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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr


The Scorpion King
Story by Jonathan Hales and Stephen Sommers
Screenplay by Stephen Sommers and Will Osborne and David Hayter
Directed by Chuck Russell
Released in 2002

Mathayus is set on a quest to assassinate a tyrant, but destiny has more in store for him than that.


Read the complete Scorpion King movie synopsis at Rickipedia


Didja Notice?


We don't get a specific year in which this story takes place. The narration near the beginning of the film tells us only that it is before "the time of the pyramids", presumably a reference to Egyptian pyramids, possibly the pyramids of Giza in particular. The earliest known Egyptian pyramid is the pyramid of Djoser in the Saqqara necropolis, built around 2667 BC. The first Giza pyramid was built beginning around 2520 BC. The character of Mathayus, the Scorpion King, was inspired by an actual ancient figure of protodynastic Egypt, of whom little is known, identified only as King Scorpion II (real name unknown); King Scorpion II is believed to have been the ruler of Upper Egypt at approximately 3200 BC. (In his audio commentary on the DVD, director Chuck Russell states the film is set around 3000 BC; in the scenes of Mathayus' rule as the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, it is stated to be 3067 BC.)


The leader of the mountain tribe brags that they have killed Babylonians, Mesopotamians, Assyrians, Mycenaeans, and Sumerians. In addition, Mathayus is said to be the last true Akkadian mercenary.

  • The Babylonians and Mesopotamians are essentially the same people, originating from civilizations in the modern-day Iraq; "Mesopotamia" was the name used for the area by the ancient Greeks and Romans thousands of years after The Scorpion King takes place.
  • Assyrians are simply an ethnic race within the aforementioned region.
  • "Mycenaeans" references to the people of Mycenaean Greece, the Bronze Age Greeks who did not exist until about 1500 BC, again much later than the time of this story.
  • "Sumerians" is really the only correct reference if this story does indeed take place c. 3000 BC. The Sumerian civilization existed about this time.
  • Mathayus is referred to as an Akkadian. The Akkadian Empire, centered in the city-state of Akkad in Mesopotamia essentially absorbed the Sumerian civilization c. 2330 BC, again later than this story is alleged to have taken place.


At 1:29 on the DVD, notice that Mathayus is hauling a large boulder on a rope behind him as he climbs the outer wall of the mountain abode. He will be seen momentarily hefting it above his head to smash a hole in the roof for his surprise entrance.


At 1:59 on the DVD, notice that Mathayus has four arrows nocked on his bow. When he shoots, he hits at least three human targets, one of which is hit so hard he goes flying up and through the roof, to land dozens of yards outside the abode. 


Notice that the first map that scrolls by during the introductory narrative shows the same landmarks and writing twice over!


Some of the writing that appears on the above-mentioned map does appear similar to actual Akkadian, which grew out of the earlier Sumerian script. The tattoos on the face of Mathayus' brother also look similar to Akkadian script.


The villainous character of Memnon does not appear to have been based on an actual historical figure. Memnon previously appeared in The Akkadian Prophecy mini-series.


The warrior Balthazar is said to be a Nubian. The Nubians were originally an ethnic group inhabiting southern Egypt and northern Sudan. The "braided" tattoos on Balthazar's face are one of the affectations of this group of people.


When Mathayus and his brothers appear at the gathering of clans during the war council, Balthazar recognizes them as Akkadians and says he thought they were wiped out long ago. However, in the real world, the Akkadian Empire, centered in the city of Akkad within Mesopotamia, existed from 2334-2154 BC, after the estimated date of the story of The Scorpion King.


Pheron tells his son that the Akkadian mercenaries have agreed to assassinate Memnon's sorcerer for the price of twenty blood rubies. It's possible that this is a reference to the 1986 Japanese animated film Dragon Ball: Curse of the Blood Rubies. In recent years, there have also been some mentions of the term "blood rubies" used in the same manner as "blood diamonds", i.e. mined by slave labor.


Mathayus rides a camel instead of a horse as his brother does, claiming that camels are more intelligent. While Arab folklore speaks of the intelligence of camels, western literature suggests they are rather stupid. I have yet to find a definitive scientific study on the matter.


Mathayus uses a saddle to ride his camel. However, archaeological evidence suggests that the camel saddle was not invented until around 1200 BC, well after the setting of this film.


The horse thief Arpid claims to be a priest of Set after he's been captured by Memnon's forces. Set is known to be one of the gods of ancient Egypt. In later Egyptian writings, due to political and religious changes, Set was demonized, but at the time of this story would have been considered a major god to the people of Egypt and known as the god of the desert.


Notice that Memnon kills Mathayus' brother with Mathayus' own dagger at 15:05 on the DVD.


Arpid describes the ants that are set upon him and Mathayus as fire ants. The ants (and their mounds) that appear in this film, however, are much larger than any real world ant. The common worker caste of fire ants only reach about a quarter-inch in size and the anthills a maximum of about 15 inches in height. The ants that attack the guard that is clobbered by Arpid at 17:22 on the DVD are of more realistic dimensions.


It's never explained in the film how Arpid was able to dig himself out of the hole he was trapped in next to Mathayus before the ant attack. The deleted scenes in the DVD bonus materials reveal that he faked unconsciousness while he was being buried and kept sucking air into his lungs so, when he finally exhaled it all, he had room to move his body in the ground.


The statues at either side of the entrance to Memnon's throne room appear to be of the jackal-headed Egyptian god, Anubis. Anubis was god of the afterlife before being replaced in the religion by Osiris during the Middle Kingdom of Egypt.


Mathayus and Arpid visit the city of Gomorrah and Arpid compares it to Sodom. The two cities are mentioned in both the Bible and Torah as being cities of sin that were judged and consumed by fire and brimstone sent by God as punishment. It would seem that Memnon's kingdom was centered in Gomorrah since Mathayus finds him in the main fortress there ("The Akkadian Prophecy" Part 1 states that Memnon has recently seized control of Gomorrah.) Again according to the Bible, Gomorrah was located near the modern day Dead Sea, which borders the modern nations of Israel and Jordan.


At 23:52 on the DVD, the sword merchant in Gomorrah mentions "the finest steel forged by the monks of Pompeii". Unfortunately, the city of Pompeii would not exist for almost 2,000 more years yet! Pompeii was founded around 7-6 BC.


From his description, it his clear that Philos' Chinese powder is a form of gunpowder. Archaeologically, gunpowder is not known to have been invented until around 1 BC.


At 28:22 on the DVD, the street urchin who has lead Mathayus to Memnon says, "Shukrin," when the warrior gives him the promised ruby. Though spelled "shukrin" in the closed captions of the DVD, the actual word is "shukran" and means "thank you" in Arabic.


For guiding him through the city, Mathayus pays the urchin one of the blood rubies he was paid to assassinate the sorceress. A ruby to a kid just for a few minutes work guiding someone through the city?! Nowadays you'd give a kid what...a couple bucks?


Mathayus is portrayed here by wrestling-superstar-turned-actor, The Rock. At 30:57 on the DVD, Mathayus seems to deliver the "people's eyebrow", a nod to The Rock's wrestling character, who was also known as the People's Champion, who would often raise his eyebrow in such a manner in the ring.


The scene of Mathayus taking cover behind a rolling gong during the escape from Gomorrah is very similar to one seen in the beginning of the 1984 film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.


As Mathayus clutches the edge of the broken balcony at 32:37 on the DVD, the gong falls down from the height to the street below and can be seen rolling down the street rapidly in the distance, nearly striking a pedestrian here and there.


At 33:52 on the DVD, notice that the kid appears to be making a wish before tossing a coin into the city's washing well. And a split-second later, the naked Cassandra emerges from the water, at which the boy utters, "Gods be praised!" Possibly the boy was wishing for the fulfillment of a youthful hormonal fantasy!


At 36:45 on the DVD, notice the scorpion sigil on the stone stele: a scorpion clutching a crescent moon in its pincers and, below it, a scorpion's tail curved into a circle.


The depiction of Memnon using scorpion's poison and having some scorpion sigils in his fortress suggests that the screenwriters may be implying that he is the historical King Scorpion I, with Mathayus becoming King Scorpion II after his defeat. 


Memnon and his head cronies all seem to wear a similar large pendant. It must be some kind of crest of Memnon's kingdom.


Mathayus is seen to use a handheld spyglass made of a bamboo tube and a piece of crystal. Such a device is not known to have been used to any effect in history. The first known invention of the telescope made with glass was in the 17th Century Netherlands.


Thorak tells his men he will give a thousand duranas to the one who brings him Mathayus' head. Presumably, "durana" is a coin that was in use in the setting of this movie, but I have been unable to find a real world mention of a coin by that name. The word may come from the alloy called durana metal which is 65% copper and smaller percentages of other metals.


Philos' presence in the middle of the desert without water at 50:55 suggests that he was dumped there by Memnon's men for his perceived betrayal of the warlord in allegedly helping Mathayus to escape Gomorrah.


At 56:16 on the DVD, Arpid is seen arm wrestling a woman with their left hands. Then at 56:19, they are suddenly using their right hands!


It's odd that Memnon tells his army at 1:01:50 that "tonight we celebrate" and for them to eat and drink their fill "for tomorrow we ride into battle." Consider that military leaders normally do not want their men getting drunk the night before and then being hung over on the day of battle!


Notice that as he is trying to impress the women around him at 1:02:10 with a boast of how he would have captured Mathayus had the man not run like a coward, Takmet is unable to draw back the string of Mathayus' bow, left behind in Gomorrah.


At 1:07:13 on the DVD, it can be seen that the top portion of Cassandra's garment is made up of small metallic symbols.


The cobras placed in the earthenware jars by Memnon's men as part of a test for Cassandra are monocled cobras, as seen by the single spot on the snake's hood. Cobras with twin spots on the hood are known as spectacled cobras.
Monocled cobra Spectacled cobra (photo from Wikipedia)


Notice that Memnon slashes off the head of the cobra held by Cassandra at 1:12:28, but it's not until 1:14:04 that we see the snake's body on the floor during the sword fight between him and Mathayus.


At 1:16:34 on the DVD, Cassandra is thrown onto a tabletop by Memnon, striking her left temple on a rock sitting there, stunning her. But, just moments later, she is seen laying on her right side as if she had landed on and struck her right temple.


At 1:19:27 on the DVD, we can see that one of the statues at the entrance of Memnon's fortress is that of a criosphinx, a lion with the head of a ram. 


Notes from the audio commentary on the DVD by director Chuck Russell


Russell notes that the hand axe used as a weapon by Mathayus is a kama. A kama is a scythe-like weapon also used for reaping crops in Japan and the Philippines.


Most of the desert scenes were shot at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in Southern California. The sand dunes were shot in Buttercup Valley in the Imperial Sand Dunes of California near the Arizona and Mexico borders (the sand dunes in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi were also shot here).


Russell seems to confirm that Arpid is really a horse thief, not a priest of Set as he claims while trying to bargain for his life in Memnon's camp.


She is never referred to by name in any dialog of the film, but the sorceress is named Cassandra.


The set housing the entrance to Memnon's fortress and the square in front of it were originally built for the classic 1960 film Spartacus.


Notes from the audio commentary on the DVD by The Rock


The Rock points out that the boy, Tutu Sweeney, who plays the street urchin befriended by Mathayus was not able to pronounce "Memnon" throughout the film, instead saying "Mennom". If you listen carefully to the boy's dialog, you can hear the mispronunciation.  


Memorable Dialog


may the gods have pity.wav


you're lucky we have the same mother.wav

him we'll kill for free.wav

live free, die well.wav

five different languages.wav

never touch the bow.wav

rivers of blood.wav

no greater city.wav

tighter than a crabs buttocks.wav

they'll behead him for sure.wav

hey, soldier.wav

maybe later.wav

gods be praised.wav

it's not the size of the hump.wav

he is dead.wav

that's comforting.wav

wait for me, please.wav

can I go home now?.wav

the blood of the scorpion.wav

you and the people have the same problem.wav

is it safe to drink?.wav

no need for concern.wav

I've come for the woman and your head.wav

you're a king now.wav

live free, rule well.wav

Scorpion King.wav

we'll make our own destiny.wav 


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