tek's rating:

The Scorpion King (PG-13)
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This came out in 2002, but I didn't see it until 2017. It's a prequel to the 2001 movie The Mummy Returns. It shows the original rise to power of Mathayus, aka the Scorpion King (Dwayne Johnson, aka the Rock), though I feel like the story is quite different here than the character's backstory that was explained in "The Mummy Returns." But... this film inspired some direct-to-video sequels, which I haven't seen and I don't know if I ever will (and which had different actors playing the titular character). Maybe one of them came closer to what was described in the Mummy movie. I dunno. Anyway, it's not important. I should also say this movie could kind of be considered a fantasy movie, but I think of it more as just an action movie. (There are lots of swords, but very little in the way of sorcery.)

So, there was this warlord named Memnon, whose horde of warriors swept across the world in very anachronistic fashion, conquering pretty much everyone. Then there was this old guy named King Pheron (played by Roger Rees, though there's no way I ever would have recognized him; he must have been made up to look much older than he actually was, and his voice didn't sound familiar to me, either). Pheron was trying to convince all the leaders of the last remaining free tribes to unite against Memnon. The only one of them of any importance to the story is Balthazar (Michael Clarke Duncan), who doesn't believe it would be possible to defeat Memnon, so he doesn't want to risk his people's lives in the attempt. However, Pheron has hired a trio of Akkadian assassins to kill a sorcerer who works for Memnon. One of the assassins is Mathayus, another is his half-brother (whom we saw him rescue from some other warriors that had captured him, at the start of the film), and the third is... just some guy. Anyway, if the sorcerer can be killed, the other tribal leaders would feel more confident in their ability to defeat Memnon.

The assassins sneak into a campsite where the sorcerer is supposed to be, but it turns out to be a trap. They've been betrayed by someone (I won't say who). Two of the assassins are soon killed, and Mathayus is captured. Memnon would have killed him, too, but his sorcerer... or as it turns out, sorceress, Cassandra (Kelly Hu), claims she's had a vision that Mathayus shouldn't be killed by Memnon's hand (or any hand he commands). (That seems to be her only kind of "sorcery," she just has premonitory visions.) So, Memnon has Mathayus buried up to his head, alongside a horse thief named Arpid. The two of them would have been eaten alive by fire ants, but somehow Arpid escapes, and then frees Mathayus. After that, Mathayus travels to the seat of Memnon's power, Gomorrah, to seek revenge for the death of his brother. And he's accompanied by Arpid (who is basically along to provide the movie's comic relief). And lots of other stuff happens. Mathayus meets a sort-of-scientist type guy named Philos (who is trying to create gunpowder, based on a Chinese formula). And he meets a street urchin. Both of them will be of some help, later on. And Mathayus kidnaps Cassandra, but she also turns out to hate Memnon, and becomes Mathayus's ally and love interest. And later they run into Balthazar, with whom Mathayus has a fight, before Balthazar also becomes an ally (along with a number of warrior women under his command). Of course, Memnon still commands far more warriors than Mathayus and his friends, but it's inevitable that Mathayus's group will eventually win, because it's his movie. (And really, he seems like a pretty decent guy, so it's difficult, at this point, to picture him as someday becoming a villain, as he's destined to be. But whatevs.)

And I guess that's all the details I want to divulge. It's not exactly a great piece of cinema, but it isn't meant to be. It just has a lot of battles that are cool to watch, and plenty of eye candy for viewers regardless of which sex they're into. And it's reasonably amusing.


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