Review

Review

The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior (2008)

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When Karl Freund directed the original Mummy for Universal Pictures way back in the early '30s, I really don't think he saw this one coming. It started out simply enough: Back in the late '90s, Universal wanted to turn its Mummy property into something akin to the Indiana Jones series, and so they hired Stephen Sommers to helm The Mummy, which (of course) was a big success. A sequel (The Mummy Returns, how clever) followed a few years later, but progress on a Part 3 was held up, which forced the producers to go the "spin-off" route. The resulting flick was Chuck Russell's The Scorpion King, which was completely unnecessary -- but still more entertaining than The Mummy Returns.

But then came an animated series (The Mummy: The Animated Series, more cleverness), a late-arriving (and very lame) second sequel called The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, and most recently ... The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior. So basically we're dealing with a sequel to a prequel to a remake and its sequel. It'd be all very confusing if any of it made a difference, but it doesn't. After five films and an animated series, this franchise has still turned out only one piece of quality cinema: The first flick, and by "first flick" I actually mean the remake. Still, for all its obviousness, silliness, and downright cheesiness ... The Scorpion King 2 is still slightly more appealing than The Mummy 3 -- for about 1/10th the price!

The plot couldn't be simpler than your basic "Conan the Barbarian" template: A young warrior returns to his home town from several years of physical training -- and he's after the evil wizard who done murdered his Pa several year earlier. Toss in a pretty love interest, a goofy sidekick, a few action scenes, and some fairly nifty FX and you've got Scorpion King 2 -- completely generic and entirely forgettable ... but just maybe worthy of a bored afternoon, provided you're either A) 14 years old, or B) a longtime fan of the "quest" movies and you want something to poke a little fun at.

That's not to say there's not a little fun to be had here. Despite all the wooden acting, cardboard sets, hilariously fake-looking wigs, and irritatingly anachronistic dialog, the movie still moves at a pretty solid clip and manages to pick up a head of steam before devolving into a goofy finale that boast some of the sketchiest effects in about ten years. (Look out, photogenic hero-dude! That's one giant ... invisible scorpion you're ... battling ... there. Yawn.) But before that point we're treated to a colorful but obvious series of adventures in which a (slowly dwindling) group of heroes must travel into the underworld to acquire the legendary Sword of Damacles from the nefarious Astarte, as it is the only weapon that can defeat Sargon. You know, basic stuff.

Newcomer Michael Copon plays the young hero with equal parts confusion and femininity, which is a weird combo, I know. He's just too damn pretty to be a Conan-esque sword-swinger! Professional wrestler Randy Couture pops up as the evil wizard, and he acquits himself about as well as any professional wrestler would while wearing a loincloth and throwing spears at people. Plus it's funny when he talks.

This patently generic and strictly by-the-books PG-13 quest flick comes from genre veteran Russell Mulcahy, who recently gave us Resident Evil 3, but the poor guy is saddled with a cornball screenplay and a woeful FX budget. Points for trying to keep the wheels spinning fast enough that we wouldn't notice what a chintzy and familiar experience this video flick, but there simply wasn't much to work with in the first place. Maybe in the next series of sequels, prequels, and direct-to-video afterthoughts.

But if you're an avid collector of all things sandy and sandal-strewn, you'll be pleased to learn that the Scorpion King 2 DVD comes with a few extra goodies. The flick is available in your choice of widescreen or full-frame, but the extras are the same: The 14-minute "Making of Scorpion King 2," which is just as scintillating as it sounds; the 6-minute "Fight Like an Akkadian: Black Scorpion Training Camp," which is more of the same; a 4.5-minute piece on Mr. Couture; a 4-minute piece on the ladies of the cast; a 9-minute piece on production design; a 7-minute piece on the special affects; a 5-minute chunk of deleted footage; and a 2-minute gag reel. Dang that's a lot of unnecessary clicking. Just toss all the featurettes into one piece, fellas!

Oh, and it's worth mentioning that Scorpion King 2 does have one great scene: It comes when Sexy Archer Sidekick Girl gets into a huge (mostly verbal) cat-fight with the Goddess of the Underworld. Hilarious stuff.

 

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