[31 January 2012]
Before we get started I want to draw a bit of a family tree for Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption. It’s the sequel to a prequel of a prequel that was itself a spin-off of a sequel to a reimagining. Confused yet? Let’s try to clarify.
The original Scorpion King was a prequel to The Mummy Returns, the second installment in the rebooted Mummy franchise. While the Mummy movies feature that grand thespian Brendan Fraser, The Scorpion King starred Dwayne Johnson, back when he was still known by his professional wrestling moniker, The Rock (can you smell what he’s cookin’?). Then there was a prequel to Scorpion King, Scorpion King 2: Where Did the Rock Go?, which brings us, finally, to Scorpion King: Battle for Redemption. It’s been a taxing journey, to say the least.
I know what you’re thinking, why delve into the long, convoluted genealogy of a direct-to-video movie that no one was exactly clamoring for in the first place? And you are right to ask. Scorpion King 3 is ridiculous, some might even argue unnecessary. However, if you’re the kind of movie fan who willingly picks up this Blu-ray in the first place, odds are you knew all that going in, and were well prepared for silliness.
Scorpion King 3 picks up after the events of the original Scorpion King. The titular Scorpion King, Mathayus (Victor Webster), once the savior of a nation of people, has fallen on hard times. The exact nature of his downfall is unclear, but the once proud warrior now finds himself a mercenary, a sword-for-hire, if you will. All he wants is some cash to pay his bar tab, a few warm-bodied wenches, and to die well in combat. Considering the sheer number of swordfights he gets into, this last goal seems readily attainable.
The plot is rather incidental, and the main point of the story is that Mathayus and his companion, Olaf (Bostin Christopher), who looks and acts like Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds, go on a quest to the Far East to stop an evil plan perpetrated by none other than Billy Zane. Oh Billy Zane, sweet, sweet Billy Zane. You know what an absurd fiasco your career is, you embrace it with open arms, and that is why you will always have a special place in my heart and a seat at my dinner table. (Metaphorical dinner table, of course, since I don’t own an actual “dinner table”.)
Zane plays Talus, Brother of King Horus (Ron Perlman), with a joyous, who-gives-a-rat’s-ass attitude. His over the top hamming is so giddy that you expect him to burst out laughing at any moment. At one point onscreen he remarks, “Pardon my exuberance,” and you’re not entirely sure if it’s Zane or his character talking. Zane, and Perlman to a lesser extent, is truly having a lot of fun at his own expense in Scorpion King 3.
Again, you may have concerns, like, why do Mathayus and Olaf go to the Far East? The answer is shockingly simple: so there can be ninjas. Yes, you read that correctly, there are ninjas in Scorpion King 3, bunches of the little buggers, climbing around, ninjaing off of stuff. I’m sure the question, Why? will touch your lips. Shhhh. No need to worry your pretty little head about all that. All you need to do is sit back and bask in the ninjaness of it all.
In fact, that’s the best advice for watching Scorpion King 3: take a step back, relax, accept it for exactly what it is, and just go with it. Given this approach, the Billy Zane Method I will call it, it’s quite possible to enjoy this movie. Take it too seriously, on the other hand, and you might do some irreparable damage to your psyche. Honestly though, if you try to dissect a movie that features backyard-internet-brawler-cum-mixed-martial-arts-sideshow Kimbo Slice as a sort of African demon warrior (all he does is growl like a beast and flex), and professional-wrestling-luminary-turned-DTV-action-star Dave Bautista as another avenging spirit, then I think you missed the point.
I won’t call Scorpion King 3 a good movie, not by any means, but it does have a certain… charm. And with the appropriate setting (lots of friends), and an appropriate level of intoxication (significant), Battle for Redemption can be a lot of fun.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises is how visually solid the film is. Directed by Roel Reine (Death Race 2, The Marine 2), Scorpion King 3 is surprisingly well put together from a technical standpoint. Not from a storytelling perspective (that’s a nonsensical mess), or acting wise (see above comments re: Billy Zane), but it has a specific visual design that remains consistent throughout; a style full of deliberate, planned moves and a level of actual technique and artistry.
Reine (whose best movie may be Pistol Whipped with Steven Seagal, which should tell you something) comes across as genuine, if a little misguided, in the commentary track. At times his enthusiasm is even a little infectious, and you might find yourself thinking, yeah, Scorpion King 3 is pretty good. Reality sets in quickly because then you remember that movie is terrible, but it’s nice to see a filmmaker with such a deep devotion to his work.
A collection of deleted scenes offer a training montage, some extended moments, some attempts at acting, and other things that were left out of the finished product for good reason. There’s even a montage of deleted shots, which is all of the sweeping crane shots they couldn’t use in the film, stitched together here. Given the nature of some of the takes that made it into Scorpion King 3, the gag reel is rather uninteresting, mostly comprised of flubbed lines and good-natured swearing. I hoped for some off-the-cuff insanity, but was sadly disappointed.
A pair of featurettes fills out the bonus material on this disc. “Swords and Scorpions” is a 13-minute making-of. The biggest thing you’ll take away is that everyone had a really, really good time making Scorpion King 3, not just Billy Zane. “Preparing for Battle” deals with the numerous fight scenes, from planning and staging, to the actual filming. Don’t worry, they talk about the ninjas in depth.