5