THE SCORPION KING
To be perfectly honest, I wasnít expecting too much, when I popped a copy of THE SCORPION KING into my DVD play. However, I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the movie. No, THE SCORPION KING isnít great cinema, nor is leading man Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) going to win an Academy Award anytime soon. With that said, I found THE SCORPION KING to be an entertaining, albeit mindless, popcorn movie and Dwayne Johnson the perfect embodiment of the title character. If you are like me, with a fondness for sword and sandal action movies- with an emphasis on the action, I think youíll cozy right up to THE SCORPION KING.
The plot of THE SCORPION KING takes place long before the events in THE MUMMY RETURNS, which introduced the filmís title character. At the point in time at which the story takes place, The Scorpion King is not yet a king, but instead a warrior/assassin named Mathayus (Johnson), who is engaged to kill the sorcerer that has rendered an evil warlord and his armies completely unstoppable. When Mathayus zeros in on his quandary, he discovers that the sorcerer is in fact a beautiful sorceress, and she actually saves his life when he is captured. Eventually, Mathayus is able to make an escape and he kidnaps the sorceress, instead of killing her. With the sorceress at his side, Mathayus has effectively rendered the warlord vulnerable to attack, so he musters his forces to launch a preemptive strike against the warlord and his army.
As you can see, the plot to THE SCORPION KING isnít particularly complex, but it serves the movie well as a springboard to one solid action sequence after another. Additionally, THE SCORPION KING is infused with good doses of humor; allowing it to follow the same kind of formula as the HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS TV series, except with much higher production values. Director Chuck Russell keeps the film moving at rapid pace and he has staged the filmís numerous action sequences quite well. The cast of THE SCORPION KING also includes Steven Brand, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kelly Hu, Bernard Hill, Grant Heslov, Peter Facinelli, Ralph Moeller, Branscombe Richmond and Roger Rees.
Universal Studios Home Video has made THE SCORPION KING available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. Without a doubt, this is a gorgeous transfer. The image displays stunning clarity and detail; a tribute to the impressive cinematography of John R. Leonetti. Of course, considering that this is a big budget movie just coming off of theatrical distribution, there is absolutely no reason that the DVD shouldnít look this good. Colors tend to be wonderfully rich and vibrant, while the flesh tones are always rendered in an appealing and generally natural manner. There are no signs of chroma noise or smearing to mar the fidelity of the color reproduction. Blacks appear deep and velvety, while whites are clean and stable. Contrast is very smooth and the picture produces an excellent level of shadow detail. The dual layered DVD does not exhibit truly any noticeable instances of digital compression artifacts.
THE SCORPION KING comes with a rock Ďem sock Ďem Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix, which is certain to please any action movie fan. The soundtrack is aggressively mixed, with the sound designers making extensive use of the split surround channels to take the filmís action way over-the-top (and this reviewer loved every second of it). Weapons whoosh by the viewersí ears during the battle sequences, just before hitting their on screen targets, which brings one right into the middle of the action. Dialogue is crisply rendered, with excellent intelligibility, although I tend to doubt anyone will be watching this movie for its dialogue. The bass channel is wonderfully deep and fully authoritative- creating a ground shaking rumble during a couple of key moments. Additionally, music is reproduced with very good fidelity and a nice spatial quality. A French 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and Spanish subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental features. THE SCORPION KING includes an enhanced viewing mode, which will allow the viewer to access alternate footage by pressing "enter" on their remote control, whenever a sword icon appears on the screen. Two audio commentaries are also featured on the DVD, the first is with director Chuck Russell and the second features performer Dwayne Johnson. Chuck Russell goes into a great deal of technical detail on the production, while Johnsonís commentary isnít particularly insightful. However, there are times when Johnsonís comments are augmented by video, which allows the viewer to see "The Rock" as he talks about certain sequences in the film.
About three minutes of outtakes are also provided on the DVD, as are alternate versions of key scenes. A fourteen-minute making of featurette is also provided, as are other brief featurettes on production design, stunts & fight choreography, the two leading actors, working with four legged co-stars and special effects. The Godsmack music video for the song I Stand Alone has also been included, along with a text essay on the possibility of a real scorpion king, production notes, a theatrical trailer and filmographies. THE SCORPION KING is also DVD-ROM enabled with links to on-line content.
As mindless popcorn movies go, THE SCORPION KING is a whole lot of fun. Universal has provided the film with an incredible looking transfer, which when combined with the rocking soundtrack and the great extras makes this a terrific DVD. If you are even mildly interested in seeing THE SCORPION KING, you can't go wrong by picking up a copy of the disc. Additionally, those just looking for something new to feed their killer home theater system will definitely find that this DVD delivers the goods.
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