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The Scorpion King

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
The Scorpion King

from Film Forum, 04/25/02

The top-grossing film at the mainstream movie theatres this week also takes place in the Middle East, but this is no gritty tale of reality. The Scorpion King, as you probably know from the relentless commercials, stars The Rock of World Wrestling Federation fame.

The critic at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops writes that the film "is what most moviegoers would expect: plenty of battles stapled onto a thin story line with a charming lead whose popularity was won by his wrestling histrionics. The saving grace of this routine film is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. The Rock has been well cast—considering his limited acting abilities—in a role that requires him to do little more than flex his big muscles and stare at the camera with his signature furrowed brow."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says, "The Rock earns his descriptive moniker, demonstrating all the emotional depth of his namesake. He has the bulk and a wryness that fits, coupled with the most expressive eyebrow work seen since Groucho Marx." Elliott observes that here we have a hero who depends on a sorceress to tell him the future, following a long tradition. "King Saul turned to the witch of Endor during a time of trouble; King Nebuchadnezzar had a staff of magicians standing ready to interpret his dreams; Ahab put his trust in the prophets of Baal; and the list goes on to this day. Wasn't it the Reagan White House that relied upon the 'vision' of an astrologer?"

Several critics find it a complete waste of time and resources. Paul Bicking (Preview) disapproves of the "graphic violence, scantily clad women, and sexual innuendo." And Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) argues that viewers should question the virtue of these heroes. "The assassin and the sorceress … are a strange pair to be rooting for. The hero is a killing machine. The heroine is skilled in the occult. Hollywood sure has a way of convincing us that evil can be good." Phil Boatwright (Movie Reporter) says the film offers "some vague storyline, but unlike Star Wars or Indiana Jones, there's little wonder or even excitement. Any life lessons? Oh, please."

On the other hand, family-friendly critic Holly McClure (Crosswalk) calls it an "exotic looking, incredibly choreographed, and thrilling story. I have to hand it to The Rock: His bigger-than-life performance makes his starring role debut a hit. In other words, he rocks!"

Mainstream critics found it too much muscle and not enough mind. "Did I enjoy this movie?" Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) asks himself. "Yeah, I did, although not quite enough to recommend it. Because it tries too hard to be hyper and not hard enough to be clever. For its target audience, looking for a few laughs, martial arts, and stuff that blows up real good, it will be exactly what they expected. It has high energy, the action never stops, the dialogue knows it's funny, and The Rock has the authority to play the role and the fortitude to keep a straight face. I expect him to become a durable action star."