The Scorpion King is a 2002 American historical fantasy action film directed by Chuck Russell, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kelly Hu, Grant Heslov, and Michael Clarke Duncan.
It is a prequel of The Mummy franchise, which acts as a prologue as it takes place before the events of The Mummy and tells the story of Mathayus and his rise to become the legendary Scorpion King.
The film marks Johnson’s first lead role.
The events of The Scorpion King take place 5,000 years before the events of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, revealing Mathayus’ origins and his rise to power as the legendary hero, the Scorpion King.
The name is a reference to a historical king of the Protodynastic Period of Egypt, King Scorpion.
Before the time of the pyramids, a horde of warriors from the East – led by the ruthless Memnon, who by their law, is king for being their greatest fighter – invades and conquers the local tribes. His many victories come from the help of a sorcerer who predicts the outcomes of battles, leaving only a few free tribes to oppose him.
Mathayus, his half-brother Jesup, and their friend Rama, the only three true remaining Akkadians, are hired by King Pheron of the free tribes to kill Memnon’s sorcerer for twenty blood rubies. This bargain upsets both Pheron’s son Takmet, as the rubies are the last of their treasury, and Nubian King Balthazar, who dislikes the Akkadians. The Akkadians manage to sneak into Memnon’s camp but are ambushed by his guards, having been tipped off by Takmet, who killed his own father and defected to Memnon’s side. Jesup and Rama are hit by arrows, but Mathayus manages to sneak into the sorcerer’s tent, where he sees that the sorcerer is actually a sorceress, Cassandra. Mathayus is ambushed and meets Memnon, who executes Jesup in front of him. Cassandra warns Memnon against killing Mathayus, saying the gods wish him to survive the night and defying them will incur their wrath and cost him his victories. To circumvent this, Memnon has Mathayus buried to his neck in the desert to be devoured by fire ants at dawn. Mathayus manages to escape with help from a horse thief, Arpid.
Deciding to finish his mission and avenge his brother, Mathayus sneaks into Memnon’s stronghold, Gomorrah, and manages to enter Memnon’s palace with help from a street urchin. He briefly meets Memnon’s sympathetic court magician, Philos, who hides him and directs him to the courtyard where Memnon is training. Mathayus tries to shoot Memnon from the watchtower, but he is forced to save the street urchin from having his hand amputated for theft, alerting the guards to his presence. Mathayus barely manages to escape Gomorrah, abducting Cassandra along the way, aware that Memnon will come for her.
Cassandra tries to escape from Mathayus and tells him that she has been Memnon’s prisoner since she was a child. Sympathetic towards her for saving his life, Mathayus allows her the choice of leaving, but warns her of worse dangers and that she is likely safer with him. Meanwhile, Memnon sends his right-hand man, Thorak, and a group of guards to kill Mathayus and retrieve Cassandra. Mathayus manages to slay them all under the cover of a sandstorm and in a cave. While dying, Thorak manages to stab Mathayus in the leg with an arrow coated in scorpion venom – a ‘gift’ from Memnon; Cassandra uses her magic to save Mathayus’ life. As an insult, Mathayus sends Thorak’s blood-stained pendant to Memnon.
Mathayus, Arpid and Cassandra run into Philos, who had earlier managed to flee from Memnon’s palace and has perfected an explosive powder. However, they are ambushed by the rebels, now under the rule of Balthazar. Though Mathayus defeats Balthazar in a fight and earns his grudging respect and sanctuary, Cassandra has a vision of Memnon and his army slaughtering the entire rebel camp. She informs Mathayus and then prophesies that when the moonlight reaches Memnon’s palace, the King on High will become the invincible Scorpion King, and Memnon believes himself to be the one destined to become the Scorpion King. Furthermore, she informs Mathayus that if he faces Memnon, he will likely die, but Mathayus assures her that he will make his own destiny and they sleep together.
The next morning, however, Cassandra returns to Memnon in order to stall and possibly kill him. Mathayus, with help from Balthazar, Arpid, Philos and the army of rebels, launches an all-out assault on Memnon’s stronghold, facing Memnon personally before he can kill Cassandra. Balthazar confronts and kills Takmet, avenging Pheron, and takes on the full force of Memnon’s forces alone. The battle rages on until Mathayus is shot by a guard, as predicted by Cassandra. As Memnon takes his place in the House of Scorpio to become the Scorpion King, Cassandra kills the guard while Mathayus retrieves his bow, pulls the arrow out of his shoulder and uses it to shoot the exhausted Memnon, sending him off the edge of the roof. At the same time, Philos and Arpid use the explosive powder to destroy the palace’s foundation stone, bringing down the bulk of Memnon’s forces. Memnon is consumed by the flames as he falls to his death. With the battle over, the remnants of Memnon’s army bow before Mathayus, who by their law is their new king, the Scorpion King.
In the aftermath, Mathayus and Balthazar share a good-natured farewell as the latter returns to his own kingdom. Cassandra tells Mathayus that she sees a period of peace and prosperity coming, but warns him that it will not last forever. Undeterred, Mathayus decides that they will make their own destiny.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Chuck Russell.
- Producer(s): Sean Daniel, James Jacks, Vince McMahon, Kevin Misher, an Stephen Sommers.
- Writer(s): Stephen Sommers, William Osborne, David Hayter, and Jonathan Hales.
- Music: John Debney.
- Cinematography: John R. Leonetti.
- Editor(s): Greg Parsons and Michael Tronick.
- Production: WWF Entertainment and Alphaville Films.
- Distributor(s): Universal Pictures.
- Release Date: 19 April 2002.
- Running Time: 92 minutes.
- Country: US, Germany, and Belgium.
- Language: English, German and Dutch.