The Scorpion King

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The Scorpion King
The Scorpion King poster.jpg
Teaser poster
Directed byChuck Russell
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
Music byJohn Debney
CinematographyJohn R. Leonetti
Edited by
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • 19 April 2002 (2002-04-19)
Running time
92 minutes
  • United States
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • English
  • German
  • Dutch
Budget$60 million[1]
Box office$178.8 million[1]

The Scorpion King is a 2002 American action-adventure fantasy film directed by Chuck Russell, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Kelly Hu, Grant Heslov, and Michael Clarke Duncan. It is a spin-off 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 beautiful woman, Cassandra. Mathayus is ambushed and meets Memnon, who executes Jesup in front of him but decides to spare Takmet despite his treachery. 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.



Critical response[edit]

The Scorpion King holds a 40% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 136 reviews. The sites' critical consensus states, "Action adventure doesn't get much cheesier than The Scorpion King."[2] Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 45 out of 100, based on 30 reviews.[3] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade B, on a scale from A to F.[4]

Roger Ebert, film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, writing "Here is a movie that embraces its goofiness like a Get Out of Jail Free card. The plot is recycled out of previous recycling jobs, the special effects are bad enough that you can grin at them, and the dialogue sounds like the pre-Pyramidal desert warriors are channeling a Fox sitcom... 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."[5] James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film two stars (out of four), saying: "It's possible to make an engaging action/adventure picture of this sort, but The Scorpion King isn't it."[6] Dennis Harvey of Variety gave a positive review, saying the film "rouses excitement mostly from stuntwork and their agility rather than CGI excess."[7] Nathan Rabin of The Onion's A.V. Club gave the film a mildly positive review, calling it "prototypical summer-movie fare, designed to be consumed, enjoyed, and forgotten all at once."[8] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a score of C+, calling it "plodding and obvious" but adding that The Rock "holds it together."[9] Jonathan Foreman of the New York Post gave a negative review, saying that The Scorpion King "has none of the qualities—epic sweep, relative originality and heartfelt bloodthirstiness—that made Conan so trashily entertaining."[10]

Box office[edit]

The Scorpion King grossed $12,553,380 on its opening day and $36,075,875 in total over the weekend, from 3,444 theaters for an average of $10,475 per venue, and ranking at #1 at the box office. It then dropped 50 percent in its second weekend, but remained at #1, earning another $18,038,270. The film closed on 27 June 2002, with a total domestic gross of $91,047,077, and an additional $74,286,103 internationally, for a total worldwide gross of $165,333,180, against a budget of $60 million, making it a moderate box office success.[1]


The Scorpion King
The Scorpion King soundtrack.jpg
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
Released26 March 2002 (2002-03-26)
GenreNu metal, alternative metal
LabelUniversal Music
ProducerVarious Artists
Singles from The Scorpion King
  1. "I Stand Alone"
    Released: 18 May 2002
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic2/5 stars[11]

The soundtrack to The Scorpion King was released on 26 March 2002, just before the film was released on 19 April. It is filled with various bands performing either previous released tracks or their b-sides. The album has been certified Gold by the RIAA.[12]

Track listing[edit]

1."I Stand Alone"Sully ErnaGodsmack4:05
2."Set It Off" (Tweaker Remix)P.O.D.P.O.D.4:10
3."Break You" Drowning Pool2:48
4."Streamline"Serj Tankian, Daron MalakianSystem of a Down3:36
5."To Whom It May Concern"Scott Stapp, Mark TremontiCreed5:09
6."Yanking Out My Heart"NickelbackNickelback3:35
7."Losing My Grip"Chris Hesse, Markku Lappalainen, Doug RobbHoobastank3:55
8."Only the Strong"FlawFlaw4:17
9."Iron Head" (featuring Ozzy Osbourne)Rob ZombieRob Zombie4:10
10."My Life"12 Stones12 Stones3:03
11."Along The Way"Dave Felton, Jason Popson, Jeffrey Hatrix, Steve Felton, Marko Vukcevich, Tom Schmitz, Jack Kilcoyne, Rick Thomas and John SekulaMushroomhead3:17
13."Corrected"Clint Lowery, Morgan RoseSevendust4:31
14."Burn It Black"InjectedInjected2:42
15."27"Justin RimerBreaking Point3:38
16."Glow"Mike Cox, B. Dez Fafara, Miguel "Meegs" RasconCoal Chamber3:06

Video games[edit]

The film spawned two video games: The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian for the Nintendo GameCube and the PlayStation 2 which served as a prequel to the film's events; and a sequel, The Scorpion King: Sword of Osiris, for the Game Boy Advance, in which Cassandra is abducted by the ruthless sorcerer Menthu and his lackey, the witch Isis (not to be confused with Queen Isis from the film), prompting Mathayus to undergo a quest to uncover the legendary Sword of Osiris and use it to defeat Menthu and Isis once and for all and rescue Cassandra.

Prequel and sequels[edit]

Following the film's release, there were initial plans for a sequel with Johnson to return as Mathayus and go up against a new villain, Sargon, but these plans eventually fell through and the project was shelved. A direct-to-video prequel, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, was released in 2008 with Michael Copon as Mathayus and Randy Couture as Sargon.

A sequel, The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption, was released in 2012 with Victor Webster as Mathayus and Billy Zane as the villain, King Talus. The fourth film in the franchise, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power, was released in 2015.[13] Webster reprised his role, while Michael Biehn, Rutger Hauer, Lou Ferrigno and former WWE wrestler Eve Torres joined the cast.[13][14] Will Kemp portrayed the villain of the film, Drazen.

A fifth and final film, Scorpion King: Book of Souls, was released 23 October 2018. Zach McGowan played Mathayus, while Peter Mensah portrayed a villain of the film, Nebserek.

Home media[edit]

The Scorpion King was released on DVD on October 1 2002.[15] The Scorpion King was later released on Blu-Ray on 3 January 2010.[15] The Scorpion King was released on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on 18 June 2019.[16]


  1. ^ a b c "The Scorpion King". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  2. ^ "The Scorpion King". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media.
  3. ^ "The Scorpion King". Metacritic. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Review by James Berardinelli, ReelViews2/4 stars
  7. ^ Dennis Harvey (18 April 2002). "The Scorpion King". Variety. Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  8. ^ Nathan Rabin (29 April 2002). "The Scorpion King". The A.V. Club. The Onion.
  9. ^ Review by Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
  10. ^ Review by Jonathan Foreman Archived 9 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine, New York Post
  11. ^ "The Scorpion King [Soundtrack]". AllMusic.
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b "The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power (2015) (V)". IMDb. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  14. ^ "Exclusive interview: Eve Torres on life after WWE". WWE. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
  15. ^ a b "The Scorpion King DVD Release Date June 1, 2003". DVDs Release Dates. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  16. ^ The Scorpion King 4K Blu-ray, retrieved 17 June 2019

External links[edit]