Truth be told, when I first heard of the idea of a new Mummy film, I became excited. The first two in the series were surely not examples of Oscar material, but were damn entertaining films. Then news slipped out that the next film would be based on WWE Superstar The Rockï¿½s character The Scorpion King, which seemed like an odd idea on paper. Was The Scorpion King that much of an awesome character that he needed his own film? Well, success continues as The Scorpion King isnï¿½t excellent film making, but sure is pretty entertaining.
The basic plot of the film goes a little something like thisï¿½ Mathayus (The Rock) is hired by a band of evil thugs to kill Memnonï¿½s () sorcerer Cassandra (Kelly Hu). What Mathayus doesnï¿½t realize is that thereï¿½s always more underneath the sand than on the surface as he soon learns that these men have more sinister plans.
A rather strong point of the film is the wide array of supporting actors. We have Michael Clarke Duncan as Balthazar who at first seems like he might be a foe for Mathayus, Kelly Hu as the aforementioned sorcerer Cassandra (who is rather attractive), The always great Bernard Hill as Philos and Steven Brand as the evil Memnon. Each actor adds a bit of credibility to the film. Surely the studio was banking on The Rock carrying the picture, but Iï¿½m positive in saying that the film would have failed without these supporting actors. As strong as The Rock is in his first starring role, he does show that this is indeed his first starring role (he has since come a long way, particular in his last film Gridiron Gang).
During the course of the film, I wondered to myself if this film was nothing more than a glorified promotion film. The Rock needed to get started as an actor wanting to distance himself from WWE (Iï¿½m sure executive producer McMahon wasnï¿½t too thrilled with this). The story is nothing new (how often have we seen the basic plotline of bad ruler treating woman bad, woman goes away, meets hero, falls in love, and then turns her back on the evil ruler only for the hero to become ruler), but I suppose what makes the film a success is that all of the characters add their own bit of charm to the role. One such character was The Thief, a complete idiot constantly doing stupid, childish acts causing us to consistently shake our heads. In real life no one would have a sidekick like this. But thatï¿½s Hollywood for you.
Face it, The Scorpion King was made for the sole reason of being a cash grab. While it wasnï¿½t as successful as either Mummy film (understandably so), this popcorn filled feast was entertaining enough to recommend to those who liked the Mummy films, are fans of The Rock, or just want to spend 90 minutes having some fun.
Benefiting from a rather new print, The Scorpion King, presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 2:35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, marks another + in the column of excellent transfers from Universal.
Color usage is stunning with vibrant yellows, whites, reds and blacks. The bright desert scenery had sequences of fantastic depth and detail, all which added to the feeling that we were running right behind Mathayus. I did notice a bit of edge enhancements in some of the exterior desert sequences, but I canï¿½t really complain, as the edge enhancements never lasted for more than a second or two. Grain is not really an issue.
Obviously being an extremely CG heavy film, I feared that all the CG effects would translate to a rather flat, un-inspiring transfer. Sure some of the CG effects didnï¿½t seem overly real, but this was being billed as a summer popcorn flick. I noticed one particular effect, the sand effect around 40 minutes in, looked fake. Not the biggest issue, but just something I figured Iï¿½d mention. Not a flawless title, but The Scorpion King is sure close. As a side note, this release marks another HD DVD/DVD combo with a 15GB HD side and a 9GB DVD side.
Arriving with the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 available in either English or Francais, The Scorpion King boasts a few exemplary sequences of excellence, but I felt the overall audio experience would have really benefited from a TrueHD track.
Dialogue was crisp, clean and clear with no evidence of anything becoming muddled or hard to hear. Surround usage was fine but could have been more enveloping particularly in some of the key action sequences of the film (like the opening sequence). I noticed that the surrounds tended to rise a lot when needed only to fall to a nearly flat level in the very immediate sequence. Seemed a bit odd to me. The score by John Debney was perfect reminding me of the work Jerry Goldsmith did on the first film. A majority of the piece was upbeat and sounded heroic helping to give the filmï¿½s sound an overall boost.
As I mentioned above, it would have been nice if Universal could have included a TrueHD track here. The film is action (not at its finest), which is entertaining throughout. Donï¿½t get me wrong though, the audio was fine (1.5mbps encoding), but lacked that overall ï¿½oomphï¿½ I wanted here.
A note of slight annoyance with this 15/9 disc is that a majority of the features are on the 9 side meaning we have to turn over the disc.
Iï¿½ll fully admit that when I first saw The Scorpion King in theaters back in April of 2002, I hated the film. This second viewing on HD was much better as I realized the film, while not better than either Mummy film, is entertaining in its own right. The Rock, as a first time leader, did a serviceable enough job. The transfer is dynamite and the audio is just fine. Universal has ported over all the SD DVD features rounding out a great, recommended package.
Special Features List
- Feature Commentary with The Rock
- Feature Commentary with Director Chuck Russell
- Godsmack Music Video
- Preparing the Fight
- The Making of The Scorpion King
- The Special Effects
- Working with Animals
- Ancient World Production Design
- Scorpion King: Man or Myth?
- The Scorpion King Club