The Scorpion King (12)
THIS prequel to the Mummy films centres on the exploits of the eponymous Scorpion King, a pre-Christian superhero played with a wooden intensity by the giant US wrestling star The Rock.
In this comic strip rip-off of everything from Conan to Raiders of the Lost Ark the hero is Matthias, a giant warrior-assassin sent by a band of liberal folk to kill an all-seeing sorceress who aids Memnon, a Genghis Khan type who spends his time marauding, looting, pillaging and casually putting entire cities to the sword.
Taking its cue from the Official Book of Movie Clichés The Scorpion King equips our hero with an array of swords and daggers, an awesome longbow and the strength of ten men as he scythes his way through legions of bad guys to clear a path to his quarry.
En-route he links up with a dumb sidekick, a mischievous youngster, various lithe Amazonian females, a decidedly English wizard (Bernard Hill earning some pocket money) and Balthazar, a warrior of equal size and courage (Michael Clarke Duncan, from The Green Mile).
To add to his trials this laconic quasi Hercules dodges flesh-eating ants (replacing the ravenous scarab beetles from The Mummy), vicious cobras and survives the venom of a scorpion – the only reference to the movie’s title – while winning the heart of his female companion.
The Scorpion King is the perfect weekend film for undemanding teens. Neither as funny nor as intelligent as the movies that spawned it, it is instead a collection of swordfights, brawls and duels punctuated by moments of quiet tedium.
There is no pretence of a significant plot. Instead a series of tepid sub-plots are knitted together around the less-than-inspiring figure of The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson.
Johnson comes from the school of minimalist acting and boasts two expressions: an intense frown or wide-eyed disbelief. Arnie would be proud. In an attempt at emotion he throws in an eyebrow lift a la Roger Moore as James Bond.
Yet there are moments within The Scorpion King when the imagination of the special effects wizards lift it from being totally banal. It is imaginative in the manner of the Indiana Jones franchise but without, of course, the screen charisma of Harrison Ford or the genius touch of Spielberg.
Throw in a lacklustre villain (Steven Brand) and the formulaic action and effects of better films and it rapidly becomes evident that The Scorpion King is merely an excuse to make a few million on the back of them.
Still, the teenage audience at which the picture is aimed won’t mind and, if enough of them fork out to see it, they can expect a sequel by next year.