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Scorpion King, The Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
ImageAfter the success of "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns", producers launched the spin-off, "The Scorpion King".  But, in all fairness, the movie really does not have much to do with the Mummy movies.  "The Mummy Returns" ends with a battle involving the Scorpion King, but in a different incarnation than in this new film.  Nevertheless, the overall film fits in nicely with the Mummy series.

Stephen Sommers returns as a writer for the film.  However, he turns the directing reigns to Chuck Russell.  Previous to "The Scorpion King", Russell directed films such as, "Eraser" with Arnold Schwarzenegger and "The Mask" with Jim Carrey, so Chuck is no stranger to summer blockbusters and massive amount of special and visual effects.

"The Scorpion King", set in 5000 B.C., or about 2000 years prior to the Mummy films, brings full-blown action to the large screen in great quantities.  While it was moderately successful at the box office in 2002, the film is now viewed more as a bargain bin item.  Still, the performances by Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) and Kelly Hu yielded some rather admirable qualities.  Johnson has a commanding presence onscreen.  At the same point he is able to bring the comedic elements of the script into play, without turning the film into a corny and cliché action/adventure film.  His character is written to be extremely one-dimensional.  However, he puts forth a charismatic effort.  Kelly Hu plays Cassandra, King Memnon's sorceress.  Her beauty and grace is a tremendous attraction. Basically, the film is centered on Mathayus (Dwayne Johnson) and his quest to conquer King Memnon (Steven Brand) and take revenge for the death of his brother.  He is hired as an assassin to kill King Memnon's sorceress, Cassandra.  However, his employers betray him and a trap is set.  Mathayus manages to escape, with the sorceress in tow.  It doesn't take long for romance to bud between Mathayus and Cassandra.  In order to try and change her vision of the future, Cassandra returns to King Memnon.  Naturally, Mathayus takes off after her and sets in motion a string of events that lead to a monumental battle.

"The Scorpion King" is not much more than that of a straight-to-video release.  The script is weak, the cinematography is amateurish, and the CGI is a top-of-the-line cheese-fest.  Yet, somehow I cannot keep from being enthralled by the film.  There are enough tiny nuisances that keep the viewer interested in what happens next.  Whether is be Kelly Hu's beauty, Dwayne Johnson's dry humor, or the battle sequences, there is something for everyone to enjoy.  Fans of the Mummy films will definitely want to check this film out, but don't expect a masterpiece by any means.

The video quality of this film is slightly less than perfect, but far above the standard.  Originally released on HD DVD back in 2006, the Blu-ray version boasts what looks to be the same transfer, 1080p/VC-1.  The black levels are true to form and yield a nice and deep image.  Contrast and details are incredible.  There are numerous scenes that truly shine in terms of textures and details.  The fire ant sequence, with cheesy CGI, contains a number of small details.  Pay special attention to the individual grains of sand.  The fast-action battles still retain the details of the warriors' costumes.  The colors of the film are vibrantly orange and blue, and the Blu-ray transfer upholds these colors very well.  Noise is never a problem in the film, even during visual effect sequences.  The transfer is very sharp.  However, there are some distractions in the video quality.  Mainly due to the film and not the transfer, but the visual effect sequences yield in a noticeably softer image.  This back and forth between sharpness and blur is very distracting.  Also, there is camera jitter that persists throughout the film.  Overall though, it is an extremely remarkable transfer.

Universal has included an upgrade on this Blu-ray transfer in terms of audio.  This disc is equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.  The HD DVD had a max soundtrack of Dolby Digital Plus.  The HD DVD soundtrack was well received.  The Blu-ray soundtrack offers only a small update.  The soundtrack makes great use of the LFE channel.  Your subwoofer will get a tremendous workout.  At the same time, the dialogue is crisp and clear.  You will not have to reach for your remote to hear this film.  The surrounds yield an all-encompassing soundscape.  The panning among the channels is well thought out and executed.  The only places in which this soundtrack suffers are in balance and mixing.  The rock music is terribly heavy in the mix, over-powering the effects of the film.  The mix of the film lacks a cohesive factor that ties in the effects with the dialogue and music.  The final sound presentation is quite terrific, but lacks a final polish.

The special features of this disc are limited and disappointing to say the least.  The only extra feature is a directory audio commentary by Chuck Russell.  This commentary is average at best.  Chuck spends much of the time narrated the action taking place on screen.  There are rare moments in which he actually talks about historical accuracy, but these are few and far between.

In the end, "The Scorpion King" is a typical action/adventure film created from a more popular film series.  Charismatic qualities found in the actors and astonishing picture quality with a full sounding audio track is about all that keep this film a float.  Nonetheless, this film is definitely worth a look.  True fans of the Mummy series will absolutely want to add this to their film library.

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