Bow to the brows

Those eyebrows have got to be fake.

Those eyebrows have got to be fake.

Rated 2.0

A good performance by the WWF’s The Rock and some decent, straightforward action sequences almost make The Scorpion King worth seeing. But the feeling that much of what occurs here is something you have seen a thousand times before qualifies it as no better than video rental material.

For those of you who were unimpressed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s strange appearance in last year’s The Mummy Returns (he played a big monster scorpion that looked like a crawdad), you might be surprised at the work he puts forth in The Scorpion King.

The Rock proves himself a decent action star in this outing, elevating a plotless, often too silly film into something nearly enjoyable, because The Rock is, quite simply, easy to watch. Considering fading action stars like Stallone, Schwarzenegger and the never-quite-there Steven Segal, The Rock seems poised to take his place on the “Over-pumped Testosterone Nightmare Action Super God” mantle.

If memory serves me right, the character he plays in this film—Mathayus the Akkadian—was a villain in The Mummy Returns, not to mention an extremely bad special effect. I guess this movie tells the story of Mathayus before he becomes corrupt and insect-like, because his character is nothing but heroic and an all-around good-natured guy in this movie, albeit a good-natured guy who can snap your neck like a twig.

Because everybody basically needs something to do in this movie between swordfights, there is something resembling a plot to hold things together. Mathayus is on the trail of the evil Memnon (Steven Branch), a fascist leader devoid of virtue and afflicted by an undeniably heinous haircut. Memnon has a sorceress accomplice (the oh-so-good-looking Kelly Hu), who Mathayus kidnaps and eventually romances. The love scenes are interrupted, of course, by requisite scenes of people throwing weaponry at each other.

The Rock cuts an impressive figure on screen. While some will say it’s his muscles that can’t be real, I would like to direct your attention to the wonders that are his eyebrows. Never in my travels have I witnessed a set of eyebrows as perfect as the ones perched atop the ocular cavities in The Rock’s head. They look like two perfect strokes of a black micro-fine Sharpie directed by none other than the hand of Jesus Christ. The Rock must have a large crew responsible only for the shape and perfection of the almighty brows, for they are wondrous things.

Also helping to make this movie good eye candy is Hu, who wears my choice for the year’s best wardrobe thus far, consisting of metal bikinis, stitched-together robes and nothing but her own hair placed strategically over the R-ratings. I can’t recall if Hu can act after seeing The Scorpion King, but I can proclaim that I can’t wait to see her in another movie … any movie.

The film doesn’t have the greatest of special effects, although one sequence, in which fire ants attack The Rock while he is buried up to his head, looks good and is surprisingly funny. The action sequences, directed by Chuck Russell, are sometimes decent, with clear and direct swordplay—not covered up by tricky editing and flash cuts. The action sequences feel like action sequences and not the results of editing room magic.

While The Scorpion King is a spin-off of The Mummy movies, it is a more tongue-in-cheek type of action film that is so goofy it almost becomes good. It’s better than The Mummy Returns, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth your while.

If you see it, see it for The Rock, a guy who offers action hero hope in a post-Stallone/ Schwarzenegger world.