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The Scorpion King
DVD disk
10.08.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
The Scorpion King order
Director:
Chuck Russell

Actors:
The Rock
Steven Brand
Kelly Hu

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
From the deep desert, before the time of Great Pyramids, a fearless warrior (The Rock) vows to avenge his family and deliver the oppressed people from the evil King Memnon (Brand). With mystical forces, sexy sorceresses and one of entertainment's brightest stars colliding in one picture, excitement (and chaos) follows.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
What do you get when you give a bunch of giant, pre-antiquity maniacs a handful of swords, battleaxes, bows & arrows and let them duke it out to the tune of some heavy metal? You get a heaping spoonful of fun and that's basically what this movie delivers. And don't you worry about "getting" the plot, since it's one of the most straightforward ones that I've ever seen. There are no twists, no surprises, no intriguing moments of puzzlement. Everything happens exactly as you'd expect and since you don't have to bother understanding, you can fully concentrate on the non-stop action on your screen. One thing that bothers me about some so-called "popcorn" films is when they take themselves too seriously and try to convey a message or an actual story. If you expect my sorry ass to shut off my brain for an hour and a half, don't expect me to shut it off only halfway. THE SCORPION KING, thankfully, does not.

The Rock, as Mathayus the Akkadian, is his usual charming self. For the last five years or so, everything this man has touched has turned to gold and his streak doesn't seem like it's close to coming to a halt. Seconded in the tastiest of ways by ultra-hottie Kelly Hu, who spends the first half of the movie half naked and the second half completely naked, The Rock chops, slashes, kicks, punches and stabs (not to mention swings, throws, slaps and smiles) his way through hundreds of evil guards before predictably confronting his target in a grand finale of a battle scene. The enemy himself is portrayed quite well by UK import Steven Brand, who imbues his character with enough evil to be detestable and yet doesn't turn him into a caricature. Even the hilariously miscast Michael Clarke Duncan is all right, despite being the only man in the Fertile Crescent with a southern accent. Comic relief is aptly provided courtesy of Grant Heslov, the required bungling thief.

Again, don't watch this expecting to be dazzled by any dialogue or realistic depiction of the era. The anachronisms are so numerous that I halfway expected The Rock to grab a microphone, yell in it and then scrap it out with Stone Cold Steve Austin, but the movie did entertain me for an hour and a half and that's all that I really wanted. Next time I watch it, I'll probably be drunk and sitting around with a bunch of buddies trying to find something to do until we pop this in and have ourselves a very loud blast!
THE EXTRAS
Mucho stuff is included on this collector's edition DVD and while not all of it can be considered fantastic, a great majority of it is very interesting. I'm actually surprised that they managed to fit so much of that stuff on a single disc while preserving high technical quality. Kudos to Universal Studios for issuing such a plentiful pack and for keeping it affordable.

Alternate version in "Enhanced Viewing" mode (full length): This version incorporates alternate versions of some scenes into the movie (They are also included under separate, individual cover in a further feature). While watching the released version, icons appear at times and with a click of your remote, you can be whisked away to the alternate scenes. Pretty neat and while some of the scenes may only slightly differ from the actual film's, they're still fun to watch. There are nine alternates in all.

Enhanced feature commentary by The Rock (full length): This is a pretty standard issue commentary by The Rock with the exception of the "enhanced viewing feature". As above, an icon will appear once in a while and you'll be able to access a small picture-in-picture screen in which you can see The Rock recording his commentary. On the downside, his comments are very few and far between (not what I expected from such a witty and animated guy) but what he does say is usually pretty... well... witty and animated.

Feature commentary by director Chuck Russell (full length): Russell actually does a great job on this. He comes off as a decent fellow, keeps a good pace to his commentary and fills it with lots of info regarding all the topics that are usually of interest: the actors, the sets, the effect, and many, many more. This is a top-notch commentary track.

Outtakes (3:00): There's no menu to access them individually but you do end up with three minutes worth of pretty funny outtakes including messed up lines, camels running wild, Kelly Hu jumping naked out of a bath (nothing funny about that one, I had to go buy a new pair of jeans afterwards!), Michael Clarke Duncan trying to get on a horse and the Rock being his habitual funny self.

Alternate versions of key scenes (15:00): These are the same scenes that appeared in the Enhanced Viewing mode of the film except without the rest of the film wrapped around them. As with the outtakes, there's no menu to access them individually but they are divided in unmarked chapters for easy navigation.

Spotlight on location The making of The Scorpion King (15:00): A slick featurette documenting the shooting of the film as well as a bunch of other aspects of it, such as its conception, casting, production design, etc. Lots of interviews with the main players, including the cast & crew and an appearance by WWE CEO and Scorpion King executive producer Vince McMahon, the most unscrupulous man on earth. A heavy focus is placed on the film's multi-talented star.

Ancient world production design (3:00): A quick little featurette discussing some of the work put in to make the film's impressive sets. Many of them are ancient reclamation projects from past films and TV shows (ever thought you'd see Adam West's Batcave again?) used to make the cursed decadent city of Gomorrah, Memnon's capital.

Preparing the fight (6:00): This is quite an interesting little discussion by director Chuck Russell on the topic of conceiving, rehearsing and filming fight sequences. Considering this movie is filmed with some mighty spectacular ass-kicking, he obviously had his work cut out for him. Required viewing for anyone who ever said being an action star was easy.

The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan (4:00): These two apparently are longtime off-screen friends and most of the focus during this brief featurette revolves around a particular on-set incident in which The Rock accidentally knocked Duncan out during a fight scene. Duncan doesn't exactly seem like the most mobile guy around and The Rock being used to rehearsed fights, I guess this was an accident just waiting to happen.

Working with animal (3:00): Short discussion of the extensive use of animals during this film. The emphasis is place on The Rock's wild camel, who doesn't seem to share into the rest of the world's admiration for the charismatic star.

The Special Effects (4:00): This is another brief technical featurette hosted by Russell, this time discussing two particular effects in the film, namely the cobras handled by Kelly Hu in one of the climatic scenes (she can handle my snake anytime!) and the red fire ants with an appetite for The Rock's head. For some reason, this featurette is set to the soundtrack of GLADIATOR.

Music Video: Godsmack (5:00): Metal band Godsmack performs their song "I Stand Alone", set to quite a cheesy video. For anyone who mourns the glory days of heavy metal, here's what happened to it.

Man or Myth: The historical King Scorpion (text): Brief text of some historical documents that have lead some historians to suspect the existence of a real "King Scorpion" who may have ruled in Egypt over 7000 years ago.

A few other little tidbits are included, such as the Theatrical Trailer and a couple of text-based items such as production notes and cast & crew bios. You also get a few DVD-Rom features and a trailer for Ang Lee's upcoming The Hulk (and no, you don't get to see the green monster yet.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Fun movie with more than decent rewatch value (by no means a classic but always something you'll be able to rely on for mindless fun) It comes in a great DVD package with lots of neat features, and if you're into The Rock (I have yet to meet someone who isn't), you may want to make this a permanent addition to your collection. If you're not intent on that, it's definitely still worthy of a rental on a night when you're in the mood for some light-hearted fun.
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