Collector's Edition - 2002 (2002) - Universal
by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/A-/B
Specs and Features
94 mins, PG-13, widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided,
dual-layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep-case packaging, audio
commentary with director Chuck Russell, "enhanced" feature
commentary with The Rock, alternate takes viewable separately or
incorporated into the film using "Enhanced Viewing Mode",
outtakes, Spotlight on Location: The
Making of The Scorpion King featurette, five additional
featurettes on the making of the film, Godsmack
I Stand Alone music video,
History of the Real Scorpion King
text, theatrical trailer, production notes, filmographies,
film-themed animated menu screens, scene access (20 chapters),
languages: English and French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English and
No one goes through the Valley of the Dead. That's why they call it
the Valley of the Dead! Hey... wait for me, please!"
Adam Jahnke's recent review of
Velvet pointed out that it's a pretty hard task to pick
out a line of dialogue to start off a Digital
Bits review. It's even harder when I have to try to find
the least cringe-worthy line in The
Scorpion King, that can still sum up (or give a picture)
of the film. So, if you find that line particularly funny, then
you'll love The Scorpion King,
a film that fails for all of the right reasons... and yet succeeds
for all of the wrong reasons.
Dwayne Johnson (better known as "The Rock") is Mathayus,
an Akkadian assassin in "Ancient, Ancient Egypt" (a time
before the pharaohs and pyramids). He has been sent, with his
brother, to kill a sorceress that is aiding an enemy tribe. But
Memnon (Steven Brand), the leader of the enemy tribe, captures both
of them and Mathayus's brother is killed.
Left for dead in the desert, Mathayus and a criminal named Arpid
(Grant Heslov) make their way to Gomorrah to avenge his brother's
death. Though they are almost killed, they have managed to capture
Memnon's sorceress, Cassandra (Kelly Hu). Mathayus makes it very
clear to Cassandra, "I was sent to kill you. Right now, you're
more use to me alive. Don't make me change my mind." But
Cassandra was never really happy with Memnon to begin with, and soon
falls in love with Mathayus. Unfortunately, in consummating her love
in a very hokey romantic scene, she has lost her powers and is now
unable to predict the very tumultuous future.
Aided by the leader of another tribe, Balthazar (Michael Clarke
Duncan), this motley crew must make their way back to Gomorrah to
stop Memnon before he can rule the world. In doing so, Mathayus can
assume his destiny as the great Scorpion King.
The Scorpion King works, but
not in the way the studio executives would have planned it to. The
planned comic relief character just isn't funny... but other little
things are, such as Kelly Hu's worried reaction shots or Peter
Facinelli's horrible pseudo-English accent. These are not the fault
of the actors, who don't exactly have a lot to work with. I call it
"Hayden Christensen syndrome," after his performance in
Attack of the Clones.
Christensen is a good actor, but he was just so unintentionally
funny in his romantic scenes in that film due to the plain silliness
of the dialogue. The same goes for these actors. They give it their
all, but they know that this is all just silliness, and no matter
how they play the material, it's going to come off BAD.
But then, it's not really the fault of the writers either, who
include Stephen Sommers (of the The Mummy)
and Jonathan Hales (co-writer of Star
Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones). They were most
likely coerced into having to write a film whose sole purpose is to
make The Rock a star. And strangely, it isn't the fault of Dwayne "The
Rock" Johnson, who appears to simply be "just another
victim" of fame.
Everything in this film looks like it was put together the night
before the shoot, using cardboard and glue. It cost sixty million
dollars, but it looks like five. But thought all these problems are
pretty bad for a big Hollywood film, they somehow contribute to the
film taking on a charming Saturday-matinee feel. It's all very
campy, to the point that the actors look like they're about to crack
up during the more "serious" moments.
Summed up, The Scorpion King
is a bad film and there is no way around it. It was a horrible
concept. But its execution is - somehow - subversively
tongue-in-cheek and somewhat clever. Everyone and everything in this
film knows that it's on a crash-course for disaster... and yet the
film somehow escapes that fate by acknowledging it.
Universal's initial release (and I say "initial" because
you just have to know that an Ultimate
Edition release of this disc will come eventually) of
The Scorpion King attempts to
cram a lot of extraneous value-added material onto one disc, which
somewhat degrades the video quality. Don't get me wrong. The picture
is okay. The image is bright and crisp and blacks are solid. Edge
enhancement, though quite noticeable, is not too distracting. The
problem here is in the low video compression bitrate that was
required to fit all this material on a single disc. Though the film
runs 94 minutes, it really could have used more space than just one
layer of a disc (the extras are on the other layer). Detailing
suffers, and artifacting is definitely noticeable in fast moving
shots. Other films that are longer, with primarily static shots, can
get away with one layer, but The Scorpion
King could have used more.
On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is really good. It
makes a great surround sound tester, as most scenes put you right in
the action. The sandstorm (Chapter 11) is especially well done.
Since you are put in the POV of the enemy guards, the winds are
especially disorienting and are quite a fun listen. But while the
surrounds are strong, they never overpower the music or the
dialogue, which is always clear throughout the film.
Extras-wise, first up is the screen-specific commentary by director
Chuck Russell. Russell, also responsible for The
Mask, is quite a good listen. He loves to talk about how
much fun it was to film The Scorpion King,
yet the track never becomes an "Everyone was great"
session. Russell enjoys talking about the cinematography and the
effects, and you get really good information out of this. Granted,
it doesn't rank as one of the best commentaries ever, but if you
like the film, you'll definitely want to listen to this one.
On the other hand, only people who like the sound of The Rock's
voice are going to really want to hear his "advanced"
commentary track. Firstly, The Rock doesn't add too much at all,
mainly laughing at things that happen. What makes the track more
annoying is that every now and then, a red "s" appears on
screen, which you can click to bring you to the "enhanced"
mode, allowing you to actually watch The Rock do his commentary for
a brief second. Here is why this is annoying; the video switches
from anamorphic to non-anamorphic widescreen, and The Rock appears
in a little box. If you are watching the film on a widescreen
display, it's incredibly distracting. And if you are watching it on
a low-end, set-top player, it will take FOREVER to load up. The idea
is interesting, so I have to commend whoever came up with it, but it
was poorly executed. It would have worked much better as a DVD-ROM
extra. And while it's not so interesting with a single person on a
day and date release, it would be great with a cast reunion on a
catalogue title (say the Willy Wonka
Next up, are the Alternate Versions of
Key Scenes, which are basically alternate takes of
various scenes, presented in non-anamorphic widescreen. The
alternate takes aren't very interesting, comprising mainly different
inflection and reaction shots. You can view these scenes separately
or in the "Enhanced Viewing Mode." Like The Rock's
commentary, this feature was also poorly executed, and viewing the
scenes separately is the recommended method. Then there are about
three minutes of outtakes, which are somewhat entertaining. The
Spotlight on Location is
basically an extended trailer for the film, no real information
here. But you'll find a bit more information in a group of five
featurettes. Ancient World Production
Design focuses, oddly enough, on the production design of
the film, and you'll see all kinds of concept art that illustrates
how they turned Southern California locations into the locations for
the film. Preparing the Fight
shows off the fight choreography, The
Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan focuses on the friendship
between the two actor/friends, while Working
with Animals makes me NEVER want to work with animals.
The Special Effects is split
up between looks at the cobras and the fire ants, showing how these
two relatively believable effects were achieved.
The Godsmack I Stand Alone
music video is included, which is annoyingly loud and out of place.
Also, you get nine pages of text on King Scorpion (interesting
information presented in a boring fashion), along with production
notes and cast & filmmaker bios. The theatrical trailer is
presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, and Universal has included
the teaser for The Hulk, a
trailer for Sci-Fi Channel's mini-series Taken,
DVD trailers for E.T. and
Back to the Future, and a WWE
Though certainly paling in comparison to other action/adventure
films of this "scope," The
Scorpion King's so-bad-it's-good quality is certain to
make it a great "guilty pleasure" movie in time to come.
And there's no need to feel too guilty about it, since Universal's
put together a nice package for the film's home video debut.