By Mark Betancourt
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday Apr. 19, 2002
There is, in fact, a demographic for films like this. But, it's more diverse than one would expect.
Sure, the senseless violence and dumber-than-wood plot is perfect for those lazy Tuesday mornings with a case of Budweiser and the chips from last night's dinner, but "The Scorpion King" is a film for all seasons. It makes a great date movie, for example.
Your date will particularly enjoy watching the half-naked women helplessly fleeing their burning homes. "The Scorpion King" has something for everyone.
Pro wrestler The Rock is the shining star in this particular version of "Big Man Screw Heroine Kill Everyone." Apparently, he was so incredibly stunning in "The Mummy Returns," in which he plays the Scorpion King but not the hero, that producers decided he needed his own movie.
Set in the uncertain era of pre-Christian hedonism, "The Scorpion King" follows Mathayus through the moral and physical ordeal of attempting to secure peace for an oppressed people. OK, well that doesn't actually become his motivation until he realizes Cassandra (Kelly Hu), the aforementioned heroine, will in fact sleep with him if he says that's his motivation.
But everyone already knows the plot of "The Scorpion King" because it was created according to a tried and true formula: (A) big ugly man with bulging body parts plus (B) a horde of people for him to slaughter, plus (C) a tantalizingly exposed woman to hang on the body parts, plus (D) a physically challenged but comical sidekick for A to make fun of/love, plus (E) a purely evil but undeniably skilled arch-enemy for A to destroy at the end and whose harem A therefore inherits. Does this sound at all familiar?
But this formula is no small accomplishment. The formula is tailor-made to please people, to give them everything they want without making them work for it. People clap when The Rock turns out to have survived a poison arrow, because they knew he was going to when someone slammed it into his leg. It's pure supply and demand.
And it's absolutely perfect that The Rock delivers his lines as if they're a public service announcement, because people can say, "Hey, I'm as smart as The Rock" and feel good about themselves. This is the beauty of genre cinema.
So, in the genre sense, "The Scorpion King" is a good movie because it adapts the current pop culture to an easily recognizable set of iconographies. For example, a barely noticeable soundtrack of what can only be described as "elevator metal" accompanies Mathayus' rampages, adding yet another new flavor to the classic barbarian flick.
And, of course, a genre film must keep up with the latest in sexual humor. The Rock's famous raised eyebrow, usually a warning sign in the ring, takes on a whole new meaning at the end of "The Scorpion King." Let's just say there's a lot of jeering among the young men in the audience.
At the risk of being redundant, the entire movie can be summed up with one fantastic quote from Mathayus' final confrontation with element E (Steven Brand). Mathayus jumps into the room through a set of flaming drapes, unsheathes his sword and says, "I've come for the woman, and your head!"