Its 12:26 am
During our first round table about Universal’s “Dark Universe“,the primary focus was on “The Mummy” remake and could be done to make it work in the future.
In a weird ironic twist,Stephen Sommers managed to do something in his trilogy that Universal was unable to do in their Mummy remake and that create a new world based on a 10 minute scene in “The Mummy Returns”.
In this adventure,we are introduced to character known as The Scorpion King as played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a live action origin story in the beginning of the film and then in some bad CGI at the film’s final action scene.
The Rock, as he was known then, was ready to start branching out into the movies as he had pretty much achieved everything in his pro wrestler career and so a full length action film called “The Scorpion King” was released in 2002. The film was a big hit and propelled Johnson into a huge Hollywood career and also gave Universal a chance to establish a franchise aimed at the home video market.
In 2008,the first direct to video film,”The Scorpion King 2: Rise Of A Warrior” was released and it feature Mathayus as a young man and how he grew to be the man we saw in the Scorpion King. But the film’s reception was extremely poor and so what looked to be a promising franchise was suddenly in danger. Back to the drawing board the series went.
In 2012,Universal released “The Scorpion King 3: Battle For Redemption” of which the cheetah and I saw. Quite honestly,I was quite excited to see it as Universal had thrown in some decent cash for a direct to video film. Adding some serious fanboy star power in Ron Perlman and Billy Zane along with Kimbo Slice and former WWE star Dave Bautista along with a solid veteran director Roel Reine had us looking forward to the film. But what drew me was that Victor Webster,who had starred on “Mutant X”,was going to play Mathayus and THAT was what led me to buy the movie.
Rarely have I felt more sorry for a actor then I did for Victor Webster,he got left out to dry as well as everyone else because “Redemption” was bloody awful in just every way possible. The script was so bad…..for most of the movie poor Mathayus was having his ass handed to him by just about everyone,including the extras. Webster was completely hamstrung and yes,he did come across as befuddled because when your role as the leading hero has you being pounded in just about every scene you’re in….what can you do? I honestly thought the series was DOA after this one.
But lo and behold…in 2015,another Scorpion King film popped up and I realized that fans were buying these films at an impressive rate,they enjoyed the character of Mathayus and wanted to see his further adventures and were doing enough so that Universal released “Scorpion King 4: Quest For Power” and once again cast Webster as Mathayus as well as an huge fanboy cast including Will Kemp,Rutger Hauer and Michael Biehn. I didn’t see this one as I was a bit leery after the last one but I do hope that Victor got a chance to kick some ass this time around….
So there I was at my Family Video and saw “Scorpion King: Book of Souls”. It was on BluRay and was priced for a 1.50 and so I said “How bad can it be?”
The film opens up with the telling of a terrible sword that was created called the “Fang of Anubis”. Whoever wields the sword gains power for every soul it kills in battle. The cost is high however as the wielder often grows mad with prolonged use.
When King Nebserek (Peter Mensah) gains the sword,he feels invincible except for one small matter…he is worried about Mathayus (Zach McGowan) and he decides it would better to have the Scorpion King dead then alive. He then dispatches small bands of fighters to find him.
Meanwhile Mathayus is working as a blacksmith and drawing no attention to himself. He has found peace in a small village and become friends with the family who employs him.
When Mathayus goes hunting,the village is attacked by Khensa,who is Nebserek’s most dangerous warrior. She leads the attack on the village and when the child of the family Mathayus is taken captive,he comes out and attempts to bargain for the boy’s life by giving himself up.
Khensa decides to kill the child and does so,Mathayus goes crazy,killing several men before being shot with three arrows and is taken captive.
As the victors head towards home with a badly wounded Mathayus in a cart,a lone female warrior attacks it at night. Tala (Pearl Thusi) knows something of Mathayus as she is able to summon a horde of black scorpions to sting Mathayus,helping him heal faster and enables Tala to free the Scorpion King.
Tala explains to Mathayus about the Fang of Anubis and shares how she knows all about Mathayus. (One of the coolest moments in the film). Tala says that there is only way to defeat the sword and that is to find the Book of Souls. While Mathayus denies who he really is to Tala,he agrees to help as he wants revenge for the little boy and the village being destroyed.
Tala and Mathayus face off against a dangerous tribe known as the Black Arrows before finding the portal to the Valley of the 13th Moon which is where the Book of Souls is supposed to be. As Tala’s spear contains what is needed to get past the Temple of Scrolls,both Mathayus and Tala are not ready to meet Amina (Katy Louise Saunders) and her powerful golem bodyguard,Enkidu (Nathan Jones). These four must find a way to co-exist if the world is to survive Nebserek and the Fang of Anubis……
So did we like “Scorpion King: Book of Souls”?? Hell YEAH we did!!! Now this is what Universal must have been envisioning when they decided to expand the series. This movie by far comes closest to the original film. A great villain,dastardly henchwoman,a loyal comrade in arms and of course a drop dead beautiful woman bearing a terrible power. The movie was filmed in South Africa and and the landscapes are breathtaking.
The action is plentiful and while Mathayus takes a few lumps,he isn’t the punching bag as shown in “Redemption”. Credit for goes to star Zach McGowan,who plays a more seasoned and stoic Scorpion King. He has seen more then his fair share of pain and suffering and just wants to live a quiet life. McGowan more then holds his own in his fight scenes and has a couple of standout moments.
It helps that the story by David Allen Hedges and Frank DeJean completely dismiss the previous three films and ties itself to the original Scorpion King film. This was a wise move and should provide fresh energy to the series moving forward. McGowan’s star is rising however and I don’t see him returning to replay the role in the future. But he at least is leaving next the actor to play Mathayus a high standard to follow.
The rest of the cast is fantastic as well and do a excellent job…I think Mensah,who plays Nebserek,could have been established a bit more as the heavy,I think he did well,we just didn’t see him enough onscreen.
Thusi,who plays Tala,she has to come back in the next installment,she was spot on perfect as Mathayus’s fighting equal and she looked extremely comfortable in all aspects of combat…plus her being a little more magically enhanced was appealing.
While Kelly Hu is without a doubt the most beautiful actress to be cast in the series,relative newcomer Katy Louise Saunders isn’t far behind and just like Kelly,isn’t there for “eye candy”. Her take as Amina is very bittersweet and is a fine example of how the thirst of power can destroy innocent lives and rob people of their own free will.
Last but not least,it was great to see 7 foot tall Nathan Jones get cast in a hero spot.
It seems like in every damn movie Nathan gets cast in,its always as the big bad guy. He most gets to glare and stare. Here he gets to show he can act as he provides both a bit of comic relief as Amina’s guardian and also the film’s most moving moment. His was the most unexpected and welcome performance.
I know….this is a huge review for a B-movie,right? But even once in a while a B-movie delivers at high level….and Book of Souls does just that.
“Scorpion King: Book Of Souls” is rated PG-13 and has a run time of 1 hour and 42 minutes. Sadly,it carries no extra features.
The cheetah and I both enjoyed this very much and as of the middle of February,include this as one of the best films we have watched in 2019.
Drop a comment or two and let us know what you think of the Scorpion King franchise.