Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Look Back at The Scorpion King

In the early 2000s, if you went on to WWE Raw or SmackDown, chances were that you would see Dwayne Johnson, known then exclusively as The Rock, headlining. Except, just as the 2000s started, so did Johnson's Hollywood ambitions. So, we saw him taking sabbaticals often, whether it was to film The Mummy Returns or its sequel, The Scorpion King. People did not know what to expect of this film, yet it was happening. A sequel/prequel to Stephen Sommers blockbuster action thriller was coming, and it was starring Dwayne Johnson, who was only present one scene in the last film and CGI'd into another. Those two films are some of the favorite in my childhood. While I see the Rock-Scorpion CGI as bad now, back then, it was frightening and I was not used to seeing my childhood hero as a villain. That was why it surprised me that he was the hero in his other film. This was the film that introduced me to the fallen hero trope, and given that I saw The Phantom Menace and then the Original Trilogy on television shortly afterwards, I was more invested than shocked. Yet, what is the significance of this film?

On a budget of $60 million it grossed $165 million. Some films cost what this film's budget was, yet back then, this was a financial success. Although it boasted a new lead actor, with proven actors like Kelly Hu and Michael Clarke Duncan in supporting roles only, looking at this film back then, I do not see how it could have been the success it was. Johnson was paid $5.5 million to star in the film, a record for an actor in his first leading film. This has never been done before. What of the movie itself, though? Is it any good? Yes, and no. One thing to note is that Rotten Tomatoes' consensus is: "Action adventure doesn't get much cheesier than The Scorpion King." It has 41% indicating a rotten score. Sot his movie clearly has to be bad, right? Yet most of the reviewers note, that it isn't bad out of being bad, just out of not being memorable. Yet the one thing they note as being memorable, most of them anyways, is Dwayne Johnson.

Just like for San Andreas and Hercules, Dwayne Johnson breathes life into a film that should otherwise be terrible. Yet this film, no matter how great The Rock is, should not have been reliant on him. I mean, just a few years prior, director Chuck Russell made The Mask and his directing style plays off in here. We see Russell shine, yet what bogs the film down? The writing and story. Stephen Sommers and David Hayter, two people who have Shyamalan'd the world of cinema were put in charge. The director and lead actor did their job beautifully, yet Sommers and Hayter bogged the film with cliches and a generic plot. What could have been great is left memorable for The Rock, the cinematography and well, the really awesome poster. Yet thank this film, for its success gave us other great films from Dwayne Johnson.
It gave us THIS pretty sick poster.

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