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Universal Studios Home Video presents
The Scorpion King (2002)

"I've come for the girl, and your head."
- Mathayus (The Rock)

Review By: Kevin Clemons  
Published: September 30, 2002

Stars: The Rock
Other Stars: Kelly Hu, Michael Clarke Dincan, Peter Facinelli, Grant Heslov, Bernard Hill, Steven Brand
Director: Chuck Russell

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and some sexuality
Run Time: 01h:32m:41s
Release Date: October 01, 2002
UPC: 025192241222
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B C+A-A A-

DVD Review

Viewed as pure escapism, The Scorpion King represents the best popcorn pictures can offer. The special effects are low quality, the sets look as though they have been taken from a third grade production of Conan the Barbarian and the performances range from decent to horrific—yet the film is still enjoyable, if mindless, entertainment.

Set several hundred years before the events that transpired in The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King introduces us to Mathayus (The Rock), a stealthy assassin who travels with his brothers across the desert, offering his service to any tribe willing pay. His latest job is to stop Memnon (Brand), an evil tyrant, from cutting a path through his opposition with the help of a beautiful psychic (Hu) who can foresee the outcome of his battles, making Memnon all but invincible. Mathayus enters the palace home of Memnon with the intention of killing the sorceress and collecting his bounty; ultimately, of course, he falls for her. As the two set out against Memnon, they encounter a satiric horse thief (Heslov) as well as a skilled warrior named Balthazar (Duncan), each of whom will help them overthrow Memnon.

Directed with a skilled confidence by director Chuck Russell (The Mask, Eraser) The Scorpion King offers some truly exciting action sequences. The climactic battle, no matter how implausible, is entertaining and will have you cheering for the good guys and despising the villain and his henchman. The picture lacks the sort of barbed humor found in the two previous Mummy films, opting to bring a more modern approach to the script instead. Mathayus is ogled over by a harem of women in a manner that would seem comfortable on today's streets rather than an ancient marketplace. While there are problems, the film is mildly, and at times easily, enjoyable.

The Scorpion King originally began life with a direct-to-video future until its two predecessors in the ever-popular Mummy franchise broke box office records and showed there was an appetite for more of The Rock's muscle flexing and acting talents. Given a larger budget than most projects in this situation (sixty million), many aspects of the production are just not believable, burdened by poor special effects and set designs that look like something out of a Saturday matinee from the early days of cinema.

The Rock's (Dwayne Johnson) performance services the needs of the script. He is charismatic and uses the personality and expressions that made him popular with so many fans of the WWE. His dialogue is often in single sentences, which admittedly do not allow much range, so while it has yet to be seen if he can carry a more serious picture, there is little doubt that The Rock indeed has a bright future in action films.

Given that WWE chairman Vince McMahon retains an executive producer credit, it is perhaps acceptable that the movie goes largely for brawn over brains, though the lack of a clearly driven plot does hamper the film in several ways. I find it amazing that an idea this simple took four screenwriters to realize. However, anyone looking for creativity has come barking up the wrong tree. Perhaps the strangest aspect of The Scorpion King is that the title character eventually turns into a heinous villain in the second Mummy film, leading me to think perhaps this story should have been held for a later date and a bigger budget.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio, Universal offers yet another near-reference quality transfer that seems to be a standard amongst recent blockbuster releases. The film is shot with a dark look for the most part, and the transfer does a fine job of recreating these scenes, especially in the opening chapters. Sharpness and detail are, quite simply, perfect in their appearance. There is a very film-like look, which is helpful given the frequent wide-angle shots of the vast locations. I noticed no edge enhancement to speak of, while the print used is of exceptional quality. This is an amazing effort from Universal.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English and Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is, as many would expect, flawless in its construction. The real star of the disc are the split surround speakers. They never quiet down for even a second, contributing to a full blown audio presentation, used primarily during the action sequences including a sword fight or two in which you can literally hear the blade cut through the room. Yet, there are moments where they simply add an ambient side to the mix. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout with no distortion, while the .1 LFE channel is tight and concise in its presentation of the bass sounds. Check out the climactic battle for a real room shaker.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English and Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Hulk, Taken
Production Notes
6 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Director Chuck Russel, The Rock
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes
  2. Godsmack I Stand Alone music video
  3. alternate versions of key scenes available through seamless branching
  4. The Real Scorpion King
Extras Review: The Scorpion King generated big business at the box office, so it receives the full treatment on DVD and fans of the film will simply be thrilled.

First are two commentaries: one by director Chuck Russell and the second by The Rock in an enhanced viewing mode where the viewer is treated to snippets of the star as he records the track. The feature used for The Rock's commentary is interesting, but unlike other tracks (i.e. Mallrats), you must manually select an icon as it appears, rather than using the angle button on your remote. The Rock does a fine job, though most often he resorts to telling anecdotes about how much he enjoyed a particular scene and his fellow actors or filmmakers. The track is what one would expect, but for the most part it is enjoyable. It is, however, bothersome to switch from the film to a completely different selection, which obviously breaks the flow. Russell does a much better job on his track; he talks at length about nearly every aspect of the production. He is insightful, rarely resorts to filling time with stories, and constantly keeps up with what is occurring on screen. A very good track.

The Alternate Viewing feature is another tent pole for this disc, though often it is more of a curse than a blessing. When a scene is available in an extended or alternate mode, a red icon appears to lead the viewer to the sequence; I wonder why they didn't just house these scenes with the extra features, rather than making them an extra effort. Overall, there is very little difference in these sequences from the existing ones, making this feature a let down.

A group of fairly funny outtakes are included. One is a example of The Rock showing his inability to catch; another shows why a camel is probably not the best mode of transportation. Next is a collection of featurettes that run the gamut from promotional to just plain strange. The first is the now standard "Spotlight on Location," which is really nothing more than an extended trailer in which everyone falls over themselves to heap praise upon other members of the cast and crew. Five other short featurettes are included, the most interesting of which is a look at the fight choreography for key sequences. Included in order are: Working With Animals, The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan, Ancient World Production Design, Preparing the Fight, and The Special Effects. Fans of the film will be interested, but for the most part these are just filler.

A music video for the Godsmack song I Stand Alone is offered and although done nicely, the song is fairly annoying. The theatrical trailer for The Scorpion King, the teaser trailer for The Hulk (I can't wait!) as well as a preview for the Steven Spielberg miniseries Taken are each offered in Dolby Digital 5.1. There's a group of odd features that includes The Scorpion King Movie Club, a Universal Theme Park preview, an ad for The Scorpion King video game as well as a promo for the WWE. A collection of production notes, cast and crew bios as well as a series of screens detailing the possible existence of a real Scorpion King round out the extra features.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Overall, I can recommend The Scorpion King as a complete package; both the DVD and film itself are enormous fun. It is a safe bet that anyone placing this disc in their player knows exactly what is to be expected, and it pays off.

 


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