Here’s something pointless but kind of fun nonetheless. Leagues better than The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King has what its predecessors didn’t: a sense of humor, a burlesque visual palette, and at least half a dozen killer set pieces. Sure, the B-movie kitsch factor is sort of lost along the way but there’s something to be said about a film that ends with the Rock actively vying for Fabio’s place on your mother’s favorite harlequin romance novel. First the good: a catch-the-peasant-boy sequence that cutely engages silent film idiom; female-empowering battle sequences that negate all those scenes with the horny concubines; and the entire sandstorm/sandpit extravaganza (five good minutes in a 90-minute film counts big time). Even better is Kelly Hu’s Sorceress Cassandra, who straddles-before-healing and rises from baths with hair-strategically-covering-bosoms. Now the bad: the post-killing catch phrases (“You’re lucky we have the same mother”); the not-so-tongue-in-cheek wisdom (“Rivers of blood can never bring peace”); all the über-Greek family murders; and every scene with Grant Heslov. For every sweaty-skin moment, Heslov kills the mood with his look-I’m-a-dork-in-the-desert routine. “It’s good to be back in the big city,” says the “comedic sidekick” before sitting at the bar in Memnon’s Club Med palace. While the scorpion king pops Cassandra’s magical powers, Heslov discovers barstool humor: “It’s not the size of the hump, it’s the motion of the camel.” Oh brother.
The Scorpion King gets a relatively noise-free transfer on this DVD edition, which preserves the film’s original 2.35:1 widescreen. Though some edge enhancement and halos are noticeable, contrast is impeccable and skin tones are rock solid. The film’s loud set pieces successfully test the Dolby Digital 5.1 track’s bass and surround sound capabilities. Overall, the mix is very active and engaging.
The Scorpion King film is preceded with DVD teasers for Universal Home Video’s upcoming titles E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and the Back to the Future trilogy. The first of many bonus features is the relatively useless "Alternate Version in Enhanced Viewing Mode," which allows the viewer to access alternate versions of key scenes by clicking on the red sword that appears on the screen during the film. A second feature titled "Alternate Versions of Key Scenes" pieces these nine or so alternate versions together without having to disrupt the flow of the film. Director Chuck Russell’s commentary is lively and rich in detail but Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson’s commentary track is a chore to sit through. A pointless, enhanced add-on to Johnson’s mundane track allows the viewer to see Russell recording his commentary whenever a red scorpion appears on screen. As with the "Alternate Version" feature, you’ll experience several problems when you leave the film: your DVD player’s fast forward function will be temporarily disabled; the anamorphic presentation will be thrown out of whack; and you’ll be returned to the point in the film where you accepted the red icon. Additionally, this enhanced video add-on is only offered during certain portions of the film and Johnson’s comments seem to vary from the ones he offers on the regular commentary track. Six features have been included on this disc though it’s evident that footage from all six has been lazily culled from one master shoot. More than likely, the "Spotlight on Location" making-of featurette will be all you need here. After which, features like "Preparing the Fight" and "The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan" sound redundant. Most effective is "Ancient World Production Design," a special effects sequence that discusses the making of the film’s CGI cobras and fire ants. Also included on the disc is a series of outtakes, Godsmack’s "I Stand Alone" music video, the film’s theatrical trailer, lengthy production notes, filmographies, a Universal Showcase (featuring teasers for Ang Lee’s The Hulk and the upcoming Steven Spielberg produced Sci-Fi show "Taken") and, most interestingly, historical data on the possible existence of the King Scorpion. The features included on the DVD-ROM portion of the disc will be available through the Universal Studio Total Axess page when this DVD edition hits the market.
If not handsomely produced, the features on this Scorpion King DVD edition are nonetheless expansive. WWF fans around the country will rejoice.