The Scorpion King (2002)

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Released 28-Nov-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
dts Trailer-Piano
Seamless Branching-Extended Version
Audio Commentary-Chuck Russell (Director)
Audio Commentary-The Rock (Actor)
Outtakes
Deleted Scenes-Alternate Versions Of Key Scenes
Featurette-Making Of-Spotlight On Location: The Making Of The Scorpion King
Featurette-Ancient World Production Design
Featurette-Shooting A Fight Sequence
Featurette-The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan
Featurette-Costume Design
Featurette-Working With Animals
Featurette-The Special Effects
Music Video-I Stand Alone-Godsmack
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Console Game; E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
DVD-ROM Extras
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 87:36
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:39) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Chuck Russell
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring The Rock
Kelly Hu
Steven Brand
Grant Heslow
Michael Clarke Duncan
Bernard Hill
Peter Facinelli
Ralf Moeller
Case Alpha
RPI $36.95 Music John Debney


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Hungarian
Arabic
Czech
Greek
Turkish
Romanian
English Audio Commentary
Hungarian Audio Commentary
Arabic Audio Commentary
Czech Audio Commentary
Greek Audio Commentary
Turkish Audio Commentary
Romanian Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
Hungarian Audio Commentary
Arabic Audio Commentary
Czech Audio Commentary
Greek Audio Commentary
Turkish Audio Commentary
Romanian Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    This is the retail version of The Scorpion King. I reviewed the rental version here. The movie hasn't changed, so I have merely replicated the plot synopsis from my original review below. The plot has not improved; they have just added extras — lots and lots of extras. If you collect DVDs exclusively for the extras, then add this one to your shopping list.

    I really enjoyed The Mummy, and The Mummy Returns. They represented a style of horror / comedy / action / thriller that is very much to my taste (and the taste of lots of other movie-ticket buyers...). I was rather pleased to hear that they were making a spin-off movie going into more detail about the Scorpion King, because there aren't enough good films in this genre. Well, there still aren't...this is not a good film.

    The Scorpion King was an interesting character in The Mummy Returns, but he only got a few minutes of screen time, and I don't recall him saying anything - his primary asset (the occasional muscle, or two) was on display, and all he really needed to do was to strike a few poses, a skill he brought with him from his day job as a pro wrestler. Now he is expected to carry the movie.

    I was a bit concerned. After all, he's a pro wrestler. Could he be expected to perform on a movie stage, where all the fights are carefully scripted and choreographed? Would he understand that this was fake fighting, so very different from what he was used to? (Still, they did give him furniture to fight with, even if it wasn't a metal folding chair). Could he act hurt when struck by a stuntman? Could he act pain? (Can I string this sarcasm out any further?)

    Actually, the biggest flaws in this movie don't relate to The Rock. He does everything he's supposed to, and delivers his lines rather well - better than Arnold Schwarzenegger did in his first few movies, that's for sure. So what's the problem? Well, the script is dreadful, and the central bad guy is utterly unconvincing. If we compare this movie to Conan the Barbarian (Arnie's first big movie, and quite comparable to this one) we note that Arnie's enemy was Thulsa Doom, played with sinister gusto by James Earl Jones. The Rock is playing opposite Steven Brand as Memnon - they'd have done better to use Michael Clarke Duncan (who plays Balthazar, leader of the Nubians). Steven Brand is not a bad actor, but he is hardly a figure to strike terror into the heart at first sight - such an actor would work in this role if the script built him up enough, but it doesn't. And that's my biggest criticism - this script is clichéd and boring. That's not what I expected, given that Stephen Sommers shares the writing credits, and he was responsible for the Mummy movies.

    I fear that this script suffered from a dose of committee writing - lots of people insisting that their ideas be included. Kelly Hu's role probably got the worst of that - can't you imagine the insistence by one voice that she be naked when The Rock first encounters her? And another voice insisting that nothing naughty show, because they must get their PG-13 rating? So we see her surging out of water with strategically placed long hair; we get her dressed in an outfit that has no sides, but only a front (with plunging neckline) and back; we see her lying in bed, clearly naked, but with carefully placed arm... It's so coy, so obvious, so "let's include this because it will look great in the trailer". I'd far rather they either showed her body for real, or gave her something decent (and believable) to wear - let her convey the sexiness of her role by acting (she managed quite well in the Sammo Hung TV show Martial Law, for example).

    By the way - if you have watched this film, did you get the distinct impression that Peter Facinelli (Takmet) is trying very hard to imitate Tom Cruise? And did you notice a distinct ignorance of the physics of people hit by arrows? (When an arrow weighing a lot less than a kilo, travelling comparatively slowly, hits a man weighing perhaps 80 kilos, the man does not fly many metres through the air.)

    I've worked it out! I know what happened! This is a James Bond rip-off, pure and simple. That explains Kelly Hu's role - she's the Bond girl (they're always shown that way), reprising the Jane Seymour role from Live and Let Die. It explains the role of Philos (Bernard Hill) - he's Q, developer of gadgets (developing gunpowder from a Chinese recipe millennia before the Chinese did...). It even explains the camel (standing in for an Aston Martin, or whatever)... I'm surprised I hadn't twigged earlier.

    There are plenty of films out there worse than this one, but I was expecting so much more. I just hope Mr Sommers does a better job on the next real Mummy movie (and I don't mean the animated one)

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer of the original disc was very good — this may be the same transfer (I can't tell) — it is just as good.

    The DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. That's the original theatrical aspect ratio, which is good.

    The picture is sharp and clear. Shadow detail is very good. There's no significant grain. There's no low level noise. There's one shot at 34:44 which is slightly out of focus, but it is not enough to trouble anyone.

    Colour is good — there are some nice strong colours, and they come across well. There are no colour-related artefacts.

    There are no noticeable film artefacts. There's the occasional hint of something that might become aliasing, but it's marginal. There's a trace or two of shimmer, but it's again marginal. All-in-all, this is a nice clean transfer.

    There are subtitles in seven languages (an interesting selection of languages, too), including English. I watched the English subtitles. They are mostly accurate, not over-abbreviated, well-timed, and easy to read. Two errors I spotted were both of attribution: at 43:18 there's a subtitle "Henchman #10 screams" — it is actually Mathayus; at 50:32 the subtitle is attributed to Cassandra — it is actually Isis. There is one very nice touch — both audio commentaries are subtitled.

    The disc is single sided, and RSDL-formatted. The layer change is located at 64:39 — it is very difficult to spot, so they've done a good job.

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

Audio

    The soundtrack is provided in Hungarian (?) and English. The English soundtrack is available in Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts 5.1 — I listened to both. These soundtracks are as good as they were on the rental disc — reference quality, technically. There are also two commentary tracks — more on them under Extras.

    The dialogue is clear and easily understood. There are no really noticeable audio sync problems (the ADR isn't absolutely perfect, but you have to be really finicky to complain).

    John Debney's score does the job — it's clichéd action movie stuff, with some rock music thrown in for variation, but what do you expect?

    The surrounds get plenty to do in the way of ambience, and the occasional directional sound effect. The subwoofer is used heavily for score and ominous rumblings.

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

Extras

    Lots of extras! And they removed the annoying advertising from the opening, too. Nice. The Bonus menu is three pages long to accommodate all of the extras.

Menu

    The menu is animated with music. If you don't touch anything, after a while the movie starts with whatever settings you have established. That's not so bad, but when the movie ends, if you leave things alone it returns to the main menu, then starts again — that gets a bit tedious.

Extended Version in Enhanced Viewing Mode

    This is not as good as it might have been. This is the movie, inter-cut with the alternative scenes (see below), using non-seamless branching. Unfortunately, the movie is 16x9 enhanced, but the deleted scenes are NOT 16x9 enhanced. So, if you are watching on a widescreen display, the inserted deleted scenes come up squashed vertically — not a pretty sight. I don't know if this works better on a 4x3 display — it may, and maybe the person who tested this feature only had a 4x3 display (sad, but probably true). Frankly, I'd suggest not bothering with this — watch the scenes separately.

Audio Commentary - director Chuck Russell

    This commentary is quite interesting. There's some overlap with the featurettes, but that's not a problem. He has quite a bit to say, and makes it interesting. Well worth a listen.

Audio Commentary - actor The Rock

    This commentary, on the other hand, is pretty dreadful. Almost everything is "great". He leaves long gaps in the commentary, as though he runs out of ideas. He even takes a phone call from his mother during the commentary — clearly he's not familiar with the concept of a Pause button, or he has a low opinion of his audience, or both. Oh, he describes the alchemist Philo's work on gunpowder as "making dynamite" — that's a scary level of ignorance. The only virtue of this commentary is that it means that The Rock didn't feel obliged to interrupt the director's commentary.

Outtakes (1:01)

    These are only a few brief scenes, but they are amusing.

Alternative Versions of Key Scenes (12:09)

    These include the added footage that's included when you select the extended version option. I'd suggest you're better off watching the nine scenes this way, because they aren't 16x9 enhanced, so you can watch them that way if you invoke them here. The main differences, apart from an extra opening scene, relate to a plot element that was deleted from the final version of the movie: a prophecy.

Featurette: Spotlight on Location (14:28)

    This is a fairly standard puff-piece making-of. They suggest The Rock is the next big action hero (well, he is definitely big...).

Featurette: Ancient World Production Design (3:26)

    Some interesting facts, with some overlap with the Spotlight on Location featurette, but it isn't a complete waste.

Featurettes: Shooting a Fight Sequence

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

    Discussing the fact that these two were close friends before the making of this movie, and how they interacted during the making of the movie. There's some discussion of whether The Rock really knocked Duncan out in an accident during filming.

Featurette: Costume Design (2:50)

    Short, but somewhat interesting. Almost all of the costumes had to be made from scratch for this film.

Featurette: Working with Animals (6:04)

    An interesting presentation, mostly concerned with the camels. At last we discover why they used a crazy camel for one of the scenes.

Featurette: Special Effects

Music Video: Godsmack I Stand Alone (4:56)

    It's a music video. I don't much care for music videos. This one is fairly stylised, using footage from the movie, and footage recorded specifically for this video, including a neat effect that builds The Rock out of scorpions.

Theatrical Trailer (1:36)

    A trailer that makes mention of the prophecy element that was deleted from the movie — good thing we have the alternate scenes so we can make sense of it...

Trailer: Scorpion King Console Game (1:13)

    The same trailer as was on the rental disc.

DVD-ROM Features

    Using Total Axxess this gives access to extra features.

Trailer: ET the ExtraTerrestrial (0:48)

    A basic trailer for the DVD version of the movie.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 disc is a Collector's Edition, available in widescreen and full-screen versions. It does not include a dts soundtrack.

    I don't have definitive information on whether all the extras are the same, but it seems that most of the same extras are present; certainly both commentaries, the making of, and most of the featurettes are present. The R1 does have some additional extras, including production notes and filmographies, and some text about whether the Scorpion King really existed. And The Rock's commentary has an extra feature — at certain points you can press a button and bring up a picture of The Rock doing the commentary (but in non-16x9 enhanced format — just like the alternative scene inserts).

    Apparently the video quality of the R1 suffers from being crammed onto a single layer (the R4 disc has a layer change, so it isn't crammed onto a single layer), making the Region 4 disc seem the preferable version; and the R4 has the dts soundtrack.

Summary

    A disappointing movie, on a top quality DVD.

    The video quality is very high.

    The audio quality is reference grade.

    The extras are extensive, and include some quite interesting material.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS905V, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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