When you really think about it (and in fact, you don't even really need to think about it), The Scorpion King was not exactly what you would call a "good" movie. Sure, it was the first starring role for professional wrestler The Rock; but even the most electrifying man in sports entertainment could not save what amounted to a dopey script that was transformed into an equally inane film. But despite the questionable cinematic quality of The Scorpion King, it made money at the box office and on home video. And that, of course, was more than enough reason for someone in Hollywood to decide it would be a good idea to make The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, a direct-to-video prequel.
The subtitle of The Scorpion King 2 pretty much sums up the entire movie: Rise of a Warrior. That's what this movie is about. The rise of a warrior. Michael Copon, best known for...well...he's not really that well known, but he did play the Blue Time Force Ranger on Power Rangers Time Force. Anyway, Michael Copon takes over for The Rock as a more wet-behind-the-ears Mathayus, the Akkadian warrior who battled the forces of evil in the original Scorpion King. Despite the wishes of his father, Mathayus wants to be come a member of the elite Black Scorpions, the most supremely, asskickingest team of mercenaries in the land. Unfortunately, Mathyus' father is killed by the nefarious Sargon (UFC champion Randy Couture), which is not something that sits well with the soon-to-be-deadly warrior. After his training is complete, Mathyus returns to his homeland, only to discover that Sargon is now king, ruling with a mighty hand made all the more powerful by his use of black magic. When Sargon orders the execution of Noah, the younger brother of Mathyus, our hero takes matters into his own hands, and flees the kingdom, vowing to return to get revenge.
While The Scorpion King 2 may sound interesting up to this point, it most certainly is not. Things go from stupid to really stupid as Mathyus is joined by hot babe warrior Layla (Karen David), and an annoying Greek poet, Ari (Simon Quarterman). Mathyus' goal is to go to Egypt to get access to a weapon from the Pharaoh that could kill the not-quite-all-powerful Sargon. Ari, however, suggests that the Mathyus instead go after the Sword of Damocles, a deadly weapon with the power to kill Sargon, provided it can be retrieved from the depths of the Underworld. And in case you weren't paying attention, that means that Mathyus and company must journey into Hell--a fitting destination considering that watching this pile of crap is like being in a cinematic hell.
Calling The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior a bad movie is doing a disservice to other bad movies. By definition, a bad movie is one where the script might be okay, but the acting is bad; or maybe the acting and the script are sub par, but the direction and the special effects are good. Or, maybe a bad movie is one where the acting is pretty crappy, the script is lame, but the action sequences are really good, and there's a ton of nudity and senseless violence to divert your attention. But with the SK2:ROAW, there is no good script, the acting is bad, the action is tired and lifeless, the special effects are neither special nor effective, and there isn't even any gratuitous nudity. Add all of this together, and you have a film that transcends bad--this is something that is truly terrible.
Directed by Russell Mulcahy, whose only truly good film seems to be the original Highlander, The Scorpion King 2 has the look of a made television movie-of-the-week. Worse than that, it looks like a movie made specifically for the Disney Channel. There is nothing compelling or remotely interesting about the film's visual appearance; but the lifeless look of the film is easily overshadowed by the script.
Written by Randall McCormick, the overflowing fountain of talent who wrote Speed 2: Cruise Control, The Scorpion King 2 is an abysmal pile of trash. It is hard to determine what the worst aspect of the movie is, as the whole thing sucks miserably, but McCormick's script is where the crap begins to flow. The story is idiotic and predictable, and the dialog is...well...let's see...it is atrocious, lame, unfunny, hackneyed, ridiculous and painful to endure. And when a script is this bad, with dialog this insipid, and when the dialog is delivered by actors giving performances this weak, you are stuck watching a film that is not worth watching.
McCormick's script, combined with Mulcahy's tired direction, makes for a film that is monumentally terrible. But so those two don't share all the blame, it is important to point out the cast, many of whom don't even seem to understand the words coming out of their own mouths. This is a perfect example of people not actually acting so much as saying the words they memorized from the script. The end result is a cast that collectively would not be able to be cast in a high school play. But at the end of the day, you can only blame the cast so much, because it was the job of the director to say, "Hey, you know what? That line reading was awful. Could you try it again, and pretend like you know what the words mean?"
The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior is one of those films that is painful to endure. It drags at an incredibly slow pace, and it is obvious at every turn that it is never going to get better. The script isn't suddenly going to get good. The direction isn't going to miraculously come alive. The cast isn't going to have an epiphany and realize that they are "acting" only in the loosest interpretation. Which means that every moment you spend watching this garbage is a moment of your life wasted on crap.
The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen. The picture quality is good as is the image transfer. In fact, this is the best part of a film that looks like it was made for television. And even though the picture quality is good the color palette is not very vibrant, and the film itself is lit rather flat, lending itself to the made for TV look, which is further enhanced by the pedestrian special effects.
The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior is presented in 5.1 Dolby in English, with optional Spanish and French dialog tracks. The sound mix is even, which is not really a good thing, because if there was ever a movie that could stand to have the dialog drowned out by music, it would be SK2:ROAW.
Perhaps if The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior were a better movie, it would be easier to get excited about the bonus features. "Making of The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior" (14 min.) is one of those featurettes that makes the film seem better than it actually is, and if you're not careful, you may be fooled into forgetting how crappy SK2:ROAW really is. The rest of the featurettes, "Fight Like an Akkadian: Black Scorpion Training Camp" (6 min.), "Becoming Sargon: One on One with Randy Couture" (4 min.), "On Set with the Beautiful Leading Ladies" (4 min.), "Creating a New World" (8 min.), and "Visual Effects" (7 min.) aren't nearly as effective in making you forget how bad the movie is. By the time you're done watching the featurettes, you will be so burned out that you will need to be a special kind of masochist to endure the four minutes of deleted scenes (seven in all), or the two minutes of the gag reel.
You will be better off if you simply lick the floor of a public restroom--the taste in your mouth could not be any more unpleasant.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]