The Scorpion King (HD DVD) (2002)

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Released 8-Nov-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-The Rock (Actor)
Audio Commentary-Chuck Russell (Director)
Featurette-Making Of-(14:27)
Outtakes-(3:17)
Deleted Scenes-Alternate Cuts of some scenes (12:08)
Featurette-Ancient World Production Design (3:26)
Featurette-Preparing The Fight (6:36)
Featurette-The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan (6:43)
Featurette-Working with Animals (6:04)
Featurette-Special Effects: The Cobras (1:47)
Featurette-Special Effects: The Fire Ants (2:29)
Music Video-I Stand Alone by Godsmack (4:56)
Notes-King Scorpion
Screen Saver
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 91:40
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Chuck Russell
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring The Rock
Steven Brand
Michael Clarke Duncan
Kelly Hu
Bernard Hill
Grant Heslov
Peter Facinelli
Ralf Moeller
Branscombe Richmond
Roger Rees
Sherri Howard
Conrad Roberts
Joseph Ruskin
Case Amaray Variant
RPI ? Music John Debney


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital Plus 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital Plus 2.0
French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
German Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Catalan Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Japanese Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
German
Catalan
Japanese
Korean
Swedish
Danish
Finnish
Dutch
Norwegian
Portuguese
Mandarin
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Mathayus (The Rock) is an Akkadian; a race of ancient warriors who are trained from birth as elite mercenaries. Their skill is almost as renowned as their hefty fee, but it's a small price to pay for a clan who is suffering under the rule of a vicious tyrant. Mathayus and his buddies are hired to rub out Memnon (Steven Brand), a ruler hell bent on using bloody war to bring about his own brand of peace. Memnon's weakness appears to be his pretty assistant, a powerful sorceress named Cassandra (Kelly Hu) who has the ability to see the future and warn Memnon when to choose his battles.

    Their attempt to carry out the mission goes awry due to a villainous double cross and as luck would have it, it turns out Cassandra isn't particularly happy being at Memnon's beck and call 24/7. Good help is hard to find, apparently. But no, put away the leather studded cod-piece my darling, it's time for revenge "hack 'em up" style, and Mathayus, with Cassandra's help, sets out to bring down the most skilled, most ruthless warrior-dictator of their time. Get ready to rumble!

    Produced in 2002, The Scorpion King is a direct spin-off of Universal's The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, which starred Brendan Fraser. This film is said to be set about ten years before The Scorpion King's appearance in the Mummy Returns and is essentially the Scorpion King's back story, showing how he rose to power.

    It's a fun action adventure film, the kind of movie you forget about quickly, with nifty swordplay and plenty of muscle-bound heroes clanging their armor. Despite the high volume of battle scenes, there isn't a drop of blood to be seen, making it very much a 'family friendly' actioner with only an M rating. There is a nice mix of comedy thrown in, which I think The Rock handles particularly well considering the action side of things is his forte. My favorite film from The Rock would have to be Be Cool, and it would seem these two films are about the best he has managed in his career so far (how a star like him could fall from a relatively promising start to crud like The Game Plan is beyond me).

    Mummy Writer/Director Steven Sommers took a back seat here to produce and co-write the film, allowing Chuck Russell to direct. The result is good fun and the cast, including Michael Clarke Duncan, seemed to enjoy the production too. For the viewer, the CG effects in particular are much more convincing in comparison to the previous Mummy films, which piques my expectations of the new Mummy film coming this year, The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, featuring Jet Li. A sequel to The Scorpion King is also currently in production, with the title Rise of the Akkadian, although it doesn't look like The Rock is reprising his role.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Disclaimer: Please note that this disc has a video resolution of 1080p. It has been reviewed on a display device with a maximum native resolution of 720p. More information can be found here.

    The film has been transferred to HD at 1080p resolution, in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1, within a native 16x9 frame. This is an altogether dark film, that translates well to the HD DVD format.

    The image is nice and sharp, with excellent detail and texture visible within character's costumes and the spacious, epic cinematography. The image also has an appreciable degree of depth, take for example the courtyard fight scene at 27:45. As I noted above, much of the film takes place in dimly lit interiors such as tents and nighttime outdoor scenes, however, shadow detail is maintained at a clear, realistic level so that none of the action is lost in the black.

    The overall film has a distinct sepia tone, and there has certainly been some grading performed to enhance the film's colours. The green vegetation of the desert oasis mid-way through the film is quite striking after viewing so much sand and candle light.

    The transfer has been given a VC-1 encode, and there are no compression issues to speak of. Scenes such as the sandstorm aren't handled too well in the standard DVD as I recall, but here the HD transfer really shines. As far as the film source goes, I noticed a few small film artefacts amounting to tiny specs of dust and dirt, and only in those rare moments where daylight made the image bright. I think I only noticed them because of the size of my screen; on a smaller display they would certainly pass by unnoticed.

    An English subtitle stream is available and seems to translate the spoken word relatively accurately.

    This is a dual-layered HD-30 disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The film's original English language soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, along with an array of other dubbed languages. Two audio commentaries are also included.

    The English dialogue is crystal clear and always discernable above effects and score. The ADR looping is seamless and completely natural. There are no problems with audio sync at all.

    The use of the surround channels extends from flying arrows, knives and other weaponry, to subtle atmospherics such as the marketplace noise at 23:50. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel.

    The score is credited to John Debney, and takes the classic adventure film score to a whole new level. The arrangements feature bombastic orchestral passages, laced with crunchy guitar riffs resembling your typical heavy metal band. There's also some eastern flavour thrown in for good measure. It's an interesting hybrid, maybe even a Frankenstein of scores, but despite this it is surprisingly effective, enjoyable and memorable. Metal band Godsmack contributes the ditty for the closing titles, which I discuss in the extras below.

    The subwoofer augments horses galloping, explosions and the odd bit of bottom end from the score. It's definitely up there with what I would expect from a recent production.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is a good range of special features. Most are presented in standard definition 1.33:1, with stereo audio. Be aware that the cover slick boasts a video commentary from The Rock (or words to that effect), but there is only an audio commentary as far as I can ascertain.

Menu

    The menu page is completely generic and features the familiar, shiny, animated Universal logo. A language select menu loads initially, followed by the main menu page. The feature is coded with a handy progress bar that appears whenever the feature is paused or skipped. The My Scenes page is usually found on the main menu, but here it is strangely placed in the bottom of the extras menu.

Audio Commentary- The Rock (Actor)

    Mr. Rock begins strong, commenting during the film's opening that "this is the first scene". How enlightening! That pretty much sums up the tone of the whole commentary. There are some lengthy gaps in his speaking and I wouldn't say it's the most engrossing commentary I've heard. Sure, he states the obvious time and again, but some of his experience regarding the stunt work is worth listening to. I think he would have been better served doing the commentary with a partner, rather than alone.

Audio Commentary- Chuck Russell (Director)

    Chuck explains how he came to be involved in the project, his relationship with the studio and how he first came across The Rock. This is a much more film-focused commentary, as Chuck discusses editing and post production, casting, visual effects and locations. For such a feel-good family action film, I was surprised at the level of attention Chuck dedicated to the structure and story arc of the film. A very informative commentary.

Outtakes (3:17)

    A series of botched lines and animals making life difficult on set.

Alternate/ Extended Scenes (12:08)

    A handful of familiar scenes from the film, some with additional dialogue. These clips include Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio.

Featurette- Making-of (14:27)

    This is your typical Spotlight On Location EPK featurette. Some behind the scenes footage and cast interviews are broken up by discussion of the film's relationship to The Mummy Returns. As The Rock says so eloquently; "It has all the great elements of a fantastic film". What more could you ask for?

Featurette- Ancient World Production Design (3:26)

    Looks at the locations in and around California that were utilised to recreate the ancient settings, with conceptual drawings and crew interviews.

Featurette- Preparing The Fight (6:36)

    This piece examines the training and preparation that went into the fight sequences and swordplay.

Featurette- The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan (6:43)

    Michael and The Rock are the best of mates and this featurette shows their comradeship on set, via interviews, anecdotes and outtakes.

Featurette- Working with Animals (6:04)

    The director and assorted crew discuss the variety of beasts that were employed in the film, and how they add a certain authenticity to the production.

Featurette- Special Effects: The Cobras (1:47)

    Chuck Russell explains his intentions in balancing the effects and story correctly.

Featurette- Special Effects: The Fire Ants (2:29)

    An extension of the above, focusing on the scene in which The Rock is attacked by CG ants.

Music Clip- I Stand Alone by Godsmack (4:56)

    A surprisingly good music video, which must have cost a packet or two. The band rocks out on a setpiece from the film's production, intercut with clips of cool action and CG effects from the film itself. I didn't like it much at first, but this song has grown on me.

Text Pages- King Scorpion

    Nine pages of text, outlining real-life archaeological evidence that has been discovered, depicting what some historians have dubbed King Scorpion. Of course, some historians aren't convinced and the debate rages on.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The North American release spreads the same content over a combo disc (HD DVD on one side, DVD on the other). All of the substantial extras from the SD DVD release have been retained on this release.

Summary

    The Scorpion King is a fun action adventure that acts as a nice companion to the Mummy series.

    The HD transfer is great.

    The extras give good insight into the production.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Monday, February 25, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba HD-D1, using HDMI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3806 (7.1 Channels)
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III floor-standing Mains and Surrounds. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Center. Mirage 10 inch powered sub.

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