The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption (2012)
This has been in my Instant queue for a while now, and I've been meaning to get to it. I did The Scorpion King 2 almost four years ago, and while I didn't care for it, according to my review, the thing that felled it was the excessive 108-minute runtime and the plot padding used to get there. This new one is 105 minutes. Uh-oh, not a great improvement.
The Scorpion King 3 takes place where two left off, but still sometime in the past before The Rock's part one. Our hero has since lost the kingdom he won, and now is a total jackass who makes money as a paid assassin. He's given a job from king Ron Perlman to go help out Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett) in Thailand. Morrison is protecting a book that is used to summon three great warriors from the underworld, and Perlman's brother, Billy Zane, wants those warriors to take Perlman's kingdom. From here, our hero and his partner, a big smelly guy, are given the task by Morrison to rescue his daughter, who's being held by Zane. When they get to Zane's camp though, they realize there's a lot more going on here than meets the eye.
I actually cared less for this one than I did the last one. The biggest thing was the hero. He was a total douche. I get the idea that he becomes a douche and this story is supposed to be his "Battle for Redemption", but he's still a douche and no one I'm interested in rooting for. Beyond that, this had the same issue the first one did, making a TV episode's worth of story material go 105 minutes. You could really have taken the whole opening out, and just started with the hero and his buddy getting to Morrison's castle and getting the task to rescue the princess. Was the action good? I don't know, that's like asking if a Hercules episode had good action, it's all excitement by repetition: slash, slash, spin, slash, stab, stuntman fall over, repeat. Sure, mix in some explosions, which are cool, or elephants, which made me uncomfortable, but it's basically the same thing. Ultimately, this doesn't work for me.
I think no matter what, whether it's the bad wordy dialog with the lack of contractions substituting for sophisticated discourse, or the silly outfits and character names, the two things something like this needs to work is a quick, concise plot, and a likable hero; and from there it can be a lot of fun. This thing was doomed from the start when they decided the hero would be a jerk, because it's hard to get that toothpaste back in the bottle. Everything he did, from how he walked, to the looks on his face, to the long hair and the beard, it was all jerk, and I didn't enjoy it. Someone like The Rock can do jerk and make it work, but he's extremely charismatic. This guy, Victor Webster, is no Rock, but maybe if they'd made him more flamboyant he could've pulled being a jerk off (no pun intended). Anyway, I think the better take is the idea of making the hero a jerk was sauteed in wrong sauce from jump street, and never should've happened.
Krystal Vee played the princess, and as you can see, she's absolutely stunning. One thing I liked about her character is that we find out she's an accomplished fighter and allowed herself to be kidnapped by Zane so she could gain intel on his operation. I always like it when action/adventure conventions are turned on their ear like this, in this case the classic damsel in distress. Even better was how, because she was bound and gagged, she wasn't able to tell our Scorpion King to stop rescuing her because he was screwing things up until it was too late. The problem though is that this is still The Scorpion King's movie, so Vee can only step outside of the classic female role so much because she's still playing second fiddle to him. Also, her outfits are still the classic sexy-over-function.
Ten or fifteen years ago, The Scorpion King wouldn't be a series of DTV prequels, it would be a syndicated TV series, and may even still have Ron Perlman and Billy Zane in it. Because we live in an age when original syndicated TV programming doesn't exist, it's now DTV that the owners of these properties turn to to make money off of them. I think that's too bad, because 13 42-minute episodes would probably make something like the Scorpion King work better. It could be both episodic and have a running story arc, which would allow the writers to keep the stories quick and concise, while still building up to greater events. Many of the best shows on TV period from the mid-80s to the late-90s were syndicated: Star Trek: The Next Generation, Highlander: The Series, Hercules, The Legendary Journeys, and Xena, Warrior Princess-- Xena especially big, because it played such a key role in showing Hollywood that female action leads were commercially viable. Now we're left with this compromise of bad to mediocre at best DTV franchises, which isn't the same thing.
Look, it's Kelly Hu! Her archive footage from the first film made it's way into the beginning of this, though she isn't credited. I love Kelly Hu, and it's too bad she wasn't in this more-- or I guess at all since this is only archive footage. We've only seen her one other time on here, about four years ago when we reviewed The Tournament. She's always been more of a TV actress with big screen films mixed in, but with every actor doing more DTV work, maybe we'll see her more on here. Until then I guess I'll have to settle for archive footage.
While this is on Instant, I think the length and the overall unremarkableness of it makes it a pass, even in that capacity. It had some bright moments, especially Krystal Vee; but Zane and Perlman were somewhat under used, and any fun factor seeing those two or Vee in this might have, is overshadowed by the decision to make the hero a jerk for so much of the film. Again, it's the attempt to salvage the lost syndicated TV market with bad DTV, which, as we know, has varying degrees of success.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1781896/