A few years ago, I had the misfortune of seeing the last movie in Universal’s Scorpion King legacy (which was itself a secondary subsidiary to the studio’s ongoing attempt at burying Stephen Sommers’ career, and was something that officially started immediately after he made his debut film with 1989’s Catch Me If You Can). Fortunately, I don’t remember a single solitary frame of the previous entry. In fact, I had to look up an old review of mine (published elsewhere) just to make sure that I actually did see it; it was that memorable. Well, once more, the powers that be at Universal have decided to cater to the white trash, wrasslin’ lovin’ denizens of Walmarts all across the nation with the latest insult to the intelligence of anyone with an IQ higher than the average sidewalk curb.
I refer to, of course, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power. Originally entitled The Scorpion King: The Lost Throne, someone decided the name needed a boost during post-production. So, in order to make it a surefire hit, they gave it a name similar to the very movie that killed off Warner’s first Superman franchise. Not the wisest move anyone could have made – especially when you stop to consider the addition of the number “4”. In today’s world of filmmaking, numbers are deliberately avoided in film titles for fear of audiences skipping (numbered) sequels because they’re uncertain if they saw the previous entry. But nobody’s counting in this instance, as the the last direct-to-video Scorpion King flick was as indelible to one’s memory as a low-rent lounge act you drunkenly dance all of Friday night away to and then try to mentally recount Sunday morning at brunch.
As a matter of fact, it has literally only been a couple of hours since I suffered through that which The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power, and I have already forgotten most of it. But I am told by professionals in the psychiatric industry that this is extremely common after having gone through a traumatic event. Here’s what I still vaguely recall at the moment: out of work former wrestlers, out of work actors, an out of work CGI machine, an out of work screenwriter, and one very out of place M. Emmet Walsh. The film is the latest direct-to-video follow-up to a spin-off of a sequel to a remake. Technically, this is the seventh in Sommers’ illegitimate Mummy lineage, and it’s somewhat surprising to see they’re still cranking these movies out considering that the last, belated (direct) film wound up being the Spider-Man 3 of the franchise – to the point that the studio now intends to reboot the whole damn thing.
So why the heck was this atrocity made? Well, it’s simple, kids: it meant a quick, easy paycheck for all involved. The film could have easily been assigned the very subtitle a jestful Mel Brooks spoke of in Spaceballs – “The Search for More Money” – and no one would have objected. And in the instance of The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power, the target audience could not have been any easier to cater to. For you see, folks, this movie was made for the many wrasslin’ lovin’ denizens that enable Walmart to destroy the American economy and treat its workers like dirt year after year. You know, white trash. One need not search very high for the evidence, either: witness the casting of many names from contemporary wrestling and/or mixed martial arts (all of whom I had to look up; the last time I watched any such tripe, Captain Lou Albano could be seen in the new Cyndi Lauper video on MTV).
And these men and woman (singular) are heavily mentioned in the film’s credits and advertising artwork, when in reality, the budget of the title was so low that they could only afford to have these significantly unimportant performers on film for only a few short scenes each. Granted, they probably all hung out on-set long after their scenes were shot to take advantage of whatever free food was lying around after the local Romanian caterers called it a day. Nevertheless, their inclusion is vital in order to promote the movie to households who routinely find themselves engaged in conversation with deputies directly outside of their trailer park residences over calls to the sheriff’s department about domestic disturbances as you drunkenly dancing Friday night away to some low-rent lounge act somewhere.
Am I being too mean? Sorry, I can’t help it. This movie hurt me, and I’m lashing out. It’s another common thing people do after a traumatic experience according to psychiatric professionals. And with all the terribly writing, god-awful editing, and the outright terrible performances The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power has to offer, lashing out at the ignorant masses this pile of cinematic shit was intentionally produced for seems quite reasonable to me. Hell, the movie can’t even keep its own story straight, and ignores most of its own sub-franchise’s history – something the really anal-retentive fans of the secondary series (if there are any; fans, I mean) can attribute to the writing talents (ahem) of Michael Weiss, who specializes in unwanted sequels along with project’s director, Mike Elliott – who started out in the (sub) industry by producing campy direct-to-video movies for Roger Corman.
Obviously, things haven’t changed for Mike Elliott very much over the years. And while there’s really nothing wrong with doing what you love and making money in the process, there is a fine line between being campy and just plain being lazy. Would you care to take a guess as to which category The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power falls under? Story-wise, the film finds Scorpion King Mathayus (Victor Webster, reprising his role from the previous movie) being betrayed by a newfound friend (Will Kemp, who was featured in another Stephen Sommers abomination, Van Helsing) in an opening that was stolen wholesale from Raiders of the Lost Ark (only this time with two complete gay jokes even before we hit the five-minute mark). Said opening also includes a couple of truly wasted cameos by Don “The Dragon” Wilson (who doesn’t get a good enough close-up for you to actually recognize him, and that’s even after the fact he was injured during his shoot) and former Hulk player Lou Ferrigno (whom the artwork would have you believe is the star – which probably would have made for a more enjoyable feature).
Shortly after that, a somewhat befuddled Rutger Hauer shows up to make an appearance, looking as if he just realized he signed on to make The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power instead of something slightly more dignified immediately before Elliott uttered the words “Alright, people, let’s get this in one take! These escorts charge by the hour!” Hauer then send our eponymous hero (who is still doomed to be cursed for the primary movie’s mythology either way you write it, people) to make peace with the King of Norvania, as played by Michael Biehn, who looks as if he could have been very bored, a bit inebriated, suffering from jetlag, or an appropriate combination of all three at the time. Thankfully for King Biehn, he gets killed off by his evil son (the same character Mr. Kemp plays), who then pursues Mathayus and his newnewfound friend, television bit player Ellen Hollman (with a vague, intermittent British accent).
A short time after that (wherein the viewer feels like they have already sat through a good two hours of padding), the duo with next to no sexual chemistry whatsoever elude the evil clutches of heir-to-the-throne Kemp – complete with a moment lifted directly from the Death Star escape from Star Wars. Then Ms. Hollman’s on-screen father, as played by a shameless, scenery-chewing Barry Bostwick, appears, and it is there that an already clumsily-paced, inelegantly-produced moving picture, comes to a screeching halt. Oddly enough, this might not be Bostwick’s worst movie, but it could certainly provide a strong, lasting fight for that title if it ever came down to it. Speaking of fights, the movie finds a way to sneak in a girlfight, as presided over by a curmudgeonly M. Emmet Walsh (and I use that noun to describe the actor’s behavior itself, not his character!). But since this is a PG-13 film aimed at trailer trash, even the promise of two kinda-scantily-clad chicks duking it out fails to amuse.
Let me see, what else do I remember here? Oh, yeah: writer Weiss also manages to lift moments from several other old Hollywood blockbusters, such as the Ewoks from Return of the Jedi (seriously, there’s a tribe in the film comprised of dwarves wearing furs and facepaint!), the finale of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Mathayus has to cross a tricky path to get to the story’s poor excuse for a focus point while Hollman tends to her freshly fatally-wounded father, who is then cured by the magical deus ex machina device in question), and there’s even a dragon scene that could have been stolen from just about any Lord of the Rings movie. Mr. Weiss, you do realize that the movies you stole heavily from are popular enough even to those who abuse the welfare system on an annual basis and gorge themselves on Budweiser and meat while watching NASCAR every Sunday, right? Right?!
Oh, ask a silly question…
Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents this, what we can only hope is the final film in a series that has gone from being somewhat uncalled-for to completely unnecessary in a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack a whopping week after its worldwide debut on Netflix (!). The transfer is pretty good overall, as one can expect for something that was no doubt shot digitally, and all of the horrid CGI effects that riddle the movie stand out all the more because of how nice the presentation looks. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio soundtrack completely failed to make any sort of impression on me, though that can probably be attributed to the fact that I was busy shaking my head throughout the film saying “This is all just a bad dream. This is all just a bad dream…” Additional 5.1 audio options in Spanish and French are on-hand so that the movie may effectively offend everyone on the North American continent, as are subtitles in English (SDH), French, and Spanish for anyone who may be lucky enough to not have to listen to the content, but who is forced to watch anyway.
Special features include a making-of featurette that will surely give you remarkable insight into how genuinely fast you can find some uninteresting spot on the wall you can attune your senses to, about 16 minutes of deleted scenes (all of which are presented in raw form, which makes the movie look even phonier than it already is), a gag reel (which contains even more gay jokes than the feature film itself, and still manages to be funnier somehow), and an audio commentary with director Elliott and actors Webster, Kemp, Hollman, and Bostwick. Now, you’d think that the aforementioned lineup might be worth a listen to, but it really isn’t. Elliott takes up most of the air in the room for the most part, the three leads make a lot of unfunny jokes to each other (think “Oh, look at you do that thing with that there like that, ha-ha-ha…”), while Bostwick remains remarkably subdued throughout.
But the thing that really bothered me about the commentary is when Michael Biehn appears and the crew comment about his acting. Somebody mentions method acting, to wit Will Kemp remarks “Yes, meth… Method… acting” – almost as if he’s trying to insinuate something. It’s weird, and I couldn’t help but being taken back by it. Maybe he spilled his drink on his lap at that moment or something, I don’t know. But you might want to be more careful, Mr. Kemp. After all, this is the man who climbed K2, discovered the secrets of The Abyss, and battled both Aliens and The Terminator you’re talking about. Or I could just be finding something to be offended about where there is none, as, in case I didn’t fully get the message across before, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power hurt me. Big time. Thus, I am getting my anger at this dud out of my system before I duly and oh-so-lovingly forget all about it. My shrink says that it is all for the best this way.
(It was all just a bad dream. It was all just a bad dream…)