WWF star The Rock will be a big action star and might eventually branch out to other genres. That occured to me while watching the wrestler's new action picture, "The Scorpion King". It also occured to me as the movie went forward that I hope that he'll eventually be presented with better material than this uninspired film, which takes occasionally from other films before it.
"The Scorpion King" is a prequel of sorts to the "Mummy" series, the second of which introduced us to "The Scorpion King", a character who was presented as the villian. This character was also played by the Rock, although half of his performance was ruined by some completely terrible CGI that covered him. This film really doesn't show how this character gets to the point of the character in the second "Mummy" picture, but that doesn't seem to be a concern.
This film has The Rock starring as Mathayus, an ancient assassin who is hired by a group of villagers to kill the sorceress of Memnon (Kelly Hu), as she is part of the reason why the powerful Memnon (Steven Brand) is conquering the lands, since she can forsee the result of any battle. Of course, it's only a matter of time before Mathayus gathers together an army of his own, including warrior Balthazar (Michael Clarke Duncan), an inept thief (Grant Heslov), a wisecracking kid and the previously mentioned sorceress, to take on Memnon.
I appreciated, at first, the way that "The Scorpion King" fully embraces its own ridiculousness, not treating it as too "wink wink", but taking it all pretty seriously. The Rock isn't given the best material to work with, but he's got fairly sharp comedic timing for the film's few attempts at comedic relief and he can also easily handle the film's many battle sequences. The film's special effects are also not particularly special. While the "Mummy" sequel suffered from too many CGI effects that either were terrible or pretty good, "The Scorpion King" only has a handful of sequences that offer pretty lackluster CGI. While I appreciate a more old-school action film that doesn't get buried under a mass of computer effects, this film didn't seem to have much of a "scope" or "epic feel", either.
There's also a point in this film where I began to lose interest. The film does provide a solid quantity of action sequences, but there are also sequences that don't seem very inspired and a couple of moments that seemed ripped off from the "Indiana Jones" movies and the "Mummy" pictures. The film doesn't offer a strong villain, either, as Brand doesn't make Memnon anything beyond ordinary.
Overall, "The Scorpion King" shows that The Rock has screen presence and can do well in a picture, but he is capable of handling better material than this. The film was never boring, but I never really found much of a reason to care, either. I expected a bit more, considering that "Mummy" director/writer Stephen Sommers was one of the writers, while Chuck Russell ("Eraser") directed. I'm not quite sure where this whole franchise is headed next, but hopefully everyone can regroup and provide something fresh and enjoyable that provides a better balance between old-school primitive battles and new-school effects.
Recommended as a rental. I'm sure it will look and sound terrific on DVD.