Awfully Good: The Scorpion King

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

With BEN HUR out this weekend and The Rock all over the news for feuding with his FAST 8 co-stars, it seems to be the perfect time for…


The Scorpion King (2002)


Director: Chuck Russell
Stars: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Kelly Hu, Michael Clarke Duncan

The Rock….something…something…something…hot Asian sorceress… blah…blah…blah…

The scene with the Scorpion King at the end of THE MUMMY RETURNS remains one of the worst, most laughable conclusions to a film I've ever seen. The video game quality CGI abomination with The Rock's smirking face unconvincingly plastered on it is something that will forever be burned in to my mind. So, hey, let's make a spinoff movie about that dude!


Thankfully, THE SCORPION KING has pretty much nothing to do with what we saw of the character in the second MUMMY movie. This prequel to a sequel to a remake manages to be more of a fun throwback to the epic sword-and-sorcery movies of the 1980s, like KRULL, HAWK THE SLAYER and, of course, CONAN THE BARBARIAN. In fact, director Chuck Russell (THE MASK) throws in so many homages to its Schwarzenegger predecessor that THE SCORPION KING plays almost like a low-rent, cheesier version of CONAN. It's goofy as hell (gotta love that 90s rock score), but that goes with the genre.

John Milius should sue.

The title character himself is also an improvement this time around. Gone is the generic villain from THE MUMMY RETURNS, replaced instead by a hero we can get behind. And to his credit The Rock is not afraid to get silly in his first starring role. I would've loved to have been in the room when they pitched this script to him:

"Okay, instead of a horse, you're going to have a trusty camel that also doubles as a zipline anchor. You're going to get to do some fighting, obviously, but we're also going to need you to fight CGI ants with your muscular chin and swordfight CGI snakes and CGI fire. Romantic interest? Oh yeah, we signed on a former Miss Teen USA. You'll get to surprise her during bathtime and then surf her naked body down the drain. Real classy stuff.

Still not sold? Okay, we'll write in a scene where you get catapulted (literally… in a catapult) in to a harem of horny prostitutes. Does that sound good, Dwayne?"

[euphemism for masturbation]

Dwayne Johnson is a great screen presence now, but it's obvious this was the first time the wrestler-turned-actor was carrying his own movie. Just watch any time The Rock has to give a reaction shot to something. You can see him in his mind thinking about his emotions: "Surprise!" Sadness!" "Anger!" (There's a scene where a loved one dies and he looks more constipated than upset.) The actor does have solid chemistry with Kelly Hu, playing the world's hottest sorceress, who thankfully needs to wear a gold bikini to see the future. The supporting cast also includes Grant Heslov (TRUE LIES) as an annoying sidekick who only exists to get sucker punched by The Rock, and Michael Clarke Duncan, who goes from despising The Scorpion King to being willing to dress in drag as a hooker to support his plan. But the award for Best Supporting Actor goes to CAN'T HARDLY WAIT's Peter Facinelli with a truly baffling role as a traitorous prince. In the beginning we see him nonchalantly holding his father's severed head… and then he pretty much disappears until the end when he rides a horse through a castle and is immediately killed. That is the extent of Peter Facinelli's role in THE SCORPION KING.

Pelvic sorcery is real, folks.

As an action movie, this one is filled with mostly bloodless brawling and generic swordplay, but I'm happy to say that THE SCORPION KING at least goes out stinging. The final battle is gloriously nonsensical, with everyone fighting everyone in every location while everything is on fire, cobras are on the loose, and Peter Facinelli is on a horse. The Rock has a fight with the villain, who, in the name of realism and having a non-zero percent chance of defeating a 260-pound Samoan, gets to use two swords that are both randomly on fire. The Rock gets shot in the back with an arrow and, instead of dying like a normal person, pulls the arrow out of his own spine and shoots it at the bad guy as literally everything explodes.

After The Rock just walked in to Mordor, slapped Sauron in the face, and took back the One Ring, the filmmakers decided to recast the role of Legolas.

You may have one final question: So at what point does The Rock turn in to the CGI scorpion behemoth seen in the last movie? Sadly, we never see The Scorpion King actually become that Scorpion King. Although he does get stabbed with an arrow laced with scorpion venom and later is crowned king by default. But no, he never has any mystical powers or turns in to a poorly-rendered arachnid centaur. I'm sorry.

Snubbed for Best Supporting Actor!

The Rock's cheesy one-liners.

The Rock's greatest moments kicking ass and taking names. (Including the names of some attractive females.)

Damn you Kelly Hu and your strategically covered nudity!

Don't be a candyass! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • The Rock appears dramatically
  • The Rock says a one liner
  • The Rock gives a funny reaction shot
  • The Rock is put in a sensual situation
  • Grant Heslov gets punched

Double shot if:

  • Someone says, "Live free, _____ well."


Thanks to Bryon and Brian for suggesting this week's movie!


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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