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SCORPION KING, THE


SCORPION KING, THE , USA , 2002, MPAA Rating : PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and

To their credit, the people behind THE SCORPION KING knew exactly what they were dealing with producing a movie starring The Rock. No, itís not one of the Pillars of Hercules, but rather a wrestling superstar who, now that I think of it, does rather have those monumental proportions.  They tailored the script to take advantage of his commanding presence and so he fights, he grimaces, he scowls and, of course, he arches that one eyebrow in his trademark way, but heís never called upon to actually act. This is good.  While he acquits himself tolerably well when he has to say his lines, or more often, line -- thereís never more than two or three at one time -- one has the sneaking suspicion that anything more and the carefully constructed house of celluloid cards would come tumbling down around our handsome heroís bodacious shoulders.

 

The story is a prequel to all the doings in THE MUMMY, actually, itís a prequel to the sequel to THE MUMMY in which The Rock first appears. Fortunately, there is nothing that convoluted in the movie itself, which clips along at a fast pace sticky situation after another and wallowing in the action-packed, character-lite popcorn feast that it is.  We get a prťcis of whatís to come in the opening sequence wherein a very ugly head comes into view, a very nasty ninja star flies into its forehead, and there is a mighty thud as ugly head and the body attached fall to earth. Thatís pretty much the flick -- the twang of a weapon flying through the air, the thwack of it hitting someone, followed closely by the thud of a falling body. Itís a formula followed scrupulously and wisely, leavened with a dash of humor and a lot of serious pecs.

 

The Rock is Mathayus, a camel-riding Akkadian. All his pals ride horses, but Mathayus is a dude who doesnít run with the pack. Akkadians are known far and wide for their prowess as mercenaries, which is why theyíre hired to take out a sorcerer whoís backing the filmís bad guy. The one bent on conquering the world.  hey always are in stories like this. And as is often the case, this one, the Scorpion King of the title, has a British accent. Why that should be when all his subjects have a distinctly Semitic cast to their speech is never explained. Again, itís that kind of film. 

The sorcerer turns out to be of the femme-fatale persuasion who wears just enough glittery chain mail to keep the film from losing its PG-13 rating. One thing leads to another and, well, if I have to tell you what happens next, you have just not seen enough of those Hercules movies from the middle of the last century. And through it all The Rock fights cobras, fire, fire ants with attitude, sandstorms, and the camel he rides, who is, not to be too snippy about it, a better actor than he is. 

 

On the plus side, THE SCORPION KING never insults the audiences intelligence by pretending to be more than it is, an action-adventure flick thatís meant to be fun, not profound. Steven Brand does a nice job of being the bad guy bringing not just that British accent, but also a British upper-crust bad attitude, the kind that is annoyed about having to go to the trouble of proving that heís better than everyone else by crushing them mercilessly. Its comic relief, in the form of Grant Heslov, as the cowardly foil to The Rockís stalwart courage, has some genuinely funny moments as he fulfills his nebbishy role as an expository device.  Michael Clarke Duncan, as the kill-happy leader of a band of oasis-loving Nubians, looks unexpectedly great with metallic eye shadow. The band of Amazon warriors kick serious butt as do the harem girls that Mathayus drops in on. And the mad scientist with the gunpowder, a piquant plot twist, is played with scrumptiously patient irony by Bernard Hill.

 

Sure, I could nitpick about things like Pompeii, mentioned in passing during a market scene, not actually having existed before the pyramids, which is when the story is set. Or why there are ninja stars in pre-historic Europe, where the first scenes take place. Or I could wonder why when the sorceress, played by a winsomely tough Kelly Hu, is presented with yards of material from which to make a garment, she twists and folds it so that it covers less than a three-ring bikini, but why bother? The special effects are good, the trip to Gemmorrah of Sodom-and- fame is interesting, and The Rock emerges from his latest bout with his charisma intact.




  My rating:



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