The Scorpion King
Warrior, Legend, King
by Carolyn Patricia Scott
He may rule the box office, but he is not the ancient ruler of Egypt.
He is "The Scorpion King." Accept him for what he is-a sword-fighting, bow-wielding, knuckle-busting fighter. WWF wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, the star of the Scorpion King, will make action adventure fans cheer, but for those intrigued with the film's predecessor's, "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns", this is a weak link to the world of ancient Kemet. Where the Mummy blockbusters at least maintained an Egyptian motif, "The Scorpion King" has spun-off into a world of it's own-a land of mixed-up myth and lubricious legend.
The story line is simple, direct and born to serve the action. And, the action is non-stop, frenetic and dramatic. Director Chuck Russell ("The Mask") acknowledges that he is a tremendous fan of "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and the swashbuckling classics of another Hollywood age, and it shows. The basic idea is: avenge, defend and the best revenge.
As the film begins, Mathayus ("The Rock") one of the last of nearly extinct race, the Akkadians, agrees to get rid of a sorcerer-the power behind the cruel leader Memnon's (Steven Brand) throne. He finds that the sorcerer is beautiful (Kelly Hu) and, his brother is slaughtered before his eyes. The last words of the dying brother: "Live free . . ." A distraught Mathayus answers: ". . . Die well." And, then the game is afoot, or rather ablaze, full-screen, full-blast and full of fights.
The best way to enjoy "The Scorpion King" is to approach it as a grand dance. The film is a well-lit, handsomely cast, seamlessly choreographed battle. And, "The Rock" is center stage. "The Rock" is charismatic as the assassin turned avenger. Despite his size, the muscular actor gracefully executes eye-popping stunts and, just as easily, melts into a cunning, toothy grin.
Kelly Hu displays her stunning figure to full effect as she utilizes her considerable martial arts training-she has a black belt-to join some of the skirmishes. Hu is "The Rock's" leading lady, but it isn't the limited love scenes that drive this movie.
The hard-won camaraderie between Mathayus' ("The Rock") character and that of actor Michael Clarke Dunne is delicious to watch. Though the two don't get near enough time for on-screen dialogue, they are quite an awesome pair when confronting the forces of Memnon. Actor Steven Brand brings a brash, nastiness to the role of the archvillain, Memnon, that adds just the right edge to the back-and-forth, hit-and-run blood battles that ensue.
The film is beautifully photographed by cinematographer John Leonetti and every battle is underscored by a rousing rock theme. The makeup hair and costuming, much like the grand-scale set designs draw viewers into the ancient world-inspired fantasy. But, Egypt is barely a whisper in the design and direction of the film.
Unlike "The Mummy" movies, which were shot on locations in Morocco, this film was shot entirely on Universal Studios backlots and on desert locations in southern California, far from Egypt.
So, you want to fight? Or rather, want to watch a string of great fights that utilize bows and arrows, daggers, swords?--then, front-row center at the "The Scorpion King" is the place to be.
The Real Scorpion King
Its premiere is timed to take full advantage of the release of "The Scorpion King," the History Channels "The Real Scorpion King" endeavors to sort out the historical source for the name, King Scorpion.
The film, produced and directed by Gary Glassman and narrated by actor Edward Hermann, begins: "Egypt: birthplace of civilization--land of mummies, pyramids, animal-headed gods. Scholars thought they knew how it all began, but they are wrong. "
What follows is an intelligent exploration of the ancient monuments, current excavation sites and archaeological artifacts, mixed with commentary, observations and theories of well-known Egyptologists that draws a likely picture of the real King Scorpion and his historical significance in predynastic Egypt.
"The Real Scorpion King" superior to the many documentaries on ancient Egypt that depend so heavily on luscious photography of the ancient monuments of Egypt. The film examines the historical record and actively engages working Egyptologists--such as Doctors Zahi Hawass, Salima Ikram and John Darnell-- to develop an intriguing look at an historical figure, whose name has only recently entered into popular culture by way of the movies.
The documentary tends to be pretty serious, as the parade of archaeologists proffer opinions about a stone carving, The Scorpion Tableau shows the first use of the falcon-god symbol of kingship, an image of the god Horus with carved image of a scorpion--The name King Scorpion. The tableau celebrates a historic battle between King Scorpion and the next strongest king of the region King Naqada--The unification of the kingdom of Upper Egypt.
The Bone and ivory tags that are examined suggest that the first pictographic writing system (that predates Mesopotamian writing by 200 years) may have been used to catalogue King Scorpion's riches, to organize his administration and to record his victories.
King Scorpion's burial site is made up of a model of his palace, contains burial goods that include game boards, vases of precious oils and other items--some of the goods come from as far away as ancient Palestine and Afghanistan--that would be elaborated upon in the burial goods of all later kings. The site was covered over with sand forming a mound that represented the primordial mound from which life was believed to have sprung. This burial mound was copied and expanded upon by a 4th dynasty vizier, Imhotep, who created the Step Pyramid, the precursor to the Great pyramid.
While the experts involved discussions will thoroughly involve the serious student of ancient Egypt, there are elements that'll appeal to kids and the adventurous. Scorpions crawl through the documentary. The arachnids are examined for their significance as the chosen symbol of this powerful king. There is even a sidebar journey stateside to the laboratory of an American Army major and entomologist that specializes in the study of venomous animals. The major 'wrangles' various varieties of the animal and points out the key attributes of the Egyptian Scorpion that would have appealed to an ancient king--the ability to survive in the harsh desert environment, its speed, silence and deadly venom.
Egyptologists may resent the History Channels use of 'The Rock' to provide a brief introduction to the program, but despite the presence of "The Rock," this is no dumbed-down fluff created to cash in on The Scorpion King hype. This is the first portrait of one of the men who was known as King Scorpion.
See Also Tour Egypt Feature Article on this king