HTF REVIEW: "The Scorpion King" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Aug 24, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    [​IMG]

    The Scorpion King




    Studio: Universal
    Year: 2002
    Rated: PG-13
    Film Length: 92 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)



    Warrior. Legend. King.
    The Scorpion King ballyhoos itself as a
    prequel to the hit films The Mummy and The Mummy
    Returns.
    Unfortunately, if you treat this film
    as part of that series you are going to make a big
    mess out of this film.
    [​IMG]
    The Scorpion King stars The Rock/Dwayne Johnson
    as Mathayus, one of the last of his tribe of people—
    and one of the last free people on earth. A warlord
    named Memnon (Steve Brand) has conquered the known
    world using his skill as a soldier and the services
    of a sorceress who can predict where and when the
    enemy will strike.
    [​IMG]
    Mathayus is initially hired by the last free tribes
    to kill the sorceress. But when he is betrayed and
    his brother is killed, Mathayus vows to kill Memnon
    himself. Along the way, he collects a band of helpers
    including a goofy horse thief (this year's Jar-Jar
    Binks), a giant black tribal king (Michael Clark
    Duncan), and eventually, the sorceress herself
    (Kelly Hu).
    [​IMG]
    While the film will probably not disappoint the
    legions of wrestling fans waiting to see "The Rock"
    in action, it's most everyone else that will see
    this film only as a typical action movie--full of
    gratuitous non-violence, horrible acting by the
    film's star, and a script that is about as intricate
    as a pro-wrestling main event.
    How is the transfer?
    This transfer ranks up with the rest of the
    very best transfers from Universal. What really
    stands out amongst the crystal-clear and vividly
    sharp detailed picture is the deepest blacks I
    have seen in recent memory. These are blacks
    that are often very hard to achieve, and they
    just add a certain richness and texture that most
    transfers seem to lack.
    The day lit scenes are outstanding to watch as
    you really see how crisp and clean the transfer
    is, giving much emphasis to picture detail. A
    tropical oasis is perhaps one of the most beautiful
    scenes in the film with its lush green foliage and
    blue petal flowers.
    The night scenes are equally impressive. Though
    immersed in orange filters and dimly lit by camp
    fire, these sequences come off with astounding
    detail and not a hint of video grain.
    [​IMG]
    The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is above average,
    but I greatly missed the spacial quality that a DTS
    track would have added here. The entire scope of
    the sound seems somewhat confined.
    The mix is about as pumped up as you would
    expect from a film of this kind. The front and
    LFE channels are filled with thunderous bass-heavy
    sound that will push your subwoofer to its limits.
    A sequence where a gong falls to the floor and
    rolls across the screen and another sequence that
    featured an engulfing sand storm had my floor
    literally shaking from bass response. The rears
    never cease to provide the sounds of slinging
    arrows, hurling tomahawks and spinning spears that
    seem to come from every direction.
    As I stated above, I was disappointed that the
    overall sound felt more compressed than the
    DTS soundtrack of some of Universal's other
    notable action films including The Mummy.
    Special Features
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Universal has released The Scorpion King
    as single disc Collector's Edition DVD. I can almost
    see the frustration Universal had with either going
    with a 2-Disc DTS release or as in this case,
    preserving the bandwidth by eliminating DTS but
    providing an ample amount of added material.
    [​IMG]
    One very important suggestion. If you have seen
    the film already, go into the Bonus Materials
    area and be sure to turn on the Enhanced
    Alternate Versions mode. In this mode, a red
    sword icon will occasionally appear in the corner
    of your screen. Press ENTER. and you will be
    branched out to an alternate version of that scene
    that was never used.
    I had made the mistake of missing this feature
    the first time out, so I had to go back a second
    time and scan through the entire DVD for the added
    content. Though there are supposed to be a few places
    this sword icon appears, I found it in the last
    scene of the movie. Clicking on the sword I was
    able to watch a few extra minutes of narrative
    dialogue that was added to the film's finale. A
    rather cool feature that I wish I didn't miss the
    first time out.
    [​IMG]
    There are two feature commentaries on this
    DVD. The first is with Director Chuck Russell.
    The second is actually an enhanced commentary
    with The Rock. Let's talk about the latter. The
    Rock's commentary is a lot like reading this review.
    It's not from someone of professional intellect, but
    it can be entertaining. The problem with the
    commentary is that the star rarely speaks, and
    when he does, there's nothing much of interest said
    other than "this is a great scene" or "Look at the
    way that guy looks" kind of stuff. There are often
    reflections from The Rock on how a scene was filmed,
    or why several takes had to be done in a particular
    sequence. As an added bonus, on occasion a red
    cobra icon will appear. Click on it and you can
    see a secondary window of The Rock providing live
    video commentary.
    [​IMG]
    This is actually kind of fun. There are a little
    more than 3 minutes worth of outtakes shown
    as a continuous montage of sequences. Some of these
    outtakes are quite funny. We have The Rock trying
    to catch an object in take after take. There's a
    camel with Sorceress on board that just will not
    cooperate. Then there's The Rock hitting Michael
    Clarke Duncan a little too hard and getting a nice
    comeback from the actor afterwards. Really cool stuff
    here that had me laughing, but alas, just not enough.
    Here it is! For those of you, like myself, that
    missed the Alternate Versions of key scenes
    (indicated by the red sword icon) during the watching
    of the film. All of those scenes have been gathered
    here for you to watch. There seems to be a total
    of 9 extended sequences, some of which include: the
    fire ants attack; the scorpion blood laced spear
    hitting Mathayus; Memnon and the Sorceress alone;
    extended dialogue in the film's finale.
    [​IMG]
    The Making of The Scorpion King is your
    standard promotional fare beginning with a
    narrative overview of the film set over many
    hyped-up film clips. Producer James Jacks briefly
    explains that a story had to be dreamed up that
    coincided with The Rock's appearance in The
    Mummy Returns
    , but that story had to take place
    before that film. Director Chuck Russell and
    The Rock give a basic outline of the film's story.
    During the layout of the story, we meet cast members
    Steve Brand, Kelly Hu and Michael Clarke Duncan
    who talk about their characters while Director
    Russell describes how each were chosen for the part.
    There's some funny bantering between The Rock and
    Duncan over their drawing star power. In between
    all this, we take a look at life on the various
    sets as we watch action from behind-the-camera.
    There's some nice moments of Director Russell
    showing The Rock the dailies, explaining what is
    to be done next. This featurette dwells briefly
    into the building of the massive sets and the
    handling of all the different exotic animals
    brought aboard. Steve Brand and Kelly Hu joke
    about how scary it was being close to some of
    the snakes. This entire documentary wraps up with
    a look at some of the visual effects that were
    added to the film, particularly, how the sandstorm
    sequence was filmed. Not a bad featurette, but
    bothersome that it makes the film look better than
    it actually is. Of course, that's why these
    featurettes are made in the first place.
    (length: approx. 14 minutes)
    [​IMG]
    Ancient World Production Design takes
    a look at the creation of the film's Sodom and
    Gomorrah sets. Production Designer Ed Verreaux
    shows us original concept drawings and tells us
    the many California locales that sets were
    built in. It's interesting to note that a cave
    that Mathayus exits from is the actual Bate Cave
    from the Batman TV series. Most of the sets used
    were recycled from other films, such as the huge
    statues originally seen in Spartacus, that
    were changed for this film. A very interesting
    look at how an entire world was built with a lot
    of ingenuity from the Production team.
    (length: approx 2.5 minutes)
    How do you train actors in using swords and other
    special weapons that they have no skill in?
    Preparing The Fight features Director Chuck
    Russell giving us an overview of the training.
    Cast members talk about the challenges of their
    training since choreography was often changed at
    a moment's notice. Many of the swords weighed
    25 lbs., and although the edges of the blades
    were dull, there were still a lot of safety
    concerns about the way they were swung at one
    another. It would have been nice to have heard
    some words from fight coordinator William Burton,
    but alas, we only see brief shots of him training
    the actors.
    (length: approx. 5.5 minutes)
    There was great friendship yet immense competition
    between The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan.
    This short piece features the friendly bantering
    that went on between the both of them. The big
    story of this featurette can originally be seen
    in the outtakes sequence, but is told more
    in-depth here. It's of course, the story of The
    Rock giving a bad punch to Michael Clarke Duncan,
    and Michael's response.
    (length: approx. 3.5 minutes)
    What about all those animals? In Working With
    Animals, we briefly take a look at the many
    animals used on the film. It is the beautiful
    white camel, however, that gets particular attention
    here. Director Chuck Russell talks about how
    unpredictable and wild the camel was. Would
    The Rock opt to ride this camel after it threw its
    trainer off its back? The Rock thought nothing
    of it and assured all would be cool.
    (length: approx. 2.5 minutes)
    [​IMG]
    We take a look at two Special Effects sequences.
    The first is of the sorceress handling cobras which
    actually was CGI generated since using real cobras
    would be too dangerous. We take a look at some neat
    test footage involving real cobras which give you
    an idea of how the CGI was created. The next sequence
    involves the red fire ants. From rehearsals inside
    a conference room, The Rock was able to properly
    act against danger that was not immediate as the
    CGI ants were added later. This is a wonderful and
    intricate look at how this scene was mapped out
    and executed.
    (length: approx. 3.7 minutes)
    The film's music video, I Stand Alone
    by Godsmack is included in its entirety.
    Could there really have been a Scorpion King? In
    Man or Myth: The Historical King Scorpion,
    we see the first hint as to the possible existence
    of a Scorpion King that was found just before the
    turn of the 20th century. Pages of text follow
    that talk about archeological findings that had
    depictions etched on weaponry that might prove the
    existence of a Scorpion King. Read it with an open
    mind.
    Concluding the immense amount of added material,
    we have the film's original theatrical trailer
    as well as Production Notes that basically
    tell how the film was built around the WWF star.
    There is a very nice Cast and Filmmakers
    area that gives a little more than just a simple
    filmography. We get pages of background information
    on each individual.
    This would be a good time to mention that the
    DVD begins with trailers for E.T. and
    The Back To The Future Trilogy DVD releases.
    A Universal Showcase area in the Bonus Materials
    area has trailers for The Hulk and Taken.
    Not certain what this is all about, but there's a
    list of names of persons that made The Scorpion
    King MovieClub. It looks as if these are the
    ultimate collectors -- but of what, I don't know.
    Finally, DVD-ROM content gives you access
    to exclusive on-line features (via Total Axess) such
    as behind-the-scenes footage and never-before-seen
    material that changes weekly.
    The DVD features English and Spanish subtitles.
    Special Thought: It's so nice to see that
    a decision has been made to remove Colleen Benn's
    name from every damn Universal featurette as of
    late. It was just plain overkill that her name had
    to appear in supplement after supplement when the
    real credit goes to others.
    Final Thoughts
    After all the initial negative reviews, including
    one from my friend Steve Simon who felt sorry I
    had to actually review the film (he saw it), I was
    fully prepared to hate The Scorpion King.
    What one needs to do before watching this film is
    to accept the fact that this vehicle was created for
    WWF wrestling star The Rock. It's a mindless piece
    of entertainment that delivers exactly what it
    promises. Go in for a popcorn flick and you won't
    disappointed. In fact, low expectations actually
    made me enjoy this film.
    [​IMG]
    I am going to recommend this DVD for three simple
    reasons. First, it's actually not as bad of a film
    as you may have heard. It's mindless entertainment
    but it's a good way to spend an evening. Second,
    I had more fun watching the added supplemental
    material than the film itself. Third, you can
    actually own this feature-packed DVD at an on-line
    price of just $20.
    Yeah, go ahead and pick this DVD up. Be sure,
    however, to buy the widescreen version
    as the full-frame version packaging is very similar.
    Release Date: October 1st
     
  2. Adam_WM

    Adam_WM Screenwriter

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    Man, Ron, I don't get it. Low expectations help you enjoy a crap-pile like the Scorpion King but you pan Showtime? If you are going to review some movies with pre-conceptions that they are going to suck and they only half-suck, that's ok? I don't get it. No offense, though...just sayin'.
     
  3. CaptDS9E

    CaptDS9E Cinematographer

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    Its pretty easy to like a mindless action movie with low expectations then it is a comedy with no comedy. I can name a ton of mindless action movies i like. But not one mindless comedy or drama

    capt
     
  4. Adam_WM

    Adam_WM Screenwriter

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    Well, mindless drama maybe not.

    Mindless comedy = Road Trip, Van Wilder, etc.

    Mindless comedies can still be funny, but not always. Mindless action can still be good, but not always... like in this case.
     
  5. Joel C

    Joel C Screenwriter

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  6. Adam_WM

    Adam_WM Screenwriter

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    Tell you what... if I made a movie that was a two-bit Conan rip-off with crappy action sequences and that only served as showcase for its lead and I set it ancient Egypt, the Scorpion King would be creation. Trust me guys, IT SUCKS.
     
  7. Romier S

    Romier S Producer

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  8. Jenna

    Jenna Second Unit

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    Michael Ballack Second Unit

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  10. Carl C

    Carl C Stunt Coordinator

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  11. Adam_WM

    Adam_WM Screenwriter

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    Hey, I'm not saying Ron is wrong. I'm just trying to save the countless members of this forum $20.

    TRUST ME, RENT FIRST and bring booze.
     
  12. Daniel J

    Daniel J Stunt Coordinator

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    Ron, I must ask why you insist on blaming the mix of an audio track on the compression format- You should really know better by now!
    Though it does seem that engineers put more effort into dts tracks, it all comes down to the mix. Maybe if we stopped barking up the dts tree all the time engineers would start paying better attention to DD tracks on all releases; that would be a good thing for everyone.
     
  13. NickFoley

    NickFoley Stunt Coordinator

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    There no way in hell, that this 90 minute prequel is better than the great Mummy Returns.

    No way, at all.
     
  14. Brandon Allen

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    I have been waiting for this release for sometime now...and though I have enjoyed both The Mummy & the Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King was just simply a Fun Movie to watch...even if it may not connect with the rest of the series. I definately will be adding this to my collection.
    Thanks Ron for the review!
     
  15. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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  16. Dan Keefe

    Dan Keefe Second Unit

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    I guess you have to be a Rock fan(Which I'm not really)or a WWF(E) fan(Which I am) or someone who is easily entertained(I am[​IMG] ) to enjoy this film.
    I thought this movie was great! I paid to see it in the theaters and plan on buying it on DVD(widescreen of course)
    Anyway, as always Ron thanks for the review, I didn't realize how many extras were on this DVD...
    Hollywood seems to be building up the Rock as the next Arnold or Stallone...So plan on sseing a lot more movies like this in the future...IF YOU SMELLLLLLL WHAT THE ROCK IS ...COOKING!
    dan
     
  17. Adam_WM

    Adam_WM Screenwriter

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    Sorry for farting in this thread. I apologize. I didn't mean to take such an aggressive viewpoint. I hope no harm is done.

    Adam
     
  18. jacob w k

    jacob w k Stunt Coordinator

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    I might pick it up used from Blockbuster eventually. I'm actually happy that it is only 90 minutes long since I found the 2 Mummy movies to be too long at over 2 hours each.
     
  19. Joseph J.D

    Joseph J.D Cinematographer

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    Geez....you'd think that for a 90 minute film, they would spice it up a bit with a DTS track. The Mummy UE has a DTS track - why not Mummy Returns and The Scorpion King? This will not do....no sale for me.[​IMG]
     
  20. Colin Jacobson

    Colin Jacobson Producer

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    Is it just me, or did Ron choose pretty much the fruitiest picture possible of the Rock for the example of his video commentary?[​IMG]
     

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