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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

The Scorpion King
Rise of a Warrior

Written by Randall McCormick
Directed by Russell Mulcahy
Released in 2008

A young Akkadian mercenary sets out to avenge his father.


Read the complete Rise of a Warrior movie synopsis at Rickipedia


Didja Know?


Though the full title of this film, as advertised, is The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, it is actually a prequel to the original Scorpion King, not a sequel.
This movie was made as a direct-to-video release in 2008.


Didja Notice?


Notice that the narrating voice of the film is that of Aristophanes (Ari), the Greek scribe (sorry, poet) who accompanies Mathayus on his journey to Knossos and the underworld.


The film suggests that the Akkadian civilization had a group of elite warriors called the Black Scorpions, of which Mathayus was a member, as was his father before him. The members even have a tattoo of a black scorpion on their right arms (though Mathayus burns his off near the end of this film). However, in the original Scorpion King, no mention is ever made of Mathayus' assassin training having occurred under a group by that name; his Scorpion King name was derived from the scorpion venom that remained in his blood after a poisoning attempt by Memnon. Since this film's story takes place years before that, it seems the filmmakers felt the need to insert another scorpion connection in order to justify the franchise's title for those who were not familiar with (or had forgotten the details of) the earlier film.


At the beginning of the film, Hammurabi is the king of Akkad. If the stories of The Scorpion King franchise take place circa 3000 BC as stated by the original film's director Chuck Russell, then this must not be the renowned historical figure of Hammurabi, who was the ruler of Babylon from 1792-1750 BC. Also, the historical Hammurabi was not succeeded by Sargon (as in this film), though there was a real Sargon who ruled (and is generally considered to have founded) the Akkadian Empire for many decades. However, later statements in the current film suggest it takes place much later than 3000 BC, e.g. references to the pyramids of Egypt and the writings of Greek historian Herodotus. The Scorpion King films seem to take a lackadaisical approach to ancient historical time periods, mashing many epochs and cultures together the way the two TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess did in the 1990s.


At 8:18 on the DVD, actor Michael Copon as Mathayus seems to do a subtle version of the "people's eyebrow", otherwise performed by The Rock in his original portrayal of the character in The Scorpion King as a nod to his wrestling character.


The scene of the city at 8:22 on the DVD is the same as the one at 2:06, complete with the same clouds and same men on horseback approaching it!


After returning home a man from Black Scorpion training, Mathayus is greeted by his brother, Noah, who feels his bicep and exclaims, "What do they feed you, rock stew?" Besides a comment on the boy's growth, this may be a joking reference to The Rock, who portrays the adult Mathayus in The Scorpion King.


In this movie, Mathayus seems to have two brothers named Enki and Noah, but there is no mention of Jesup, the brother who is killed near the beginning of The Scorpion King. Jesup does appear to be older than Mathayus in that film, so it may be that Jesup has left the roost and is on a mercenary mission abroad at this time. (However, an actor credited as Jesup is listed in the film's ending credits, with no mention of Enki; possibly the two names were mixed up between the scripted dialog and credit text?)


At 13:39 on the DVD, notice that Sargon appears to have a cauliflower ear, a permanent swelling of the outer ear tissue caused by a serious blow. This was not a prosthetic for the character; actor Randy Couture is a former mixed martial-artist and wrestler who suffered injuries in the ring which left both of his ears cauliflowered. Many such athletes have had one or both ears injured in this manner.


Throughout the movie, notice the hilt of Mathayus' sword is in the general shape of a scorpion. There is also a scorpion design engraved on the flat of the blade.


Somehow, Mathayus' sword is able to slice through metal chains (in a single blow) to free his brother Noah in Sargon's court!


Mathayus tells Layla that he goes to Egypt to ask Pharaoh if he may borrow the magical Spear of Osiris in order to kill Sargon. Ironically, Mathayus will be slain with that weapon himself when his cursed half-scorpion form returns to life in 1933 AD in The Mummy Returns. Osiris is the name of the ancient Egyptian god of the afterlife.


At 28:46 on the DVD, notice that Ari is writing in the Greek alphabet (probably on sheets of papyrus).


Ari tells Mathayus and Layla that he is from Naxos. This is a Greek island in the Mediterranean Sea. He also admonishes them not to confuse him with the Aristophanes of Corinth, whom he refers to as a hack. Corinth was an ancient city-state of Greece; the mention of another Aristophanes who was a writer may be a joking reference to the Greek playwright of c. 446-386 BC.


Ari also tells that he is a former court poet to the king of Elam. Elam was an ancient civilization located mostly in what is now modern-day Iran.


   Dismissing the Spear of Osiris as not useful for killing Sargon since it was meant to be used only against Egyptian monsters, Ari tries to think of the perfect weapon for Mathayus to seek, considering and rejecting the Hammer of Zeus and the Shield of Cronos. These appear to be artifacts made up for the movie and not from actual mythology. Zeus was the mythological father of the Greek Olympian gods and Cronos (more commonly Cronus) was leader of the Titans, the race of gods said by the Greeks to be the precursors to the Olympian gods.

   Ari finally advises Mathayus to seek the Sword of Damocles which he says was the weapon used by the man who killed King Philpman. Both King Philpman and the Sword of Damocles are fictional constructs for the film, but the phrase "sword of Damocles" is borrowed from a Greek legend that tells of a man named Damocles who exclaimed that the emperor Dionysius was truly fortunate for all his power and fortune. Dionysius offered to let Damocles exchange lives with him for a day so he may feel what it's like and the man eagerly agrees. Damocles is then treated like a king and enjoys a sumptuous meal in the court. Only after he finishes eating does he notice a sword dangling precariously above him, held by a thread, whereupon Damocles asks the emperor's leave, saying he no longer wants to be so fortunate.


Ari tells that Herodotus' fifth book of The Histories tells of how Damocles' sword was transformed by a lightning bolt from Zeus into a blade that could cut through anything. Although Herodotus was a real historical figure who wrote the 9-volume The Histories, the story of Damocles and his sword is not one of them.


Mathayus decides to join Ari in Knossos to seek the Sword of Damocles. Knossos was an ancient city on the Greek island of Crete during the Minoan civilization of the Bronze Age (c. 2700-1500 BC).


Ari tells Mathayus and Layla of the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull creature that wanders the labyrinth beneath Knossos and guards the entrance to the underworld. Greek mythology does tell of the Minotaur which was banished by King Minos to the labyrinth underneath Knossos. In the mythology, the Minotaur is eventually killed by Theseus; here, the Minotaur is slain by Mathayus. (In Rise of the Akkadian, Mathayus again sails to the island of Crete, this time to seek the mystical Sword of Osiris to kill Magus and faces off against the Minotaur! I guess there is somehow always a new Minotaur to replace the one that gets killed.)


Notice that at 37:55 on the DVD, Mathayus simply opens the door of the prison cell in which he and the others are held! What kind of a cell is that? Is it simply fear of the Minotaur wandering the tunnels that keeps the other prisoners in their cell? And, if that's so, why doesn't the Minotaur simply open the cell door himself and attack the prisoners?


Pollux refers to his men as Illyrians. These were generally known by the Ancient Greeks as the inhabitants of the modern-day Balkans and parts of Italy.


One of the mercenaries insults the Minotaur by telling it his mother was a cow. Actually, according to the Greek mythological tale, the creature's mother was's father was a bull.


Ari plays his wooden flute to entrance the Minotaur long enough for Mathayus to kill it. Ari then explains, "Music has charms to soothe the savage beast," then remarks, "Say, that's good," as if he plans to use the phrase in his writings. It's actually a paraphrasing of a real world quote, "Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast" from the 1697 play The Mourning Bride by William Congreve.


Pollux tells Mathayus that he'd fought alongside his father, Ashur, against the Hittites. The Hittite empire was another that existed in the Mesopotamian region during the Bronze Age, circa the 18th through 11th Centuries BC. 


Ari claims that Gilgamesh and Herodotus each journeyed to and returned from the underworld successfully. Gilgamesh was a mythological figure of the Sumerian civilization (though he may also have been a real king of Uruk who was later written into mythology as a larger-than-life character). In the Epic of Gilgamesh, his servant, Enkidu, goes down into the underworld and later returns as a ghost to tell his master about the world of the dead, but Gilgamesh himself was not said to have journeyed there in his lifetime. Herodotus, having been a demonstrably real person, is also not known to have travelled (while alive) to the world of the dead.


Ari later states that Herodotus said that a living person can only remain in the underworld for one hour before they turn to stone. I am not aware of Herodotus' writings ever having stated this.


In the underworld, our heroes meet up with the goddess of love and war, Astarte. "Astarte" is the name given in Greek mythology to this goddess.


Mathayus swears to Astarte that if she lets his group leave the underworld, he will build a temple in her honor and states that an Akkadian always keeps his vows. The commitment that Akkadians always keep their vows is repeated in The Scorpion King.


Mathayus tells Astarte that he made a vow to Shamash to avenge the death of his father. Shamash is the Akkadian sun god.


Astarte tells Mathayus that inside every hero lurks the potential for a monster and we see that it bothers him later on the ship ride back to Akkad. This is probably meant as a retroactive foreshadowing of what he becomes in The Mummy Returns.


Ari misleadingly tells Fong that he'll receive a hero's welcome in Nippur. Nippur was an ancient Sumerian city which became part of the Akkadian Empire. Apparently it is also the seat of Sargon's throne in this film.


The depiction (and the characters' view) of the underworld seems to be similar to that of the Christian Hell, a place where the souls of the damned are sent after death. But in most ancient mythologies and religions, the term "underworld" was simply meant to describe the land of the dead, where both good and evil souls would go (though they might be segregated into more and less pleasant regions within it).


At 1:23:20 on the DVD, Layla says, "Got a bad feeling about this." This may be a reference to the Star Wars franchise in which characters often repeat this phrase.


Sharp-eyed viewers should notice that the sword Ari tosses to Sargon during the ruler's duel with Mathayus is not the Sword of Damocles as he implies, though it looks similar.


At 1:31:49 on the DVD, Mathayus burns the Black Scorpion tattoo off his arm with the flat of the Sword. But since when does the Sword of Damocles cause burning on the skin? When he first obtained it in the underworld, he ran his hand along the blade and it did not burn him. It's power is said to be the ability to cut through anything, not burn.


It's extremely cheesy that the giant scorpion Sargon transforms into is invisible for most the fight with Mathayus; most likely the producers chose to do it this way to spare the expense of having a lot of CG animation produced.


This movie seems to imply that Mathayus was grazed by the giant scorpion's poisonous barb a few times on his body. This suggests that he already had the "blood of the scorpion" in his veins even before the events seen in The Scorpion King.


After Sargon is slain by Mathayus, Shalmaneser, the son of the previous king, Hammurabi, is crowned. There were several Shalmanesers who were kings of Assyria during the 1st Millennium BC, but the one in this movie who becomes ruler of the Akkadian Empire seems to be fictional.


At the end of the movie, Layla tells Mathayus that Ari has left, having said something about Olympia and Neptune's Trident. Olympia was a city of ancient Greece. Presumably Neptune's Trident is a reference to the trident said to have been wielded by the Roman god Neptune, though the story of this movie would seem to take place well before the Roman Empire has absorbed the Greek mythology and given the Greek gods Roman names (Neptune was originally known in Ancient Greece as Poseidon).


At the very end of the movie, Ari's voiceover says that one day, perhaps, Mathayus would become a king, but "that is the subject for another tale." This is similar to the closing line of the original two Conan movies Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Conan the Destroyer (1984). Ari's statement also retroactively presages Mathayus becoming a king at the end of The Scorpion King.


Unanswered Questions


What message did Ari leave for Mathayus on the papyrus scroll that made him laugh at the end of the movie? 


Memorable Dialog


what do they feed you.wav

thanks for noticing.wav

flying colors.wav

never mix those two words.wav

fair maiden.wav

a shortcut back to China.wav

I think I just stepped in someone.wav

save your tongue.wav

gold coins between your thighs.wav

you're greedy.wav

got a bad feeling about this.wav

you can never trust a Greek.wav

I'm a poet, not a scribe.wav 


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