Believe it or not, The Scorpion King 4: Quest For Power is a historical footnote. It is the first 2015 release to be available for viewing on Netflix streaming! That’s because The Scorpion King 4 was a straight-to-video release and Universal Pictures doesn’t seem to have much faith in the film’s commercial prospects. In fact, if not for my love of historical footnotes, I probably would never have even watched the film.
But I did watch it, mostly because I didn’t like the idea of The Woman In Black 2 being the only 2015 films that I had seen up to that point.
And you know what?
The Scorpion King 4 is cheap, silly, and often times impossible to follow. But, when taken on its own terms, it’s also a lot of fun. At the very least, it’s more entertaining than The Woman In Black 2.
As for what the film is about … well, that’s a good question. To be honest, I’ve never seen any of the previous Scorpion King films. I know from Wikipedia that the character was spun-off from Brendan Fraser’s old Mummy film and, while I’ve seen bits and pieces of it on cable over the years, I’ve never actually sat through that entire movie. However, I do know that the Mummy was Egyptian and apparently, so was the Scorpion King.
So, you would assume that Scorpion King 4 would take place in ancient Egypt. And indeed, the opening scene is set in the desert and involves the Scorpion King, also known as Mathayus (Victor Webster), and his partner Drazen (Will Kemp) storming a fortress that feels vaguely Egyptian. After a lengthy battle, Mathayus and Drazen steal an urn that is covered with hieroglyphics. However, Drazen double crosses Mathayus and takes the urn for himself.
Okay, I thought, we’re obviously in Egypt.
Except, of course, in the very next scene, Mathayus meets with his employer, King Zakour (Rutger Hauer). King Zakour explains that Drazen is the son of a rival king (played by Michael Biehn, who makes little effort to hide his Southern accent). Zakour also explains that the urn hides mystical secrets that, if deciphered, could allow Drazen to conquer the world. Zakour sends Mathays to the rival kingdom, ordering him to deliver a peace treaty.
And, while Zakour delivers all of this exposition, it’s hard not to notice that he appears to live in an ancient Roman villa and he has a rather cheap-looking crown perched on his head.
Okay, I thought, the film has moved to the Roman Empire but at least I know we’re still in ancient times…
Except then Mathayus rides his camel into the rival kingdom and it turns out to look a like the set from a community theater production of Spamalot. As soon as Mathayus arrives, he is captured by Drazen’s men and ends up in a jail cell next to Valina (Ellen Holman), a revolutionary who is wearing a green, prison bikini top. After Mathays is framed for the king’s death, he and Valina escape from the prison and run into the wilderness, where Valina changes into a battle-worthy bikini top.
They reach the house of Valina’s father (Barry Bostwick) and it turns out to be a Dutch windmill! So, within the first 30 minutes of the film, we’ve gone from ancient Egypt to the Roman Empire to a medieval village in England to Renaissance Netherlands. Eventually, our characters will end up in another village, one that happens to feature a temple that looks a lot like a left over set from Hercules in the Haunted World…
What’s surprising is that the film’s refusal to settle on a definite setting or time period is actually oddly charming. As soon as that windmill showed up and a feather-covered Barry Bostwick flew across screen (Bostwick is an inventor who has filled the windmill with blueprints for cars and airplanes), I knew that this was a film that was at peace with being a mess. And you had to respect the film’s no apologies attitude towards being incoherent.
Trying to keep up with the plot is exhausting so I suggest that, if you should find yourself watching The Scorpion King 4, you ignore the plot. The best thing about The Scorpion King 4 is that it doesn’t take itself all that seriously. All of the dialogue is either intentionally melodramatic or anachronistically humorous and all of the actors seem to be having fun going over the top. Some of the fight scenes are exciting, some of the scenery is pretty, and some parts of the film are better than others.
In the end, The Scorpion King 4 is pretty forgettable. But it’s still better than The Woman In Black 2.