Sometimes, against my better judgement (hah!), I find myself enjoying a movie that I probably shouldn't, to the point were I feel that even saying it's a "guilty pleasure" isn't a particularly good excuse. Case in point: "The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior", which is a prequel to a prequel that was also a spin-off. It's also more fun than that "Mummy" movie it's attached to ("Tomb of the Dragon Emperor") that came out that same year.
When his father Ashur (Peter Butler) is killed by the ruthless Sargon (MMA superstar Randy Couture), Mathayus (Michael Copon) is sent to a harsh training camp (is their any other kind?) Years later, Sargon has seized the throne, and when Mathayus refuses loyalty, the warrior becomes a wanted man. Fortunately for our hero, he is aided by the likes of tough tom-girl Layla (Karen David), mostly silent warrior Fong (Tom Wu), Greek scribe and warrior Ari (Simon Quarterman.) Together with a band of warriors, they must travel the pits of the underworld and back to put an end to Sargon's reign.
First, the bad: The movie does tend to drag a bit at times, and it has some serious plot hole problems. For example, Mathayus' brother dies here, but if you've seen the first one, you know that shouldn't be-his brother dies in that one. Was there a second brother we didn't know about or something? Then there's Sargon himself. To me, he just didn't feel like a very threatening nemesis, and it particularly doesn't help that Couture himself is an awful actor. Seriously, every time he has to deliver dialogue, I wished he'd keep his mouth shut.
Thankfully, Copon actually does an alright job as our here-he's not great mind you, but he does deliver a better than it has any right to be performance. In fact, most of the cast is surprisingly competent, which is refreshing. This is also probably because I saw the third one before this one, but at least Russel Mulachy (whose credits include "Highlander" and the underrated Ozploitation flick "Razorback") is a better director than Roel Reine. Granted, this isn't his best work, but he does know how to give the audience some fun set-pieces, and that he certainly does. From an angry Minotaur to Fulci inspired zombies, the action is pretty easy on the eyes and pulpy in a dumb but fun way.
Speaking of which, that's a good way to describe this movie-stupid as hell but sorta fun. If anything, it mostly feels like an updated version of the kind of cheesy but fun Sword n' Sorcery movies from the 80's-you know, stuff like "The Sword and the Sorcerer" and "Deathstalker", and best of all, it embraces it's genre roots. Oh, and the score by Klaus Badelt is also pretty good for a straight-to-video sequel.
By the time it was over, I didn't feel any desire to rave about this movie, as it's pretty light entertainment. However, it's not too bad for a straight to video sequel, and would make for a fine double bill with the Sword n' Sorcery cheese fest of your choosing. In short: It's what the next movie should have been like.