The Scorpion King (review)

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Stings Like a B

Wasn’t the Scorpion King the bad guy of The Mummy Returns? Wasn’t he the accursed one whose evil reach stretched across the millennia to hound meddling adventurer Brendan Fraser and meddling Egyptologist Rachel Weisz and their meddling little spawn? Isn’t he the one I called, in my review last summer, an “unholy undead dude”?

I’m thinking Yeah, so I popped The Mummy Returns into the VCR and checked. Yes, the Scorpion King was like an ancient Hitler, bent on overthrowing the world of 3000 BC (“the world” probably meant “the Mediterranean,” but still), slaughtering all who stand in his way with his CGI armies, and joining forces with a god of the underworld along the way. Hellspawn hoards obeyed his every whim, and then he was doomed to remain a beast for all time… or something.

La la la, now the Scorpion King is a hero. Never mind all that genocide and stuff.
Actually, he’s not the big S.K. yet — right now he’s only Mathayus, a mercenary assassin. Yeah, that sounds badass, but he’s a nice mercenary assassin, the kind whose well-honed combat skills and catlike senses are thrown off-guard by adorable children (who pick his pocket) and beautiful, scantily clad women (who steal his weapons). The Rock is scary in his own way, though: His arms are like legs, his legs are like tree trunks, his hands are like Easter hams, his neck is like a 22lb Thanksgiving turkey… and he’s got really, really girly plucked eyebrows. It’s a tad disturbing. And you go blind every time he smiles, his teeth are so dazzling white. Who knew dentistry was so fabulous 5000 years ago?

Breast-implant technology was also quite advanced in the dim recesses of the ancient past, too, as Mathayus frequently discovers — every time he sneaks or falls or runs into a random tent or chamber to escape whomever is chasing him, there’s invariably a mostly naked, silicone-enhanced hot babe to be surprised by his appearance. Unless there’s a wizard developing some of that magic Chinese powder that will let even 3rd-century-BC stuff blow up real good.

The Scorpion King is like an enormous Rob Tapert production (he of Xena and Hercules fame), a big-budget syndicated series shot in New Zealand set in a make-believe fantasy past where everybody has nice teeth and speaks with modern accents. All that’s missing is Bruce Campbell. But the other requisite goodies are here, like the ol’ “cut the rope and ride it up while the chandelier falls on the bad guy” routine and the “and ye shall know the evil ones by their English accents” attitude. Which is to say that this is incredibly nonsensical balderdash but damn funny, and only about half unintentionally so. Yeah, it’s warmed-over Mummy, which was warmed-over Raiders of the Lost Ark, but Anubis help me, it’s actually a good ride that doesn’t pretend to be anything more than that.

The plot has something to do with the last free Men and Elves of Middle-earth massing for a final assault on Sauron– No, wait. It’s something to do with the last free tribes of the world joining forces for a final assault on evil overlord Memnon, who slaughters all who stand in his way with his CGI armies and the help of his sorceress, Cassandra, who can foresee the outcome of every battle. Steven Brand, who plays Memnon, isn’t Russell Crowe but plays him on TV probably, and Kelly Hu, who plays Cassandra, is very cute and probably has a long career ahead of her as a cellular phone company spokeswoman. The Rock is hired by the tribes to assassinate the sorceress but of course he is taken by her cuteness and her irresistible offers of 3000 anytime minutes, and so he doesn’t kill her. But he develops a real dislike for Memnon — which is ironic, considering that we know that Mathayus aka the Scorpion King is destined to become an even worse tyrant — and so he does get to do some killing after all.

You should probably know that there’s so much wrestling in this movie that when it comes to Pay Per View they’re gonna have to charge $29.95 for it.

I won’t reveal the unsecret ending, but we get to see it, through one of the sorceress’s visions, halfway through the movie anyway. You don’t exactly have to be a nuclear genius to guess that the Rock has to win, because we need at least one sequel to explain how he turns from big-fighting-nice-guy into Brendan Fraser’s worst nightmare.

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