Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior
Directed by Russell Mulcahy
Starring Michael Copon, Randy Couture, Karen David, Simon Quarterman, Natalie Becker
Universal Home Entertainment
Release date: August 19, 2008
I received the standard and Blu-ray DVDs for Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, and had planned on doing the standard disc review myself, but I just got bogged down with other tasks, so I sent it out to one of my writers. Since I don’t have a Blu-ray player [yet], I sent that out to Henchman21 (read his review), who flat out told me this was not a good movie and that he had trouble even finishing the viewing. The other writer could conjure up little more than to say that the movie was “in a word, shit.”
When people give something such bad reviews like this, I just HAVE to see it for myself, because I wonder, can it really be all that bad and if so, why? I have to know!
So, I pop in the disc and prepare to be brutally assaulted by what I am now expecting to be pure and utter crap and after 20 minutes of the film I found myself thinking, jeez, it’s not that bad.
This is a direct-to-DVD prequel to 2002’s Scorpion King, which itself was a prequel/spin-off to Universal’s The Mummy Returns, which had Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Mathayus/Scorpion King. The key words here are direct-to-DVD, so right there you know not to expect something on par with the Academy Award-winning Gladiator.
In SK2, we meet a young Mathayus, eager to learn the ways of the Black Scorpion warriors, of which his father is a renowned member. Although these warriors serve the King, Mathayus’s father wants to spare his son the life of violence that comes with it. Mathayus enlists anyway and the consequences bring about the needless death of his father at the hands of the King’s evil Commander Sargon (Randy Couture). This event only fuels Mathayus’s desire to become a warrior, though now it’s to enact revenge on Sargon.
As Henchman21 pointed out, SK2 does comes across a bit like an episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journey, though I’d liken it more to a television miniseries like The Odyssey. SK2 is not the worst production I’ve ever seen (hey, it’s a million times better than Zardoz, which I’ve heard people say they like). Some characters are more period-appropriate than others. For instance, we hear phrases like “Where d’ya think ya going?” and words like “Mom,” “guy,” and “idiot,” which I’m sure were not in use 5000 years ago, but if you can overlook this trivial annoyance, you can possibly enjoy Mathayus’s quest for vengeance (a timeless concept).
Honestly, there was only one aspect of the film that I didn’t like and that was Randy Couture as the evil Sargon, Mathayus’s nemesis. I knew nothing about Couture previously, but after seeing about three minutes of his performance, I assumed he must be some kind of wrestler (I was right), because while he has the physique to pull off the role, he just cannot act — or speak that well either. While most of the characters pull off — or at least try to pull off — an ancient air about them, Sargon’s monotone delivery kills whatever threat he supposedly poses (he don’t scare me). Couture would be better suited as the mean-spirited American sensei in the inevitable The Karate Kid 5 direct-to-DVD sequel.
Michael Copon, on the other hand, turns out a fine performance as the future Scorpion King and while I’ve read complaints about Russell Mulcahy directing of the film, I had no problems with it (hey, the guy directed Highlander — that carries a lot of weight with me). If anything, the movie gets lower marks for Randall McCormick‘s insertion of the aforementioned modern-day vernacular into the script, as well as for Couture’s wooden acting and Karen David‘s intermittent over-bubbly portrayal as Mathayus’s childhood friend Layla (who, of course, wants to be allowed to fight as men do).
If you’re able to enjoy television series like Hercules and BeastMaster or TV miniseries like The Odyssey or Jason and the Argonauts, then you’ll do just fine with Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior.
To prove that this film was truly not that bad, I actually sat through the DVD bonus features, of which they are many. So if you like getting more for your money, this DVD gives you plenty of Extras.
Deleted Scenes: We see the branding of the newly made Black Scorpion warriors, including Mathayus, who — unlike the other graduates who scream out in pain when the branding iron burns them — merely says, “Ouch,” another term I’m sure wasn’t in use in ancient Mesopotamia. A few other deleted scenes (under five minutes’ worth) would have been fine if used, except for the lengthy ones with Randy Couture, which I’m quite thankful were cut.
Gag Reel: Yeah, you can feel good about skipping this 2-minute feature, as there’s really no gags on this set (I’m guessing not enough time and money to bring the funny).
The Making Of The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior: If you’re wondering why this is not Oscar caliber, from this 14-minute feature you’ll learn that the shoot was only about five weeks long. If it makes you feel any better, the actors really got their asses kicked not only filming the action scenes, but also by the harsh South African elements (sand storms, etc.), so don’t be too hard on these novices. Another thing you’ll learn from this feature is that they actually spent time, money, and more importantly thought on the stunts coordination and set pieces.
Fight Like an Akkadian: Black Scorpion Training Camp: Stunt Coordinator Mo Marais trains the actors for their fight sequences. Here’s where we see Randy Couture’s real worth to the film, as well as Michael Coben’s ease with the level of action he was required to perform.
Becoming Sargon: One on One with Randy Couture: This is a 4 1/2-minute feature devoted to Couture, the UFC fighter who stars as the evil Sargon in the film. Couture says here that he really thought about line delivery because he didn’t “want it to be cheesy” or “over the top” and really hoped it came off right. While I’ve complained about Couture’s monotonous delivery in the film, this feature shows that he’s actually a well-spoken, mild-mannered person. Perhaps it was Russell Mulcahy’s directing that prompted Couture’s awkward performance as Sargon.
On Set With the Beautiful Ladies: Female stars Karen David and Natalie Becker are trained in swordfighting, which the stunt coordinators did not want to be too masculine in nature, but yet still fierce.
Creating a Whole New World: A little more time (8 1/2 minutes) is given to this feature, which delves into the elaborate sets and how they were doubled in various scenes. The production designer walks you through each set, explaining its design and function.
The Visual Effects of The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior: Much like with the set design feature, this extra shows where most of the budget of the film went. While the movie was filmed on actual sets or on location, the visual effects department used computer enhancement to expand on the sets and also to create the actual visual effects (e.g., the thorns shooting up from the ground).