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The Ending Of The Scorpion King Explained

Everybody has to start somewhere.

Whether you're an ancient mercenary destined to one day take on the powers of an arachnid demigod and eventually sell your soul to Anubis in an attempt to conquer the world or a professional wrestler looking to take the next step in your career as an entertainer in an attempt to conquer the world, you have to get your big break somewhere. 

For Dwayne Johnson, that break came in the character of the Scorpion King. Though Johnson was already a big-name wrestler who had done some small parts on television shows, 2001's The Mummy Returns marked his big-screen debut, and the following year's The Scorpion King was his first role as a leading man. Everything his career has brought — box office superstardom, a sitcom about his life growing up, possible presidential ambitions — started there. 

Johnson is one of the most famous people on the planet; chances are you're familiar with his story. What you might not know is that the legend of the Scorpion King has been growing that whole time, too. 

How does one become the Scorpion King?

In The Scorpion King, Johnson stars as Mathayus, a warrior hired to kill the sorcerer (Kelly Hu) whose premonitions have made the tyrant Memnon (Steven Brand) undefeatable in battle. He is the last of his people, the Akkadians. (Well, at the beginning, he's one of three, but it doesn't take long.) Unwilling to kill her when he learns she's a woman named Cassandra, they instead escape together and fight back against Memnon, recruiting allies disillusioned with the warlord along the way. 

Cassandra tells Mathayus that Memnon is attempting to enact an ancient rite at his palace that will turn him into the undefeatable Scorpion. Mathayus doesn't put much stock in prophecy, preferring to, as he says, make his own destiny. They raid Memnon's stronghold, and after doing battle throughout his palace, Mathayus pulls an arrow that he had been shot with out of his own back and uses it to kill Memnon. This, by the customs of the conqueror's people, makes him their new king, and his army bows before Matthayus.

Wasn't he a bad guy in The Mummy Returns?

The Scorpion King made about $180 million at the box office. The Mummy Returns made $435 million. So, it's fair to say there are people out there who might have seen The Mummy Returns, a film where the Scorpion King character serves as a secondary antagonist, but never The Scorpion King, where suddenly the character is meant to be the hero. In the prologue sequence to The Mummy Returns, he's shown selling his soul for the chance to conquer the world. In The Scorpion King he's a one-man resistance to a tyrannical conqueror. It's a pretty big character swing. It seems like something must be missing in between.

And that is a gap that the franchise-industrial complex has been all too happy to fill. Since the release of the original, there have been four sequels to The Scorpion King produced, each of them released direct-to-video between 2008 and 2018. Johnson elected not to return for any of these, and the mantle of the Mathayus passed to a trio of other actors: Michael Copon in the prequel The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior; Victor Webster in the third and fourth, and Zach McGowan in the to-date final entry: The Scorpion King: The Book of the Dead. The franchise has provided steady work to a plethora of wrestlers-turned-actors — Dave Bautista, Eve Torres, Nathan Jones — and B-movie legends. Ron Perlman and Billy Zane play Egyptian brothers in the third one. Michael Biehn and Rutger Hauer are rival kings in the fourth.

Why Dwayne Johnson is rebooting The Scorpion King

Yet, even the most recent one doesn't get audiences all the way there. Though hints have been dropped, particularly in The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption, about where Mathayus is destined to end up, the franchise has been taking its sweet time getting there, with little movement on the "now he's on a mission to conquer the world" front. Instead, it treats his arc like its Zeno's arrow, dividing the time remaining with the character into smaller and smaller segments in such a way that he may never reach his endpoint. Dwayne Johnson has conquered the world in less time than Mathayus.

And it seems like he may finally have run out of opportunities, at least for now. In November 2020, Deadline Hollywood reported that Johnson and his production company Seven Bucks Productions were moving forward with a rebooted take on the franchise, with Jonathan Herman, the writer of Straight Outta Compton, set to tackle the screenplay. While Johnson's busy schedule will preclude him from starring, the announcement made it clear he still feels a connection to the character that kicked everything off. 

Most interesting of all is that the film will reportedly eschew its predecessors' sword-and-sandals, Egyptian prehistory roots in favor of bringing the character to modern times. What that will look like is anyone's guess at this point. Maybe it will prove to be just the break the character needs.