Thursday, 28 May 2015

The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior (2008)

As I noted in my review last week, the original Scorpion King is a pretty obvious Conan pastiche.  It's sequel (which is also a prequel) is not.  Instead it seems to draw its inspiration from Ray Harryhausen's mythic epics: Jason and the Argonauts, or the Sinbad films.

For example, the first film in this series had a purely human cast, only one character with sorcerous abilities, and no magical items at all.  Most of the characters were just really good at making other people dead by hitting them with sharp or heavy metal things.

The plot of this film, in comparison, goes something like this:

  • Mathayus must travel to Crete
  • To face the Minotaur
  • Because its Labyrinth houses a gate to the Underworld
  • Where he seeks the Sword of Damocles
  • Which he must steal from the goddess Astartes
  • So he can use it to kill the Sorcerer-King Sargon
  • Who killed his father and brother via magical curses
  • And who will transform into an giant scorpion when they do battle

I can totally see Harryhausen making a movie with that plot, though he'd have had the gumption to include a sea serpent fight in the ocean voyage, and skeletal adversaries in the Underworld.  He'd probably also have made a movie that was good.

Because there's another important difference between the first Scorpion King film and this one: and that is that this one is dreadful.

Now I had low expectations going in, given the long gap before it got made, the lack of any returning cast members, and the fact that it was a prequel (seriously, how many prequel sequels can you name that are actually a patch on the original?  They have an even worse hit rate than normal sequels).  But Rise of a Warrior failed to meet even my low expectations.  It starts with the casting, which is dire.  When the MMA fighter you cast as your villain is the most credible actor on the screen, you have a problem, you know?  It continues with the script, which is almost belligerently awful: it's like it is daring you to stop watching.  "You think you're tough enough to sit through this rubbish?  Well I can get worse!".

Charmless, brainless (not in a good way) and valueless.

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