A Multi-racial Movie Hero
The Scorpion King represents a new paradigm as an ethnic protagonist
Al Carlos Hernandez
In the notorious city of Gomorrah ? mostly shot in LA ? the evil warlord Memnon English actor Steven Brand is determined to lay to waste to all the nomadic peoples of the desert. See CNN for details. Because the few remaining tribes are virtually powerless against him, they decide to hire a skilled assassin, Dwayne ?The Rock? Johnson Mathayus, to eliminate Memnon's most prized asset: the sorceress TV Babe Kelly Hu, Cassandra, who lies at the root of Memnon's power. Mathayus's plan, however, is to kidnap Cassandra rather than kill her. He knows if he takes her deep into the desert badlands as his hostage, Memmon and his henchman will stop at nothing to rescue her and bring her back.
Published on LatinoLA: April 27, 2002
It is rare that I do a movie review, because I usually end up insulting everybody, subliminally player-hating the screenwriter who got something large to the screen and scored a major payday.
The Scorpion King is different. To me it represents a new paradigm in action adventure. The protagonist Mathayus ?The Rock? Dwayne Johnson is a bi-racial man of color, and Cassandra the love interest, played by Kelly Hu, is Asian. The story ? albeit a typical Raiders of the Lost Ark-styled prequel to the Mummy series ? brings to life a very realistic-looking hero. That is not to say that all of the WWF wrestlers should give up clocking each other with folding chairs and move to Hollywood. There is a time and place for everything.
I have always envisioned biblical desert marauders to be dark skinned longhaired muscular people with intensity, very much like some of my biker friends in Oakland. People I know have a hard time buying people like Arnold, Kevin Costner and Harrison Ford as larger than life ?period piece? action heroes. I did buy Peter O?Toole as Lawrence of Arabia because Lawrence was considered gay.
The evil warlord Memnon, played by English actor Steven Brand, looks more like a J. Crew model than a despot looking to control the Middle East. I could buy him if his name was Enron rather than Memnon. He is touted to be a mythical swordsman extrodinaire, the noblest fighter who, because of his exploits, rose to be king, yet cannot get to first base with the saucy sorceress from Hawaii, Kelly Hu. Memnon?s goal was to destroy all of the nomadic people of the desert and put up statues of himself all over the place, like MacDonald?s franchises. Again art imitating life.
The nomadic tribes were powerless, so they brought in some outside muscle ? Mathayus ? to handle the family business, by kidnapping the prophetess, stripping the bad guy of his power to know the outcome of the next battle. There is chemistry between the Rock and Hu from the beginning. She is attracted to him; in other words, Hu is on first.
All of the cast, especially the harem and rental babes, reflected a special bi-racial standard of beauty. As a group, they looked like an Oscar De La Hoya entourage at the Conga Room. The nemesis henchmen were realistic looking as well and probably had to spend a great deal of time trying to get through airport security to get to the location shots. To be quite honest, if one of them got on a plane with me I would get off, rent a car or hijack a camel.
Through no fault of their own and as an accommodation to J.Crew Memnon?s theme park-sense of style, the convenience store manager-looking henchmen were forced to wear white turbans with red accents, making it easier for the Rock to creep up on them to ram their heads in to ancient stone turnbuckles.
Predictably, during the final showdown, the Rock and his friend the big guy who spit flies out of his mouth in the Green Mile along his 14 wives attack the evil compound. There is a one-on-one showdown between the Rock and the evil J. Crew. J. Crew prided himself on being able to deflect arrows shot at him with his sword. The Rock took aim, J. Crew waited sword in hand, the arrow was fired, and for the first and last time Crew missed deflecting the arrow, propelling him over the side of the castle, but more importantly excluding him from the sequel.
The evil soldiers now bow down to Rock, the new box office King. He finds himself in an uncomfortable position of being a monarch with a wife who knows the future.
The Scorpion King was executive produced by WWF owner Vince McMann, the same person that brought us the XFL.
I am not ashamed to admit that I liked that, too.
Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a screenwriter and weekly columnist.