The Scorpion King franchise is exactly what George Lucas wanted from the Star Wars prequels, but actually good. Think about it: both trilogies are prequels to a blockbuster series of films (Star Wars being a bit bigger than Stephen Sommers’ Mummy movies, obviously), and both recast one of the franchise’s biggest villains as a heroic adventurer in their youth. The difference is that George Lucas takes Star Wars a little too seriously. Not that he was supposed to camp it up, but he tries so hard in those prequels to establish every future plot point up in an arch, melodramatic way – “You were the Chosen One!” – that the spirit of extempore, not to mention fun, were lost. The Scorpion King movies occasionally tease the fact that their dashing hero will turn into a supervillain, but mostly ignore it because for now, at least, we’re supposed to actually like the guy. And like him we do. It’s a fun franchise, albeit kind of a goofy one.
The latest Scorpion King movie – The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption – seems to take place after the first film in the prequel franchise. Our hero Matthayus (originally played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, now played by Castle’s Victor Webster with a big poofy beard) is the last of his people, mourning his failures as a king. He didn’t seem to have much of a problem with it in The Scorpion King, but whatever. Maybe he on a massive bender the whole time. This time he’s sent by King Horus (Ron Perlman) to help win a war in a vaguly Eastern land. Ostensibly Matthayus is there to help a kindly monarch played by Attack of the Clones star Temuera Morrison, but later he’s also hired by the bad guy, Billy Zane, to do the exact same thing: rescue the princess (Krystal Vee) and track down the guerilla terrorist known as “Cobra.”
The plot’s a little all over the place. The relationships between the various warlords and kings are poorly explained, making it a little difficult to grab hold of what matters in the story. Most importantly, and unlike the last two Scorpion King movies, Mathayus doesn’t really drive the plot this time, leaving Battle for Redemption feeling more like a two-part episode of a Scorpion King TV series than a standalone film. He’s the hired gun, or broadsword anyway, and of course he saves the day, gets the girl, and bonds with his latest sidekick, Olaf, a barbarian played with belchy aplomb by Bostin Christopher. Webster doesn’t quite have the panache of the previous Scorpion King leads, but his character’s supposed to be going through some serious emotional hooey, and that’s to be expected. Not that Battle for Redemption is a downer: the franchise’s incongruous, goofy humor remains in place. In fact, one of the heroes accidentally pees on a ninja. If that’s not a glowing endorsement I don’t know what is.
Billy Zane, having more fun than is medically advisable, also awakens a series of ghost warriors played by Dave Bautista, Kimbo Slice and Selina Lo. They’re a fun lot. Selina Lo gets to do most of the acting, but Slice and Bautista look great in their Mortal Kombat getups, kind of like two action figures come to life. Actually, overall the look of the film is pretty impressive for a Straight-to-Video feature, but you’d never mistake it for a summer blockbuster. Again, The Scorpion King 3 feels like an impressive episode of a non-existent TV series. This is Matthayus’s mission of the week, he doesn’t change much this episode (must not be sweeps), and in the vein of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, historical accuracy is at best a polite suggestion.
If nothing else, fans of the Scorpion King movies should be pleased by the latest entry’s Blu-Ray presentation. The film is quite pretty for its scale, although the color timing is a little dry, and has an effective if unspectacular surround sound mix. Special features are plentiful, including a director’s commentary track, a gag reel and a series of behind the scenes featurettes. It’s not the Criterion Collection, but at least somebody cared.
If I had to rank them, I’d say The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption is the least of the Scorpion King movies (they’ve been subtly deteriotating since the first one), lacking as it does a dashing lead performance or a particularly involving storyline. but it’s still a damned fun B-movie, with likable characters and a series of entertainingly produced action sequences for fantasy movie fans of all stripes. It’s a bronze medalist, but it’s still better than most of the Mummy movies it’s spun off from. Granted that that’s saying much…
The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption: