One of the mixed blessings of the continuing advancement of CG effects is that they make it possible for movies that might not otherwise exist to reach the public – usually in the form of sequels and/or prequels to theatrical films that earned enough to warrant a sequel/prequel, but maybe not quite enough to warrant a blockbuster – like The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior.
The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior is, essentially, the story of how the young Mathayus [Michael Copon] became the warrior who would eventually become the Scorpion King. TSK2 is a jaunty little B-movie given more flare than it deserves by director Russell Mulcahy [Highlander], who almost made the resident Evil franchise interesting. Of course, in his RE movie, he didn’t have to contend with the stolid Randy Couture as Sargon, the brutish trainer of would-be Black Scorpion warriors and assassin of the king. Couture looks good in fight sequences, but has the acting chops of Howdy Doody.
Still, the adventures of Mathayus and his friends, Layla [Karen David] and the poet Aristophenes of Naxos – not Aristophenes of Corinth [that hack!] – [Simon Quarterman], are rousing fun in the tradition of spear & sandal/sword & sorcery epics of the sixties. You’ve got travel to exotic lands, messed up myths, and even an angry/jealous/lonely goddess [Astarte, played with cheerful malevolence by Natalie Becker].
Mulcahy keeps things moving at a quick enough pace that you might not even notice a scantily clad member of the group suddenly sprouting a couple of dangerous [and long] swords, and the effects are above average for a direct-to-DVD release. Plus, we get the usual gang of just-there-to-die-horribly characters to add the possibility of danger.
For a straight-to-DVD fantasy, TSK2 has a pretty decent assortment of bonus features: Deleted Scenes; Gag Reel; Fight Like an Akkadian: Black Scorpion Boot Camp [again, not quite the in-depth look at training it suggests, but still fun] Making of TSK2 [more a behind-the-scenes glimpse than an actual look at the making of the film]; Becoming Sargon: One on One Randy Couture [Couture discusses his time making the film]; On set With The Beautiful Leading Ladies [behind-the-scenes with Karen David and Natalie Becker]; Creating a Whole New World [Production design], and The Visual Effects of TSK2.
Grade: The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior – B-
Grade: Features: B+
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