The Scorpion King (12)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/04/2002

Three out of five stars
Running time: 90 mins

If you were unfortunate enough to see the cinematic travesty that was last summer’s The Mummy Returns then you could be forgiven for dreading the arrival of The Scorpion King, which features one of the characters from that film and initially looks to be frighteningly similar.

However, The Scorpion King is surprisingly enjoyable in all the ways that The Mummy Returns wasn’t – its action set pieces are thrilling, the CGI is kept to a bare minimum and the jokes actually work. You won’t even care that the lead actor can’t act.

Apparently the producers of The Mummy Returns were so impressed with wrestling star The Rock (real name the decidedly less impressive ‘Dwayne Johnson’) during filming that they signed him up for a prequel before shooting was finished.

Here he reprises his role as The Scorpion King, except that, just to confuse things, he actually plays an Akkadian warrior named Mathayus.

The film is set several thousand years before the events of The Mummy Returns. A ruthless warlord named Memnon (Steven Brand in ‘British actor plays villain shock’!) is brutally wiping out tribes in an attempt to rule, well, the desert.

Everyone is frightened of him because they know the outcomes of his battles are foreseen by a sorceress (The Very Lovely Kelly Hu), so a bunch of different tribes (led by –don’t laugh- Roger ‘Robin Colcord’ Rees and Michael Clarke Duncan) enlist the services of a small group of Akkadian assassins, led by Mathayus.

Unfortunately their numbers quickly dwindle to one, though Mathayus quickly picks up a Comedy Sidekick (Grant Heslov) as well as a crackpot inventor (Bernard Hill, providing a ‘Blimey – it’s Bernard Hill!’ moment), as well as kidnapping the sorceress, which, understandably, really annoys Memnon…

There are several reasons why The Scorpion King works. For one thing, it's a lot more tongue-in-cheek than The Mummy and features a large number of surprisingly good gags – the sight of The Rock killing Deadly Fire Ants with his chin is a strong contender for one of the funniest scenes of the year so far.

Also, they've brought in a director who can actually handle a decent action scene as well as the fast-paced comedy aspects - it's by Chuck Russell, who also did The Mask. Indeed, The Scorpion King benefits from Russell’s skill with cartoon-like violence – despite all the swordplay, the only person that actually bleeds is The Rock himself.

This isn't to say that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson can actually act –far from it- but he has his comic double take, bulging eyes and comically raised eyebrow down pat. In fact, he frequently resembles a cartoon character. However, it has to be said that he has “something”, call it ‘screen presence’ if you will, but whatever it is, he is charismatic, always watchable and a likeable character.

Having said that, the film is not without flaws. In fact the truth is that the climactic fight sequence is rather ordinary and lacks the wit and invention of the first half of the film (although the Flaming Swords liven things up no end). However, the first half, from the hilarious and exciting opening sequence onwards, is good enough to make you forgive any subsequent lapses in quality and you’ll find yourself grinning inanely throughout.

The film also has some mighty impressive Shallow And Obvious Reasons to see it, in the shape of Kelly Wu, who can do amazing things with a single sheet of cloth, clothing-wise. And any film that both makes inspired use of The World’s Biggest Plug-hole AND contains a scene in which the hero is slung into a harem via a Giant Catapult can’t be all bad.

In short, The Scorpion King provides perfect ‘switch your brain off’ entertainment. It doesn’t take itself seriously and, as a result, emerges as a fun-packed action romp that’s an ideal Saturday night movie. Don’t let The Mummy Returns put you off. Recommended.

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The Scorpion King (12)
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Content updated: 12/12/2017 06:22

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