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THE SCORPION KING
Widescreen

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: The Rock, Steven Brand, Kelly Hu, Bernard Hill, Grant Heslov, Peter Facinelli, Michael Clarke Duncan
Director: Chuck Russell
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 92 Minutes
Release Date: October 1, 2002

“Will you stand alone before the fury of his armies?”

“YES.”

Film *** (On the cheese scale)

If I were to explain the concept of The Scorpion King, you’d probably think I was describing the synopsis of a new syndicated weekend television series that would fit right in with the likes of Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess. But truth be told, The Scorpion King has its place on the big screen for two reasons; it’s the ultimate movie role for a superstar of pro wrestling, as in this case is The Rock, and two; the character has already made a notable appearance in an earlier popular movie. That movie was last year’s The Mummy Returns, a sequel I was entirely let down by simply because I have a great deal of affection for its 1999 predecessor, which didn’t pretend to be a campy B-movie romp. The title character of this movie popped up both in the beginning and the end of The Mummy Returns, and since The Rock is perhaps pro wrestling’s biggest star, a marketing maneuver was made and it was clear that the Scorpion King would soon have his very own movie. Some have even speculated that based on this movie’s success, The Rock will go on to be the next Schwarzenegger. I can certainly see that happening in the near-future.

The result is not a bad one, and I’d go on record to immediately say that I found it much more entertaining and enjoyable than The Mummy Returns. The Scorpion King is essentially a sword and sorcerer-like story formula we’ve experienced before, but is abound with endless action, some impressive effects, and an unexpected level of charisma from its leading star. Set 2,000 before The Mummy, The Rock stars as Mathayus, a lone warrior who is the last of his kind, the Arkadians. His nemesis is an evil warlord named Memnon (Steven Brand), whose superior strength and power makes him feared by anyone, including those who even dare to challenge him. Memnon’s most powerful weapon is the beautiful and hypnotic sorceress, Cassandra (Kelly Hu), who extreme psychic powers help in mapping out where he will strike next. Her seductive powers do come in handy in, tough Mathayus’ charm might come in handy in helping her change sides (like you didn’t see that one coming).

After losing the last of his brothers to the hands of Memnon, Mathayus vows to extract some much deserved revenge in Memnon’s direction, along with the help of some fellow warriors, including Balthazar (Michael Clarke Duncan) who, in a fun sequence, dukes it out with Mathayus before allying with him. The rest of the movie is essentially a lengthy climatic battle sequence with the warriors invading Memnon’s desert castle, which involves endless combat, many killings, and plentiful effects.

As for The Rock, I certainly believe we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the movies, and in The Scorpion King, he displays a certain level of charm and charisma for a role that doesn’t require much of him acting-wise, but is one that is physically perfect for him. I not a wrestling fan, and to be honest I wasn’t really anticipating much, but The Rock really went beyond my expectations with his debut, and he fits the role perfectly. The humorous lines between him and Michael Clarke Duncan are among the movie’s best moments.

The main pleasure I got out of The Scorpion King was pretty much the same kind I got of watching The Mummy, in terms of being a movie that isn’t afraid to know that it is one filled to the brim with camp and goofiness and does nothing but embrace this notion. To be honest, not enough movies are made like this. I’m all for a riotous romp of a B-movie, and in that regard, The Scorpion King gets the job done. 

Video ***1/2

Since the movie is pretty much set in similar landscapes as The Mummy, upon which Universal delivered one of their best all time transfers, it comes as no surprise that they would deliver in similar areas on this release. While not at the level of the video quality of The Mummy, Universal still comes out strong in their transfer of this release. Shot mostly in desert settings, these scenes are by far the best looking in the presentation, and the movie’s plentiful visual effects are brought to a larger than life format. It’s only in a couple of darker lit sequences where the presentation is flawed, with a bit softness, which is very brief, and thus does not strain from the overall quality of the transfer.

Audio ****

Truly a boom-bastic quality sounding disc. The Scorpion King is ferocious in its sound presentation right from its opening scene. Everything from the clanging of swords, to explosions, to vast whirlwinds, to a rock infused musical score, everything you come to expect from an action adventure movie on a DVD is delivered flawlessly in this thunderous 5.1 presentation.

Features ****

Universal returns to their Collector’s Edition roots with this loaded arsenal of extras. First off, there are two commentary tracks, one with director Chuck Russell, and the other with The Rock himself, who can also be seen at various points as he records the track (a scorpion icon will pop up in the lower right hand corner for this option), and it is a truly fun and humor-loaded listen. Also featured is the always enjoyable enhanced viewing mode, which offers an alternate version of the movie.

Also included are endless featurettes on the making of the movie, including a Fight Sequence featurette, a special effects documentary, a special segment with The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan, a working with animals featurette, and a documentary on the production design. Featured in addition are an outtakes reel, a music video for Godsmack’s song “I Stand Alone”, a trailer for the movie, as well as coming attraction trailers for the upcoming feature The Hulk and the television special “Taken”. There is also some extensive DVD-Rom content as well.

Summary:

The Scorpion King is by no means a masterpiece, but it is a quick 90 minutes worth of worthy, brainless action scenes that really get the job done for your basic action junkie, like myself.