Scorpion King 2: Rise Of A Warrior
At one time when a movie was released directly to video it meant it had to be so bad that the studios knew it would never make any money in the theaters. They shelled out of ton of cash on something that after it was made would never put butts in the seats. When DVDs became more popular and with an increasing number of families owning fairly high end home theaters such direct to video releases have moved to a more respectable place in the entertainment industry. Typically they are still not up to their block buster theatrical releases cousins but they are eminently better than the titles released during the dark ages of video tape. Now the studios just see this as another avenue to distribute a film. A case in point is one of Universal studios latest DTV releases ‘The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior’. Universal had to know that releasing this movie in the summer opposite such record breaking films as ‘Iron Man’ and ‘The Dark Knight’ would be insanity. There was no way that people would travel all the way to the Cineplex to plunk down ten bucks to see this flick. A realistic alternative was to go right to DVD. Many of the fans who enjoyed the first two films of this franchise, ‘The Mummy 2’ and ‘The Scorpion King’ would add this to their cart next time they were shopping for discs. The thing about this flick is it is absolutely worth watching. Like many movies that become a trilogy as an afterthought, that is not originally planned as three films, this one has shown some signs of diminishing production. Still, it holds together as a more than acceptable as an action flick. It is entertaining, fast paced and has plenty of action and stunts to go around. With its PG-13 rating it is too intense for the younger members of the family but for parents of slightly older kids this makes for a fun Saturday afternoon popcorn flick.
The script was written by Randall McCormick based on characters created for the previous ‘Scorpion King’ movies by Stephen Sommers. Sommers also wrote the 2001 ‘Mummy’ and 2002’s ‘Mummy’s Return’. McCormick’s prior works included the lamentable sequel to the mega hit ‘Speed’ and the animated science fiction tale ‘Titan A.E.’. Admittedly this is not a great track record that the only writer associated with this film is the one who only provided the characters and was not involved with the actual screenplay here. In many ways this is a retelling of the same story used for the pair of ‘Conan the Barbarian’ movies. You all know the basic story arc; a young boy witnesses the slaughter of his father and vows revenge. He builds his body and fighting skills until he is an unstoppable killing machine. He becomes a fair and just ruler only to eventually descend into draconian rule. It also didn’t bode well that the original actor who portrayed King Scorpion, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. This is a standard sword and sandals flick that is predicable at every turn. The one saving grace here is the genre. With a lot of the action movies we all grew up on there was nothing original in the story. What matters is the way the action is presented. As long as it is exciting the flick is deemed fun. McCormick does go right down the check list of what scenes to include in the script. You need the one showing the bond between father and son. This is followed by the murder of the father by a ruthless warlord. Then the required montage of the boy growing to manhood as be comes the world’s most deadly fighter. Throw in a few establishing shots of the adult Scorpion slicing and dicing his way through the country side and you are ready for the ultimate battle as he meets up with the killer of his father. It also helps if you have a beautiful woman clad in scanty leather strips who can wield a sword as good as the guys.
There is a little more experience with the director Russell Mulcahy. He is a name know to most action and fantasy movie fans. He wrote the amazing cult classic ‘Highlander’ as well as the first sequel. This demonstrated his ability to create a fully formed fantasy universe that went on to a well loved television series and a lot of fan fiction and role playing games. After that his career appears to have taken off in a couple of different direction. He began to direct a number of popular music oriented films and videos include ‘Duran Duran’, ‘Billy Joel’, ‘Culture Club’ and ‘Queen’. For television he worked on series such as ‘Queer as Folk’, ‘Jeremiah’, ‘The Hunger’ and ‘Tales from the Crypt’. Mulcahy has some experience with bandaged undead with his 1998 ‘Tales of the Mummy’. At least he knows how to present an action flick. He has the pacing down to a science here. The story may be predictable but Mulcahy keeps the movie interesting with the style he employs here. The film is fast pace with little dead areas of exposition. He also made sure that the film employed a cinematographer, Glynn Speeckaert who knows how to film the desolation and violence in an interesting way. Their stunt coordinator, Anthony "Mo" Marais , had a lot to do here working with special effects chef Anthony Mo Marais in making the CGI and real action sequences merge properly.
The cast is not as well known as the previous actors used in this franchise but they do give their all. Michael Copon plays the Mathayus as a young man. He is best known for his role on one of the incarnations of the ‘Power Rangers’ television series. He is affable as a leading man but can get the job done during the all important action scenes. His more emotive side of his talent most likely came from his role on the TV teen soap opera ‘One Tree Hill. He is able to combine both aspects required by the role nicely. His leading lady Karen Shenaz David as Layla is very pretty but able to muster the girl power required here. There is an extra concerning her training for the fight scenes and it shows the dedication she had for this role. Of course you need some villains and they have a good one where with the character Sargon played by Randy Couture. This is the man who killed Mathayus’ father so you know the ending for his story arc. Couture is a notable mixed martial arts expert with several world championships under his belt and does very well here. There is also a female villainess, Astarte wonderfully played by Natalie Becker. The fight sequence between her and Ms David is one of the best girl fights we’ve seen of late.
Universal has released three versions of the flick to DVD. There is the full screen and wide screen DVD editions as well as a Blu-ray variation. The video and audio is excellent and accompanied by a rocking Dolby 5.1 audio for the DVD and DTS-HD for the Blu-ray. There are a lot of extras on the disc as well. This is a fun popcorn flick that will entertain the family.