April 25, 2002

Not Exactly Rocking

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There’s a moment in The Scorpion King, WWF star The Rock’s first starring blockbuster, where the professional wrestling demigod controls the screen. Around 45 minutes into the flick, The Rock’s King rises from the sands at the end of an intense battle that we were to believe left the insta-hero dead.

In that one shot, The Rock effectively becomes the charismatic larger-than-life hero that director Chuck Russell wants him to be throughout the entire epic. Unfortunately for the audience, that’s not the only scene in the movie.

In fact, this prequel to The Mummy Returns, has a number of poorly staged scenes that give Russell a chance to show-off The Rock’s prowess. The problem with The Scorpion King is that there’s maybe one too many, turning the sometimes passable guilty pleasure into the longest ever pilot for The WB Saturday night.

The Rock (whose real name is Dwayne Johnson) stars as Mathayus, a highly skilled assassin who’s one of the last of his ancient peoples, the Akkadians. He, his brother and some other Akkadian, are commissioned by the king of a powerful Roman-esque desert nation to murder their enemy. The cost is a steep one, totaling the kingdom’s entire savings.

However, the enemy, Memnon (Steven Brand, who’s also the best actor in the movie — though that isn’t saying much) pulls a fast one with the help of the king’s Commodus-wannabe son Takmet (Peter Facinelli). The end result leaves the king and Mathayus’ brother dead, while Memnon ends up as king. Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with Mathayus, who vows that he will avenge his brother’s death with Memnon’s head on a stick. Memnon is powerful, however, and his head is well-protected.

The proposed avenging hits some more speed bumps in the forms of a sidekick who epitomizes bumbling (Grant Heslov), and a love interest named the Sorceress, who also happens to be Memnon’s woman (Kelly Hu). But when the going gets tough, The Rock gets tougher, skating through heavily choreographed fighting sequences which seem to last forever and come after almost every other word.

When the fights are over, the King finally reaches his destination, the lair of Memnon, only to fight some more.

This movie would plummet into only-on-video land if it wasn’t for The Rock’s commanding personality that director Russell wastes by not giving him the opportunity to really let loose, Smackdown style. The Rock’s King is incessantly noble while slashing an innumerable number of baddies and bedding the heroine. Even those wishing to get a glimpse of his trademark eye raised in a half smirk have to wait a half-an-hour and then it’s just plain unsatisfying.

The Scorpion King tries to live up to its counterpart, The Mummy Returns, but even The Rock’s popularity can’t save a shoddy production and an oddly confusing script.

Let’s hope that The Scorpion King doesn’t return.

Archived article by Carlos Perkins