Monday, August 11, 2008

Movie Review: The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior

Despite the "2" in the title, this direct-to-video film is not a sequel. Instead it's a prequel, detailing the adventures of the warrior Mathayus (a.k.a. the Scorpion King) when he was younger, who first appeared in The Mummy Returns. A follow-up to the 2002 spinoff The Scorpion King, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior starts off with Mathayus (Michael Copon) as a boy in ancient Akkad. His father is a member of an elite warrior guard who defend the Akkadian king knowns as the Order of the Black Scorpions. When his father is murdered by an angry rival soldier called Sargon (Randy Couture), Mathayus vows to avenge his death. He enlists and years later become a Black Scorpion himself. Sargon, meanwhile, has become king, and gained magical powers through sacrifices to the dark gods. With the help of his fiesty childhood sweeheart Layla (Karen David), and a spirited young greek poet (Simon Quarterman), Mathayus must venture into the underworld and claim the only weapon capable of defeating Sargon: The Sword of Damocles.

The Pros: Um, scantly clad women? Other than that there's not much fun stuff in this movie. The sets and fights are mildly entertaining (stress mildly). Otherwise there's not really a selling point to the film.

The Cons
: The cookie cutter title tells you basically everything you need to know. This is just another standard unnecassary sequel completely motivated by profit. First, it makes almost no attempt to keep good continuity with the first film. Mathayus is potrayed as only child when he has an older brother in the first film. The original potrayed Akkadians as nomadic mercenaries, while Akkad is a civilized city here. Beyond that, the story is boring and predicable, and makes no attempt at historical, or even mythological accuracy. In addition, the casting is dismal. Once again the only recognizable face here is not an actor, but a pro-wrestler, except that Randy Couture makes Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson look like Morgan Freeman in acting ability by comparison, if that is even possible. Speaking of the Rock, his replacement here is an actor whose biggest role previously was Power Rangers: Time Force. Obviously they are casting on the cheap. Besides Couture, no one in this film has any name recognition whatsoever.

And in case you're wondering, no, the special effects don't make up for anything. The CGI is the most pathetic I've seen in years. A sense of adventure might have helped, but with such a cheap cast and a cliche plot, it impossible to care about anything that happens. Bottom line: This film was made on a minimal budget with only profit in mind.

The End: Anytime a theatrically released film gets a direct-to-video sequel, it's a pretty safe bet that it won't live up to the original (American Psycho 2, The Butterfly Effect 2, Starship Troopers 2, etc.). The original cast rarely, if ever return, and the very fact that it is direct-to-video means the studio has little faith in the project, which means a smaller budget. In other words, direct-to-video sequels suck. The Scorpion King 2 is no exception. Even if you're a fan of the first movie, this prequel is sure to disappoint. Better not to waste your money, but if you must see it, rent it, because there's nothing here to make it worth owning.

Overall, I rate The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior as a 4 out of 10.

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