The direct to DVD market has certainly expanded in the last few years. In days gone by, direct to DVD (or video) was a sure sign that the film was usually pretty dreadful and the studio concerned just wanted to forget about it. Disney really started the trend with their various sequels to their old classics. Apart from a couple that were pretty good (The Return of Jafar and The Lion King sequels) most were really bad (Jungle Book 2 and the abomination known as Bambi 2). However I did like the Buzz Lightyear movie, probably because of the end credits sung by William Shatner and the aliens.
Sony are possibly the most busiest with their endless Van Damme and Seagal (god) movies. However, Universal have also got in on the act with various Bring it On sequels and the entertaining and very crude American Pie follow ups, with various members of the Stifler family. Now with the new Mummy film at cinemas, the director of Highlander Russell Mulcahy brings us a new Scorpion King movie. A certain Dwayne Johnson doesn’t return, so what does this mean to the franchise?Scorpion King 2 is quite a rare beast, it’s a prequel of a prequel (Scorpion King was set way before any of the original settings for The Mummy films) and chronicles the rise of Mathayus from a young boy to adulthood.
Young Mathayus is unfortunate to witness his beloved father’s demise at the hands of Evil Sargon’s (UFC fighter Randy Couture) black magic and vows his revenge. Sent away for many years to a training camp for Scorpion Warriors he returns to his homeland looking for blood. Tragedy strikes again when Sargon murders his brother, Noah and Mathayus escapes into the desert and plans to travel to Egypt. Along for the ride is his childhood friend Layla (Karen David) and travelling on their boat he meets Greek poet, Ari played by British actor Simon Quarterman.
Ari tells Mathayus of the underworld where he can find a sword with mystical powers to defeat the now King Sargon. This is where the film really gets going, with our heroes travelling through a labyrinth and fighting a minotaur. They then encounter all kinds of gross zombie type creatures in a swamp and then onto a battle with the Queen of the Underworld, Astarte who happens to have a serious amount of magic powers and a very fitting dress sense.
Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior for a direct to DVD movie just reeks of sheer professionalism from all areas of the production. Mulcahy being an old hand at this type of film, knows exactly what is needed….good fights, humour, good looking girls, hunky heroes, nasty bad guys and the English guy providing wisdom and humour (like Bernard Hill in the original). Shot in Cape Town, South Africa the design of the film is excellent with interesting looking sets and great atmosphere especially in the labyrinth and King’s Chamber scenes.
Cast wise, newcomer Michael Copon does a passable job as Mathayus. He is certainly no Dwayne Johnson but copes well with the fight scenes possibly due tp a background working on the Power Rangers. Simon Quaterman playing greek Ari with an impeccable English accent as I mentioned is fun and cowardly at the same time. Actress/singer Karen David is a real find as Layla and fights as good as she looks. Finally the huge Randy Couture is simply great as evil Sargon. Couture, being a UFC fighter more than holds his own in the fight scenes and although he is no great thespian he’s more than competent playing a chief bad guy and has a nice screen presence.
As an enjoyable time waster, Scorpion King 2 is probably ‘up there’ with recent releases such as Starship Troopers 3 and the latest Steven Seagal epics. The dialogue is sometimes quite painful. We have some characters speaking like they are reciting Shakespeare, Couture grunting like he should be an 80s action flick and the two youthful leads speaking like they stepped out of 90210 (never knew that ‘jerk’ was an ancient word). The CGI at times is a bit ropey but can anyone remember how bad the CGI was in The Mummy Returns so we shall let Universal off for this one. All in all it’s all done with a sense of fun (like all The Mummy films) and is worth a place on the shelf alongside the others in the series. Just don’t expect it to be life changing….it’s a sword and sandal action picture! Also, one more thing the film has a nice little official website; have a quick look around on there, it’s worth ten minutes of anyone’s time. Extras
Universal has given us a real treat with the extras. We get featurettes on the effects, fight sequences and the usual ‘making of’ doc amongst others. A few trailers are also included on what is a jam packed disc.
Although not an ‘extra’ I must give credit to the film’s terrific sound design. We have a rousing score and some brilliantly separated sound effects which literally fly around the surround set up. So if you have a 5.1 sound system, crank up the volume and annoy your neighbours.
Film:Extras: Guilty pleasure rating:
Starring Michael Copon, Karen David, Randy Couture, Simon QuartermanDirected by Russell MulcahyDistributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Disc supplied by CD-Wow: www.cd-wow.co.uk