"Before the time of the pyramids," a horde from the East invades the ancient world, led by the ruthless Memnon, who by their law, is king for being their greatest warrior. His many victories come from the help of a sorcerer who predicts the outcomes of battles, leaving only a few free tribes to oppose him.
Mathayus, his half-brother Jesup, and friend Rama, the only three true remaining Akkadians, are hired by King Pheron of the last free tribes to kill Memnon's sorcerer for twenty blood rubies, upsetting Pheron's son Takmet, as it is the last of their treasury, and Nubian King Balthazar, who dislikes the Akkadians. The Akkadians manage to sneak into Memnon's camp, but are ambushed by Memnon's guards, having been tipped off by Takmet who killed his own father and defected to Memnon's side. Jesup and Rama are hit by arrows, but Mathayus manages to sneak into the sorcerer's tent, where he sees that the sorcerer is actually a sorceress, Cassandra. Mathayus is ambushed and meets Memnon himself, who brutally executes Jesup in front of him, and is about to kill Mathayus too. Cassandra, however, tells Memnon that the gods wish Mathayus to survive the night, and to defy them will incur their wrath and cost him his victories. Memnon has Mathayus buried to his neck in the desert to be devoured by fire ants at dawn, but he manages to escape with help from a horse thief, Arpid.
Deciding to finish his mission and avenge his brother, Mathayus sneaks into Memnon's stronghold, Gomorrah, and manages to enter Memnon's palace with help from a street urchin. He briefly meets Memnon's court magician, Philos, who hides him and then directs him to the courtyard where Memnon is training. Mathayus tries to shoot Memnon from the watchtower, but is forced to save the street urchin from having his hand amputated for theft by shooting the axe out of Takmet's hand, alerting the guards to his presence. Mathayus only barely manages to escape Gomorrah, abducting Cassandra along the way, knowing that Memnon will come for her.
Cassandra tries to escape from Mathayus and even tells him that she has been Memnon's prisoner since she was a child. Sympathetic, Mathayus allows her the choice of leaving, but warns her of worse dangers and that she is likely safer with him. Meanwhile, Memnon sends his right-hand man Thorak and a group of guards to kill Mathayus and retrieve Cassandra, but Mathayus manages to slay them all under the cover of a sandstorm and in a cave, while dueling and fatally stabbing Thorak in the abdomen. With his dying breaths, Thorak manages to stab Mathayus in the leg with a scorpion blood-laced arrow. Cassandra, however, uses her magic to save Mathayus' life. As an insult and a warning, Mathayus sends Thorak's blood-stained pendant to Memnon.
Mathayus, Arpid and Cassandra then run into Philos, who had earlier managed to flee from Memnon's palace and has perfected an explosive powder he was working on. However, they are ambushed by the rebels, now under the rule of Balthazar. Though Mathayus defeats Balthazar in a fight and earns his grudging respect and sanctuary, Cassandra has a vision of Memnon and his army slaughtering the entire rebel camp. She informs Mathayus and then prophesies that when the moonlight reaches Memnon's palace, the King on High will become the invincible Scorpion King, and Memnon believes himself to be the one destined to become the Scorpion King. Furthermore, she informs Mathayus that if he faces Memnon, he will most likely die from being shot, but Mathayus assures her that he will make his own destiny and they sleep together.
The next morning, however, Cassandra returns to Memnon in order to stall him and possibly kill him. Mathayus, with help from Balthazar, Arpid, Philos and the army of rebels, launches an all-out assault on Memnon's stronghold, facing Memnon personally before he can kill Cassandra, while Balthazar confronts and kills Takmet, avenging Pheron, and takes on the full force of Memnon's forces alone. The battle rages on until Mathayus is shot by a guard as in Cassandra's vision. As Memnon takes his place in the House of Scorpio to become the Scorpion King, Cassandra kills the guard while Mathayus retrieves his bow, pulls the arrow out of his shoulder and uses it to shoot the exhausted Memnon, sending him off the edge of the roof just as Philos and Arpid use the explosive powder to destroy the palace's foundation stone, bringing down the bulk of Memnon's forces. Memnon is consumed by the flames as he falls to his death. With the battle over, the remnants of Memnon's army bow before Mathayus, who by their law is their new king, the Scorpion King.
In the aftermath, Mathayus and Balthazar share a good-natured farewell as the latter returns to his own kingdom. Cassandra tells Mathayus that she sees a period of peace and prosperity coming, but warns him that it will not last forever. Undeterred, Mathayus decides that they will make their own destiny.Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Mathayus / The Scorpion King
Steven Brand as Memnon
Kelly Hu as Sorceress Cassandra
Grant Heslov as Arpid
Bernard Hill as Philos
Michael Clarke Duncan as Balthazar
Peter Facinelli as Prince Takmet
Sherri Howard as Queen Isis
Ralf Möller as Thorak
Branscombe Richmond as Jesup
Roger Rees as King Pheron
Joseph Ruskin as Tribal Leader
Tyler Mane as Barbarian Chieftain
The Scorpion King holds a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 134 reviews. Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 45 based on 30 reviews. Roger Ebert, film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, writing "A wise move, too, because 'The Scorpion King' is set 'thousands of years before the Pyramids,' so property values in Gomorrah were a good value for anyone willing to buy and hold." James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film two stars (out of four), saying: "It's possible to make an engaging action/adventure picture of this sort, but The Scorpion King isn't it." Dennis Harvey of Variety gave a positive review, saying the film "rouses excitement mostly from stuntwork and thesp agility rather than CGI excess." Nathan Rabin of The Onion's A.V. Club gave the film a mildly positive review, calling it "prototypical summer-movie fare, designed to be consumed, enjoyed, and forgotten all at once." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a score of C+, calling it "plodding and obvious" but adding that The Rock "holds it together." Jonathan Foreman of the New York Post gave a negative review, saying that The Scorpion King "has none of the qualities — epic sweep, relative originality and heartfelt bloodthirstiness — that made Conan so trashily entertaining."
The Scorpion King grossed $12,553,380 on its opening day and $36,075,875 in total over the weekend, from 3,444 theaters for an average of $10,475 per venue, and ranking at #1 at the box office. It then dropped 50 percent in its second weekend, but remained at #1, earning another $18,038,270. The film closed on June 27, 2002, with a total domestic gross of $91,047,077, and an additional $74,286,103 internationally, for a total worldwide gross of $165,333,180, against a budget of $60 million, making it a moderate box office success.
The soundtrack to The Scorpion King was released on March 26, 2002, just before the film was released on April 19. It is filled with various bands performing either previous released tracks or their b-sides.
The film spawned two video games: The Scorpion King: Rise of the Akkadian for the Nintendo GameCube and the PlayStation 2 which served as a prequel to the film's events; and a sequel, The Scorpion King: Sword of Osiris, for the Game Boy Advance, in which Cassandra is abducted by the ruthless sorcerer Menthu and his lackey, the witch Isis (not to be confused with Queen Isis from the film), prompting Mathayus to undergo a quest to uncover the legendary Sword of Osiris and use it to defeat Menthu and Isis once and for all and rescue Cassandra.
Following the film's release, there were initial plans for a sequel with Johnson to return as Mathayus, but these plans eventually fell through and the project was shelved. A direct-to-video prequel, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, was released in 2008 with Michael Copon as Mathayus and Randy Couture as the villain, Sargon. A sequel The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption, was released in 2012 with Victor Webster as Mathayus and Billy Zane as the villain, King Talus.
The fourth film in the franchise, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power, was released in 2015. Victor Webster reprised his role from the third film, while Michael Biehn, Rutger Hauer, Lou Ferrigno and former WWE female wrestler Eve Torres joined the cast.