Friday, July 31, 2015

The Scorpion King 3: Going Beyond Anachronism

The Mummy II introduced the character of the scorpion king as someone who had lost everything and made a deal with death himself (Anubis) to get revenge.

The scorpion king was a very early king of Egypt and almost nothing has been left behind so our knowledge is pretty lacking.  I wouldn't even call it fragmentary because that would imply there are more fragments than there actually are.  He was, we think, the first king of upper Egypt.  Beyond that, we've got practically nothing.

As such he's almost a blank slate you can do just about anything with.

So they did.  The Scorpion King showed his rise to power, but people who know about continuity knew that he had to lose everything and sell his soul in order to get revenge because the second The Mummy movie couldn't happen without it.  Not that preventing the The Mummy sequels would have been a bad thing.

The Scorpion King II avoided the problem of the main character's downfall by being a prequel.

Then we come to this movie.  This movie, where the commander of Roman centurions sends the last of the Akkadians, former king of Egypt who ruled a thousand years before the Akkadians existed, to help defend an Indian kingdom of much vagueness, where there happen to be Ninja around, from an evil horde commanded by a Confederate.

But I get ahead of myself.

This movie starts with Mathias being listless.  He's lost everything, sold his soul, gotten revenge, but he isn't dead yet so it's unclear what he's supposed to do with his life between now and his death.  When he dies Anubis will take his soul and make him into a ... I don't even know.  Undead isn't even the right word.  A something or other servant.  But until then, what's a former ruler to do?

We open with him in prison, where someone taunts him with his "legendary failures."  We're reminded that he's the last Akkadian.  That means that this takes place circa 2154 BCE because that's when the Akkadians ceased to be a thing so, as the last Akkadian is still alive, 2154 BCE must be in living memory.

We're reminded that he was king.  He became that when he kicked Memnon's ass.  Memnon was involved in the Trojan War, so 1200 BCE.  We're reminded that he was the scorpion king, so this must have taken place around 3200 BCE because that's when the scorpion king ruled.

We're reminded of the downfall of the people he was king of, though this appears to have been a result of plague so maybe he hasn't sold his soul just yet.  Whatever.

He almost singlehandedly decimated a civilization that took over three thousand years to build, we are told.  Um ... I'm not even going to try to date this.  Most civilizations don't last that long.  China is the longest lasting civilization that we know of thus far and it didn't reach three thousand years until two hundred years after the prophet Muhammad.

What civilization could he have destroyed that took three thousand years to build.  Even if we go with the Trojan War dating and assume that Mathias was singlehandedly responsible for the bronze age collapse... the Mycenaeans were only 500 years old, the Hittites about the same, the Egyptians come closest but they were only 2,000 years old at the time of the collapse.

This can't be dated because it's bullshit.

Anyway, Mathias kicks ass, does not take names, and breaks free from his bonds, kills everyone present, and we get to the title:

The Scorpion King III
The Battle For Redemption

We get a nice voice over saying that he lost everything (wasn't that the point of the last scene?) returned to the mercenary lifestyle, and wants nothing more than to die well in pursuit of mercenary gold (if the gold belonged to mercenaries they wouldn't need to hire him) and gain freedom from the pain that haunts him.

King Horus (played by Hellboy, and dressed in garb I can't place) is flanked on both sides by the Roman centurions he commands.  Wait, that's not what the voice over says.  I switched to the images.

Direct quotes in bold:

He faces a terrible crisis.  His brother, Talus, a disaffected Confederate cavalry man from central casting, has taken a legion of soldiers (crusaders, though I'm not sure which crusade they're from) to the far east to pillage its treasures and amass an army powerful enough to return and conquer Horus' kingdom.  Now Talus marches on the palace (Hindu temple) of king Ramusan, Horace's last ally in the known world and guardian of the legendary book of the dead (Egyptian book of the dead written in FUCKING HIEROGLYPHS) and blah blah blah.  There's nothing more of value in the voice over.

We return to narrative to find a meeting between Horus (or should it be Horace given that he commands Romans?) and Mathias.  Looking at his clothing more, I think Horace is, maybe, a Late Roman Era Barbarian king.  But why, then, does he command Romans?

They walk through ruins, because in the old days the ruined structures of today were already ruined, and Mathias is told that it's a suicide mission, but he'll be well paid if he lives, and he's being assigned a partner.  Only survivor of the siege of Babylon.  The siege was in 689 BCE.  He doesn't look Babylonian though.  I have a feeling he was an immigrant from Britannia or Germania, though from an earlier period than Horace.  Horace is a refined barbarian who might sit on the throne (Could he be Alaric?) or maybe even a late middle ages king.  Olaf is an oaf and a lout.

Olaf has a random limerick (earliest example 13th century AD) about Sodom (no firm date.)  He wants a meal that involves a stuffed sheep's stomach, couldn't quite make out the details but that settles it.  This Babylonian is from Caledonia.  My guess of Britannia was only slightly off.

After being sufficiently annoyed by the haggis-wanting Babylonian working for the maybe-medieval king who rules Roman Centurians, Mathias starts a fist fight with Olaf.

Arab bandits try to rob them at sword point, but when the two combatants don't even take notice they conclude the two are stupid and simply take what they want.  "That was the easiest robbery we have done in years," one says as they walk away with our two heroes' swords, horses, and supplies in general.

Unfortunately for the robbers, Mathias and Olaf settle their differences and join the robbers for drinks which does not go well for the robbers.

And fuck.  Olaf is from Germania.  He's a Teuton from Germania.  Let's break this down.

The Teuton's history is incomplete at best, but they didn't come into Germania until the second century BC.  So he's from sometime after 200 BC timeframe because before that time there were no Teuton's from Germania.  But Germania is a Roman term for the area that was coined by Julius Caesar.  All of the dialog is translated to English so we can't dismiss Germania as meaning Germany-esque.  Germania is the name he's using.  Which means that it's well after Julius Caesar because he's using a foreigner's word to describe his homeland and that takes fucking time.

This man is from AD.  (Well, I've been using Common Era abbreviations, so he's from CE.)

And this man, from after the BCE/CE change over, was the only survivor of the siege of Babylon 689 years from before that change over happened.

Mathias asks, "What the fuck are you doing here?" but in more movie appropriate terms, and we learn that our dark haired Tuton from Germania came to fight in the great desert wars, but has yet to earn the fortune he had hoped for.

Anyway, they go to sleep and awake to find themselves surrounded by a pack of tigers.  Tigers don't hunt in packs.

Tigers' historic range is actually pretty vast, but given the Hindu temple-palace I'm guessing this means they've reached India.


Meanwhile back at base.  The Roman Centurions deliver to their medieval king a message that his Confederate brother has declared war on his Hindu-temple-living ally and the medieval king orders his generals be summoned for they will march tonight.  The camera pulls back to reveal his Saracen army waiting just outside his battle tent.

I had completely forgotten, or failed to notice in the first place, the Saracen army.  Now I know why he and his brother are at odds.  Talus' army (from the glimpse we were given during voice over) is composed of Christian crusaders.  Horace here commands an army of Saracens.  Of course they fight each other.  It's tradition.

Part of me wonders if this movie was the result of a costume department being told, "Give us warrior costumes," and when they asked, "What kind of warrior costumes?" they were simply told, "Old ones," and said, "Fuck it," and thus every costume in the movie is in fact a prank on their part.

But we haven't gotten started yet.  We're less than twenty minutes into the journey to anachronism and beyond.


We finally get to see our Confederate outside of the glimpse we got in expository voice over.  I swear every time I see him I think he's about to say that he has to go away for a bit to help Jesse James rob a bank.

But he doesn't.

Mathias was told that in addition to the king who makes a Hindu Temple his palace, there is another anti-Talus force in the area.  A group of rebels following a leader known only as "Cobra".

Here at the center of his camp our Confederate has some of his own Roman soldiers, though a crusader can be seen in the background.

The Roman soldiers tell him that they've caught one of Cobra's rebels.  An ambiguously Asian man whose time period I cannot place.  Talus is concerned that Cobra hasn't been seen in days which could indicate that Cobra has been spending time on something of import.  Perhaps a major sneak attack that's about to happen.

When the rebel doesn't respond (a rebel against a Confederate, doesn't that mean he's a loyalist?) Talus says that perhaps he should speak louder, rips off one of the rebel's ears, and asks, "Might you hear me now?" into the ear.

Our disaffected post-war Confederate who commands Romans and Crusaders alike works for Verizon.  No wonder he's so evil.

Also, he used the term Heathen as a pejorative, which makes since given that he's a Confederate, but why did the Roman centurions even understand?

Talus knows that Horace will send an army, so he wants to take out the Hindu-temple-palace king's forces tonight.  Apparently he'd been waiting to find out what Cobra was up to, but feels he can wait no longer.


We get to finally see the people who live in and around the Hindu-temple-palace, which will randomly change into something more like a European stone fort when under attack, and it sent me into an ultimately useless research flurry because I'm sure that the weapons and costume being used by the soldiers there are enough to get a pretty good idea of the time period, but damned if I can do it myself.

Regardless we're in the magical land of red turbans.  Except, wait, that looked like a Persian "immortal" circa 480 BC.

And when the fuck did Talus get Saracens on his side?  Granted they aren't from the same time period as his brother's Saracens, but it's really seeming like everyone will fight for anyone in this setting.

And now that I say that, there are Talus Saracens that are dressed exactly like Horace Saracens.  How the hell are you supposed to tell if these end of the First Crusade Saracens are serving the Confederate soldier or the Medieval King?  And why don't the Roman Centurions ever do any fighting?  Are they just meant to stand around and look intimidating at headquarters?

They've unleashed the War Elephants!!!!


Ok, I think the Persian immortals are actually fighting against the possibly Sikh Hindu-Temple-Palace people.  That was very much not clear before.  So the Saracens and the Persians are beating the possibly Sikh Hindu-Temple-Palace people but the last Akadian who hails from a time before Akaddia and the Tuton who comes from Germania before there was a Germania and before the Tutons were in it will come to the rescue.

The Tuton, you see, is well versed in the ways of gorillas and chimps suggests that they use gorilla warfare which just happens to be guerrilla warfare in spite of the fact that those words are entirely unrelated and ... oh my fucking god this makes no sense.


King "I'm the only one of my people who doesn't wear a turban" concludes that he should never have trusted an outsider to come to his aid (xenophobic much?) and not, "Armies take a long time to move so it sort of make sense that the one that was nearest us would make it here first."

Meanwhile our outsiders are actually making great warfare preparations.

Shortly after a battle elephant falls the plan reaches its conclusion and, just before they're set on fire, I finally see one of the Christian Crusaders from the intro among the Saracens and the Persian Immortals.


The two are introduced as, "Akkadian and ... this guy."

It turns out that there are disappointments all around after the victory.  The local king thought there would be more than two men.  Our two heroes thought they would be paid.

Unfortunately the money meant for them has been spent keeping the kingdom alive.  He's broke.

It seems no one will be happy until Horace arrives at the head of his Roman/Saracen army.  Then there will be payment for our heroes and more men to defend the kingdom.

Until then the king has another offer.  He offers his daughter's hand in marriage.  He doesn't show her, but instead brings out a really non-representative painting that's two steps short of Picasso.  Mathias accepts because the necklace she's wearing in the painting is a legendary treasure.

Then comes the complication.  She's been kidnapped by the bad guy to blackmail the kingdom into surrendering.


In the bad guy's camp we're back to Romans and Saracens.  What the hell happened to the Christian Crusaders from the open?

In his casual wear our Confederate Verizon Spokesman has a much more "rich playboy of indeterminate modern era" look.  He has a harem of willing woman, and the princess tied to a post.  Her clothing, especially her veil, gives off a slight Hollywood Arabic/Belly Dance feel.  I don't think it actually fits into any real life era anywhere.

Outside our heroes formulate a plan.  Well... twelve percent of a plan.

The King is going to create a distraction with his army, but they still need to get in, save the princess, liberate the legendary treasure they actually care about, and get out.

They notice that slaves seem to be forced to fight on the mythical front lines (I say mythical because it's possible for an army to get from the good king's base to the bad king's base without ever crossing these "lines" so I don't think they exist) and Mathias sells them Olaf.

Olaf gains admittance as a slave, Mathias as someone they've done business with.

Hindu-Temple-Place King shows up with his army and the whole of space and time collapses in on itself.


On the good side we have battle elephants, and maybe-Sikhs, and maybe Chinese peasants, and maybe Japanese peasants, and and one maybe samurai, and possibly a medieval knight.

On the bad side we have Roman centurions (they do fight), and FUCKING TROJANS, and Saracens, and maybe hoplites, and the Christian Crusaders their hour come round at last, and trebuchets, and maybe Sikhs of their own but wearing different colors, and all these things and more are led by Mr. Confederate cavalry man on his horse.

Mathias slips in to save the princess, I notice that the bad side contains maybe Chinese peasants too as they're escorting Olaf, and that is when the Ninja show up.


I'm going to give you a moment to digest that.


So, just to recap, a kingdom in probably India has been caught in the crossfire between a medieval or Late-Roman-Period-barbarian king and his Confederate brother and as a result the last Akkadian (circa 2154 BCE) who happens to be the scorpion king (circa 3200 BC) that defeated Memnon (circa 1200 BCE) and a Tuton from Gemania (some time AD/CE) who survived the Siege of Babylon (689 BCE) are sneaking into the Confederate's camp under cover of a battle between [various groups of indeterminate time and place that are all east of Constantinople] on one side and a Roman-Persian-Trojan-Saracen coalition of trebuchet users and that is when the Ninja show up.

The ninja take the princess, and run straight through the battle.  Except for the individual one who has the princess as that one is on horseback and rides straight through the battle.

Mr. Confederate first sees Mathias while Mathias is standing in the middle of the battle fighting Ninja.

I'm not even going to try to place the telescope the Confederate uses to do said spotting beyond: No.  Just no.

The Ninja have the opportunity to kill Mathias twice, and don't, before they steal an elephant and leave.


Talus hires Mathias and Olaf to recover the princess as he plans to marry her.  He says he'll give bonuses if they bring back Cobra's head.

Now Mathias and Olaf have been hired by all sides of the war (well, except Cobra) which, I think, is the mercenary equivalent of bingo.

Ninja are magic so soon there's random slow motion, impossible jumps, and lots of wooshing sounds.


Unfortunately for the ninja, the underdogs always win so after they've kicked Mathias and Olaf's single collective ass for a bit, the tide starts to turn.  The Ninja call in reinforcements, Cobra turns out to be the princess (shocking twist, I know) and since in a fair fight she's already utterly lost in most embarrassing fashion (it's one thing to lose a fight, it's quite another to lose in a way that causes your entire army to be ready to surrender), princess-ninja resorts to being a cheating asshole to knock out Mathias.

Romantic comedy rules say that these two will end up married.

It turns out that the reason that princess-ninja is so pissed off is that she's fucked up big and she doesn't take personal responsibility for anything.

There is a real problem with movies writing female characters as complete and utter assholes and expecting you not to notice.  In defense of this movie, I didn't notice the first time I saw it.  But here's the score:
  • The princess is Cobra, leader of the resistance.
  • The princess in a constant state of lying to her father so that he does not know that.
  • The princess lost the legendary treasure that is her necklace which, as this is the The Mummy universe, is not just something of historic and intrinsic value but instead a magical MacGuffin of doom and thus by losing it to the most evil man alive at this point in history she's brought us all to brink of destruction.
  • To fix the massive fuck up of the last point she staged her own kidnapping, letting Talus think he'd really kidnapped her, but didn't bother to tell her father or any of her public allies that it was staged.
  • As a result her father tried to save her, causing uncounted deaths and severely weakening an army that couldn't defend the kingdom as it was.
  • Thus, by her mendacity her kingdom is doomed and all her people will die or be enslaved unless she can gain outside help.
  • Therefore she blames Mathias, the only outside help that she could possibly get at this stage.
She's brought almost certain destruction down upon on everything and everyone she's ever cared about because she wanted to play secret agent.  Not be a secret agent; secret agents are agents of someone, they have a boss.  In her case it would be the king and none of the senseless slaughter would have taken place if the king had been allowed to know the truth.

No, she wanted to play a secret agent, and part of that meant keeping the play time secret from daddy, and as a result she's almost certainly doomed her entire kingdom.  Mathias and Olaf are the only unknown quantities, and thus the only way she can keep "almost certainly" from becoming "definitely" and yet she goes out of her way to alienate them.

I did not remember her being this much of an ass at all.

She's then surprised when trying to alienate them leaves them feeling alienated.

She almost does a decent job of recruiting them even after the horrid start by showing them the victims of Talus and appealing to their hearts, but then fucks it up when she decides to press Mathias on his past.  Recall that everything he cared about was lost.  His love, his people, his kingdom.  Reminding him of his "legendary failures" was something that was done to him at the beginning of the movie by people he then killed.


The Hindu-Temple-Palace people's army was already out matched at the beginning of the movie and nearly fell when Mathias and Olaf first showed up.  Now they've taken heavy losses in a diversionary battle that took place only because the princess couldn't be bothered to tell anyone her plan.

Romans, Saracens, and Crusaders march on the kingdom of the Hindu-Temple-Palace.

The kingdom is crushed.  Her father is killed.  Talus gets the book of the dead.

It was the only possible outcome from the moment she decided to let herself get "kidnapped" without letting the good guys know there were air-quotes involved.

This, however, places Mathias in a stronger position.  He has no history of saving kingdoms, but if you want to eliminate the ruler of a bad kingdom and replace him, Mathias has done that before.


The burned out ruins of a place we've never actually seen before that is, presumably, supposed to be part of the kingdom that was crushed reminds Mathias of the destruction of his own people (the ones he ruled, not the people he was a part of) in spite of the two mass deaths being unrelated in all possible ways.

Mathias ends up sticking around.

Olaf and Mathias must learn to forget gravity and think like insects and ... um what's the point of all this?  Granted Cobra and her Ninja have learned the art of the Ninja in negative 4,600 years, or, you know, negative 3,500ish years or ... the point is negative a lot of years.  But even if they've learned it in negative time, what the hell are Olaf and Mathias supposed to pick up in a night?

Olaf does badly.  Mathias does well, then flirt-fights with Cobra but suffers from the fact that he can't shut the fuck up and when he's talking is a really good time to punch him, kick him, elbow him, knee him, or otherwise bash him in the ribs.

Basically, he kept on winning for a while, reaching a point where the fight stopped, assuming the fight was over and letting his guard down, Cobra kept on showing him the fight wasn't over by delivering a blow when his guard was thus down.


Talus isn't wasting his time trying to teach people an entire new fighting style in a night.  Nor is he flirting.  He uses the book to summon three godlings.  The female one is Japanese (land of the rising sun), one of the male ones is a generic white barbarian, the other is a lion spirit whose first name is "Zulu" and is, of course, black.

He commands them all, though Tsukai, the female Japanese spirit, at least has the decency to be somewhat perturbed that a mortal has dared summon her.

Talus is unimpressed, even though apparently this summoning can change weather patterns (it's raining where he is, not so where the good guys are) and the summonings were accompanied by pyrotechnics.  He requires a demonstration, and orders them to kill every member of his army present.  They do it in seconds.

Waste of an army.

He assigns the generic white barbarian to guard him, and sends the others to slaughter Cobra's men mercilessly.


The black guy dies first.


The remaining two warriors are assigned to guard the book.  While they are bound to obey, they're not supposed to be slaves.  Unfortunately people who are bound to obey are slaves if their master wishes it because they're, you know, bound to obey.

Talus makes a point of this by repeating that they're slaves many, many times finally singing the word as he walks away.


Mathais has a plan.

Talus, on the other hand, has a party.  The Confederate's US southern accent is coming out.  I guess even he noticed his odd costuming.  The Centurions and Saracens are celebrating with a Persian Immortal in the background, the drums begin to beat and the dancers from India come out.

Also there's a random very blond very white woman.  Given that their Tuton is tanned with brown hair, I wasn't sure this movie knew blonde people existed (which wouldn't be a bad thing, given where it takes place.  Wait.  Where does it take place?)

Mathias and Olaf come in with the princess captured and a decapitated head they claim belongs to Cobra.  (Talus had his godlings use magic to seek out Cobra, but never thought to ask them who Cobra was and thus doesn't know the princess is Cobra.)

Talus promises them their gold and invites them to a wedding, or an execution "Either way, it's a feast."


Olaf goes for the book, Mathias goes for the medallion, the princess (who I'm not sure if I should call by her given name, Silda, or her chosen name, Cobra) stalls Talus who doesn't want to wait for the wedding to have sex.

Because narrowly avoiding rape is the subject of comedy-suspense.  Or that's how the movie tries to sell it.

It does actually manage to be funny after the possibility of coerced sex is gone and it's become a strange combat scene.  Talus is wearing only his pants.  (Barbarian!)  Pocketless pants.  No scabbard, not much space to hide a weapon, and he finds himself in dire need of a weapon.  The funny part is when he finds he's stored too many objects of import down his pants and has to try more than once before he manages to pull out the dagger that he was hiding down there.


Olaf dresses up as a Saracen to sneak in and get the book, but he's kind of crap at sneaking.


Warriors from infinite time periods storm the castle.


Cobra fights Tsukai.  Olaf fights generic white barbarian spirit.  Mathias gives chase to Talus.

Something I didn't remember, and not the random high speed chariot chase scene that's completely random and makes no sense given the semi-established topography, Tsukai points out that Cobra's deception is killing her people.  It totally is.

Before she let herself be captured it prevented the two anti-Talus forces in the area from coordinating their efforts.  After she let herself be captured it literally led to enough of the army being killed to collapse the entire kingdom.

We've already established this here, but it's nice that the movie notices.

The army, though, is magically restored enough to storm the castle.  As I noted.

Mathius gets the medallion from Talus and leaves him to the army.  He turns the godlings with the medallion and an incantation from the book.  Also the help of Cobra's dad who is somehow still alive (but only just) in spite of being mortally wounded fucking ages ago.  (Where has he been all this time?)

Cobra apologizes for the deceit, her father says there's nothing to forgive, he's proud of her, and "My people are in good hands," before he finally succumbs to his wounds.

It's not clear if he's referring to Cobra or Mathias.

Hellboy Horace the maybe-Late-Roman-Barbarian maybe-medieval king finally shows up with his strange army of centurions and Saracens.  Mathias has been made king and tells him that while the people are grateful for the help, they will not accept foreign rule.

Hellboy actually smiles.  He says that he must confer with his generals, but it's pretty clear that he's not going to fight.  Our people in the nowhere and neverwhen have their freedom, if being ruled by an outsider who has only been there a week or two at most is indeed freedom.


This is how The Scorpion King 3: Going Beyond Anachronism ends.

Credits roll.

Some people make a lot of the scenes shown in the credits, but all that we can truly say for sure is that Olaf had a lot to drink, Mathias and Cobra kissed a lot, and Cobra gave Mathias the magical MacGuffin of doom necklace.  Mathias actually had it at the end of the movie so he must have given it back to Cobra only to have her give it back to him.

Some say that this is foreshadowing that he hasn't sold his soul yet and will at some point in the future loose everything again and use the magical MacGuffin of doom necklace to contact Anubis to make the soul selling deal.

I think that's reading way too much into one scene with no dialog.


I got the movie because I thought that Hellboy was going to be much bigger part of it, given how he was featured on the cover, and I tend to like him as an actor.

Get bait and switched in by the Hellboy, stay for the anachronism.  Though after the Ninja show up there really aren't anymore great moments of, "Wait, what millennium is this again?"  You just can't top Ninja.

There was a river.  Maybe they could have had riverboat pirate-ninja with Cajun accents.  That would have been fun.


  1. The whole thing was good, but my favourite was this bit:

    Our disaffected post-war Confederate who commands Romans and Crusaders alike works for Verizon. No wonder he's so evil.

    (I also like "the mercenary equivalent of bingo".)

  2. I'm starting to get the feeling that they loaded up all that stuff in the early scenes so that any historian would be so busy frothing at the mouth they wouldn't notice anything else later.

    Or for The Doctor (or Zombie Apocalypse Bella, if I've got your continuities straight) to show up and say "time is broken".

    Everybody loves Ron Perlman (Hellboy).

    Yo ho ho, y'all.

  3. Something something My Immortal for the fantasy action crew something something.

    Wait, no, I'm pretty sure some anime have been (GLORIOUSLY) like this. But they also don't anchor themselves to our reality and history, so. Would giant robots top ninja?

    1. Would giant robots top ninja?

      Giant ninja robots might.