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The Scorpion King Reviews

The CONAN THE BARBARIAN sequel fans have been clamoring for in all but name, this fast-paced bit of good-natured idiocy tells the backstory of the Scorpion King, whose fearsome reputation was established in THE MUMMY RETURNS (2001). Five thousand years ago, a ruthless conqueror named Memnon (Steven Brand) swept across the Middle East, slaughtering all who stood in his path. An uneasy coalition of displaced, decimated tribes hires three Akkadian mercenaries — the last of their tribe — to kill Memnon's sorceress, the beauteous Cassandra (Kelly Hu). Once the seer, whose visions have led Memnon to one victory after another, is dead, the tribes will band together and face Memnon's armies on a level playing field. Head mercenary Mathayus (professional wrestler The Rock) is quickly caught up in a series of betrayals and counter-betrayals that lead him to kidnap Cassandra, adopt a charming street urchin (Branscombe Richmond) and a comical horse thief (Grant Heslov), and forge unlikely alliances with Nubian warrior Balthazar (Michael Clarke Duncan) and nutty inventor Philos (Bernard Hill), whose workshop is filled with cool stuff like catapults and gunpowder. For all of its up-to-the-minute stylistic affectations — rapid-fire editing, heavy metal music, CGI effects, and WWF-style flips, body slams and head butts — this free-wheeling adventure captures the spirit of cheesy, Arabian Nights-style romps of the '40s and '50s. It's filled with scantily dressed harem girls, muscle-bound warriors, exotic street fairs, fire ants, fabulous desert cities and a super-smart trained camel — all that's missing is a genie. And it never takes itself too seriously, which is a blessing: Nonsense of this kind played for Nietzschean über-menschery is embarrassing. This movie's Scorpion King-to-be is a far nicer fellow than the one who appeared to brief-but-memorable effect in THE MUMMY RETURNS. Sure, he's a trained killer who murders for money, but he respects ladies, is kind to children and never, ever goes back on his word — all in all, a stand-up kind of barbarian. It's impossible to overstate how deeply dumb all of this is, but it skims along at a brisk clip and manages not to overdo the nudge-nudge, wink-wink humor.