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The Scorpion King (2002) – DVD Review

The Scorpion King


Written by: Jonathan Hales, David Hayter, William Osborne & Stephen Sommers
Directed by: Chuck Russell
Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Steven Brand, Michael Clarke Duncan and Kelly Hu


  • Alternate Version in Advanced Viewing Mode
  • Running audio (and sometimes video) commentary with The Rock
  • Running audio commentary with director Russell
  • Outtakes
  • Godsmack Music Video: “I Stand Alone”
  • Preparing the Fight: A look at the process of shooting a fight sequence
  • Making-of featurette
  • Special effects featurette
  • The Rock and Michael Clark Duncan featurette
  • Ancient World Production Design featurette
  • Working with Animals featurette
  • Scorpion King: Man or Myth? featurette
  • DVD-ROM Features including Total Axcess

Released by: Universal Pictures
Region: 1
Rating: PG-13
Anamorphic: 2.35:1

My Advice: Rent it

[ad#longpost]Mathayus (The Rock) is an assassin…and a pretty damned good one. He and two of his brothers are the last of their tribe. All of the other tribes in the area are leaderless and without cohesion. Mathayus gets hired to take out The Sorceress (Hu) who they claim is giving Memnon (Brand) his power. Oh yeah, Memnon is the Evil Man Who Would Be King in the neighboring city. Mathayus and his brothers sneak into the city, but as he is trying to kill the Sorceress, her indescribable beauty (and most certainly lack of adequate clothing) stays his hand. He gets captured, escapes and kidnaps the Sorceress instead of killing her. While they are wondering in the wilderness, they overcome their differences (you know, like him trying to kill her and all…) and fall in love. Then they kick some Memnon ass.

Okay, so the formula for this film is almost found on the backs of breakfast cereal boxes these days, but there’s something about this movie that makes you overlook that fact and just sit back and turn off a few brain cells for about 90 minutes. The Rock is in no danger of being the next Olivier, the script isn’t going to win any Pulitzer Prizes and Chuck Russell isn’t going to walk away with an Oscar (at least for this film), but the movie is just fun to watch. Let me get the negative stuff out of the way first.

The writing is absolute drivel. The way they have him become The Scorpion King is about as deep and thoughtful as a puddle of fog. When you add in the fact that the plot is there just to barely hold the fight scenes together, it makes it that much worse. Now throw in that the fight scenes are shot like pretty much every other fight scene these days–you know, too many close-ups and quick edits to really see or get what is going on–and it would seemingly knock the other leg out from under the film, right? No wait–it doesn’t stop there.

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson ready to kick ass

The premise is a spinoff of The Mummy films, right? Then why doesn’t the scenery even closely resemble the desert setting of those two films? It really looks like the design team wanted to throw in as much world history as they possibly could. Most of the setting either looks like a Mayan temple while each of the character’s costumes seemed to be pulled from a different corner of the globe at completely different times. The Sorceress is the only one whose costume looks remotely Egyptian. (The Rock’s costume really doesn’t matter because he winds up ripping most of it off in the first ten minutes or so of the film.) Those seem like they would add up to a remarkably horrible movie, right?

Well, not so fast there, pilgrim. Somehow my mind was tricked into forgetting about all that stuff and I just had a good time–which is what a popcorn flick is supposed to do. About halfway through the movie, I remember thinking, “If Russell can tell me how he did this in the commentary this DVD will be worth owning.”

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson ready to comment on some video

I smell a segue to the review of the DVD itself. I started out with the Alternate Version, which, to be honest, is not all that alternate. All you get is an different way to display the scenes within the film itself. It’s kind of like the “Follow the White Rabbit” feature on The Matrix DVD. However, after you have watched an alternate scene, rather than picking up in the movie where it left off, you have to go back and watch the scene as it was when it was released to theaters; so the whole thing is neat, but frustrating.

There are two commentary tracks, one with The Rock and one with director Chuck Russell. The one with The Rock also gives you the option to use the same “Follow the White Rabbit” style feature again–but this time, it allows you to watch little clips of The Rock sitting in the studio recording his audio commentary. Again, it’s frustrating, because after you watch the clip, it takes you right back to the beginning of the scene you just watched. The Rock is funny, but he winds up watching the film more than commenting on it, so as commentary tracks go, it’s not that great. The commentary track with Russell is more like your traditional commentary track: he goes into much more detail about his process of helming the film. He also provides you with some neat insights into what it took to make some of the fight scenes. By the way, he didn’t reveal his secret about making me forget how bad this movie really should have been. Oh, well.

The Outtakes are only moderately funny and there are not nearly enough of them. There is also an option to view the aforementioned alternate scenes without having to sit through the film again. From there we get into the typical DVD special feature fare. There is the obligatory “making of” featurette, and those involved sometimes sound like they are taking the film too seriously and sometimes sound like they were just having fun making the film.

There are a couple of the features that they really should have left out. For example, there is a production design featurette that goes into detail about how they created the world of The Scorpion King. I was very unimpressed with the level of detail that the production design team seemed to be satisfied with. As a matter of fact, all they can really talk about in the featurette is what famous places in southern California where they shot the film. The featurette that deals with putting together the fight sequences is pretty well done, but it is mostly the director and cast members talking about the process of putting the fight together–but not the fight choreographer. Odd omission there. There is a really fun little featurette that shows the friendship that The Rock and Michael Clark Duncan developed behind the scenes on this movie.

The Scorpion King Menu

There are two features that deal with the CGI cobras and killer fire ants. After seeing the reality that can be created with digital special effects in other films, it just seems silly to try to make a big deal out of putting together a couple of small scenes that use this technology and they take themselves way too seriously on this one. There is also a text-on-screen biography that deals with the history of the real Scorpion King and whether he really existed. The rest of the special features are pretty common fare: Trailers, Production Notes, Cast and Filmmakers, etc.

The more I see the DVD-ROM content that Universal is putting together and continually updating, the more I like it. At first, I was not impressed with being “forced” to use their InterActual Player, but now that I have seen a couple of DVDs where you have to use them to access the content, I’m not so against it. What I am against, is having to register every DVD in order to access the information. In other words, when you register The Scorpion King with TotalAxcess, you are registering just that DVD. If you wanted to put in another TotalAxcess DVD, you would have to register it, too. It is a one time registration, but it is time consuming and kind of made me not want to go through it just to get to the stuff. At the time of this writing, there are only two behind-the-scenes video clips and a couple of still pictures, but they promise to add more every week.

So, while they get full marks for putting together a DVD that is packed with special features, the film itself is going to be what keeps this one off the “buy” list and on the “rent” list.