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THE SCORPION KING
Blu-ray Edition

Film review by Gordon Justesen
Technical specs by Michael Jacobson

Stars: The Rock, Steven Brand, Kelly Hu, Bernard Hill, Grant Heslov, Peter Facinelli, Michael Clarke Duncan
Director: Chuck Russell
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 92 Minutes
Release Date: July 22, 2008

“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, we've been 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

It looks good, but doesn't quite deliver the visual panache of The Mummy.  You can tell the budget was a little lower, and as such, there are some instances of grain here and there, and a little bit of murkiness in some darker scenes.  Apart from that, there is still stellar contrast, and generally very sharp images and well-rendered colors.  Good, but not quite at the superior level we've come to expect.

Audio ****

No complaints about the DTS HD soundtrack...there's plenty of action to make this a full throttle listening experience, with strong dynamic range, clean dialogue, and plenty of crossover effects to keep you nice and centered in the middle of the goings-on.  Very well done.

Features **

There's not as much this time around, but the Blu-ray does feature "U-Control" for an interactive viewing experience, and extra interviews and footage accessible through your players picture-in-picture capabilities.  There is also a full length commentary from director Chuck Russell.

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.

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