The Scorpion King’s expected high voltage action begins with the film’s very first scene, when the close-up face of a barbaric, toothless man is suddenly whipped from the screen by a flying projectile, a presumably sharp and heavy object that kills him. Happily, projectiles are a motif through the movie, as The Rock and his buddies kill dozens upon dozens of baddies with increasing creativity.
This creative (and often humorous) touch in a film packed with gore is what sets The Scorpion King apart from the rest of the Mummy series. Whereas chandeliers in The Mummy Returns are as good as it gets for action, The Scorpion King starts with a falling chandelier and keeps getting better.
With his various cohorts, The Rock (Mathayus) uses a long list of weapons in battle, including his chin, a gong and every type of sharp and throwable utensil in the business.
The Scorpion King’s creativity, in fact, extends beyond killing techniques and into its portrayal of The Rock himself. This Akkadian assassin ironically rides an intelligent camel and can’t help but include a couple of The Rock’s endearing grins and even a crowd-pleasing version of his famous “people’s eyebrow” at one point.
Mathayus’ diverse sidekicks provide an excellent foil for The Rock’s talent (at times better than his WWF counterparts) that keeps the narrative running smoothly. Peter Facinelli plays a wily Arabic horse thief whose lines are always amusing as he is torn between fear of death and lust for adventure. He teams with Kelly Hu, sorceress and Mathayus’ love interest, to form The Rock’s crew as he struggles to achieve peace between nations.
Michael Clarke Duncan, from The Green Mile, plays a counterpart to The Rock that comes close to matching the strength and intensity of the People’s Champion. This duo provides great entertainment as they clean up hordes of lesser bad guys.
This is not to say that The Scorpion King is without its slow moments or boring action scene after action scene. However, an attempt at a beauty and the beast style romance is included between Mathayus and the sorceress to develop variety in the plot.
The middle of the show loses speed as director Chuck Russell (The Mask, Eraser) runs out of creative ways to kill his victims. Many of the scenes, in fact, are shot with staccato cuts and scenes where the camera moves so jerkily that it is often difficult to discern who kills who. This is especially true in the digitally mastered shots, as Russell attempts to make up for poor quality digital rendering by swiftly cutting back and forth between the digital creatures and the rest of the action.
The Scorpion King is a success as it portrays what your everyday moviegoer would want to see from The Rock: a wild ride straight to the WWF smackdown Hotel.