Nobody faint, but Vern has a review of THE SCORPION KING 2 RISE OF A WARRIOR!
Published at: Aug. 18, 2008, 5:01 a.m. CST by quint
THE SCORPION KING 2 RISE OF A WARRIOR is the story of a warrior who rises. In movies we've seen many people and things rise, including The Machines, Carlito's Way, The Silver Surfer, Leslie Vernon, Taj, Cobra, the Lycans, Gator, Jack Johnson, and Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. But never before have we seen the RISE OF A WARRIOR.
In this movie there are actually a bunch of different warriors but in my opinion the specific warrior who is rising is the one who will later be called the Scorpion King, not in this movie but in the very end of a different, better movie called THE SCORPION KING. What I'm trying to say is that this is the prequel to the prequel to the sequel to THE MUMMY, a movie I thought sucked. So the fact that this one is above average for DTV is pretty impressive. If you met a guy whose great, great uncle by marriage was a Nazi or a serial killer, but the guy you met wasn't that big of a dick or anything, you would think "Good for him." Same goes for THE SCORPION KING 2 RISE OF A WARRIOR.
This movie is 100% Stephen Sommers free, in fact it's directed by Russell Mulcahy, who at least was a really good director at one time (RAZORBACK). And to be honest I don't hold its MUMMY lineage against it because I've been a really big fan of the original SCORPION KING ever since I first saw it, uh... 2 days ago.
In my opinion THE SCORPION KING is the type of fun b-movie THE MUMMY was trying to be, but it succeeded where that one failed. First of all it has a way more charismatic lead in The Rock than Brendan Fraser. And, let's be honest, an actor of at least equal technical skill. The action scenes are inventive and well staged instead of just frantic and obnoxious. There's not as much bad comic relief and the overall tone is light and goofy while deadpan about its melodramatics. THE SCORPION KING was like a dude who is naturally likable while THE MUMMY tries so hard to be your friend that you get uncomfortable and have to make up a lie about having to go to work or something so you don't have to hang out with it. THE SCORPION KING 2 RISE OF A WARRIOR is somewhere in the middle. I guess it is the not as cool younger brother of THE SCORPION KING.
It gets plenty of things right. The production values are very high for DTV. There are lots of cool ideas and goofy cheapass effects. There's swordfighting, a scary lookin UFC villain, magic spells, and corny dialogue. That stuff is way more fun in the first one because it's delivered by booming voices like Michael Clarke Duncan's ("Will you stand alone before the fury of his armies?") but still, hats off to a line like, "Everyone knows if you make sacrifices to the dark gods you get black magical powers."
At first the rising warrior Mathayus (Pierre Marais as Young Mathayus, Michael Copon as older-but-not-as-old-as-The-Rock Mathayus) trains to become a member of the elite Black Scorpion Army of the Kingdom of Akkad. The asshole king Sargon (UFC champ Randy Couture, also in REDBELT) murders his dad and tries to get him to execute his own brother. So he helps his brother escape and goes on a quest to find the Sword of Damocles so he can come back and defeat Sargon's black magical powers that everyone knows he got by making sacrifices to the dark gods. Along the way Mathayus makes new friends and a girlfriend, fights a goofy CGI minotaur, refuses to get on his knees for Astarte, Goddess of Love and War ("I prefer to stand. Thanks anyway.") and then fights Sargon, who turns into a CGI giant scorpion. An invisible one.
That part was pretty funny because I could only figure the effects on the scorpion looked so bad they decided to make him invisible. To be sure I checked with somebody I knew who had read the script - and said nice things about it, by the way - and he confirms that when he read it there was not an invisible scorpion. So this is a pretty groundbreaking idea and I hope it catches on with other movies. Just imagine how different a movie like GARFIELD would be if the special effects artists had had the honor to say "this fuckin cat is creepin me out, let's just make him turn invisible at the beginning."
For the most part though I think THE SCORPION KING 2 RISE OF A WARRIOR's cheesy effects are enjoyable. I enjoyed the minotaur which was part CGI and part animatronic mouth. I agree with their decision to keep him visible. There's also a CGI heatseeking arrow which I guess is sort of in the tradition of the CGI living sword Mulcahy had in THE SHADOW.
The problem with the movie is that it's lacking the two most important elements of THE SCORPION KING: charisma and energy. Copon (who apparently was a Power Ranger and was on ONE TREE HILL... I'm sure Herc could fill us in on the details) is okay as Mathayus. He has muscles and can scowl and swing a sword around. But like most of us he just doesn't have the charm of The Rock. He's much more your standard stiff warrior of Kevin Sorbonian fantasy worlds.
Meanwhile, the movie just moves too damn slow. Too much of the movie is the warriors slowly walking down hallways, through tunnels and spooky jungles scanning their surroundings for danger as a keyboard drones. Even when they're in the Underworld and their Greek poet guide warns that they only have one hour to complete their mission or they will all turn to stone nobody jumps to action, they just say "Oh" and then continue on their leisurely stroll of fantasy boredom. Mulcahy is clearly more capable than alot of the dudes making DTV movies today, but he's also not the Mulcahy of RICOCHET who shoots a playground basketball game like it's SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. As we get older we get tired easier I guess.
Luckily everything comes together pretty good in the end. You find out why Mathayus of THE SCORPION KING is no longer with these characters, how he got rid of his scorpion tattoo, you see him on a camel. It's a real good ending that works as either a setup for THE SCORPION KING or for more adventures set in between the two movies. Adventures where he would learn to use the bow and arrow that he used constantly in the first movie but not in this one.
The one continuity thing that confused me was that I'm pretty sure the brother he has who gets killed and avenged (SPOILER) is supposed to be the same brother he also had in THE SCORPION KING, who also was killed and avenged in that movie. Hopefully they'll keep making more and in each installment he will be shocked when his brother Jesup is killed and then he will get revenge.
I would watch another one. But I would hope they would make it a little quicker-paced and more over-the-top. Now that the warrior has risen he should be doing some of the more cartoonish fighting feats he does when he becomes The Rock. I want to see more swinging around on ropes and more victims being sent flying and more macho bonding through battle.
Of course, Mathayus was (from what I hear) a minor character in THE MUMMY RETURNS so for all we know this franchise could branch off in different directions. Maybe they're setting up THE MINOTAUR: RISE OF THE MAZE LORD. Find out the tragic love story that got that poor bastard stuck in a labyrinth.
Anyway, it's interesting how many of these prestige DTV sequels have been coming out lately, sequels like STARSHIP TROOPERS 3 and LOST BOYS 2 that have bigger budgets and are heavily advertised. I can't vouch for LOST BOYS but this and STARSHIP are at least semi-watchable. Hopefully we'll work our way toward one that's actually good, but this is a start - a prequel to DTV SEQUELS 2: RISE OF THE ONES THAT ARE ACTUALLY GOOD.