After the incredible debut of The Mummy, Universal appeared to not only want just one sequel, but another to quickly follow it. While there was no third The Mummy (until this year, anyway), a prequel to the series titled The Scorpion King came out less than a year after The Mummy Returns hit screens. The character, played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, had a brief role in The Mummy Returns but his character was expanded upon in his own movie, changing not only his mannerisms from the movie but also sliding the film into a more general popcorn fair, much like its The Mummy brethren.
The last true Akkadian mercenary, Mathayus (The Rock) is assigned to kill Memnon’s (Steven Brand) sorceress, Cassandra (Kelly Hu). Despite nearly carrying out his duty, a run in that results in the death of Mathayus’s brother waylays his plans to carry out his order for the death of Cassandra. Along the way Mathayus realizes that he can use Cassandra as bait to capture Memnon and with this plan in mind he begins to set things into motion. Along the way The Rock must not only battle the foes that Memnon sends, but also his growing feelings for the sorceress who he was once sent to kill.
I don’t know what I expected from The Scorpion King. I had a free ticket to go see it after I bought the soundtrack (which was an awesome soundtrack, by the way) and I assumed at some point that a free ticket meant an awesome movie. That’s not what it means at all, by the way, as I was soon to find out. Aside from a half-naked Kelly Hu to lay my thirteen year old eyes on, I was bored out of my skull and found the whole story to be incredibly stupid. I had loved the previous The Mummy films, but The Scorpion King was something different entirely. And it was stupid.
I know now what went wrong and became the disconnect for me with this film. I had expected it to follow the portrayal of The Scorpion King as seen in The Mummy Returns would be the same role we saw in this film. Instead we got a comedic and incredibly goofy and unrealistic portrayal of someone I thought was supposed to kick a ton of ass. Instead he acted like a modern day hero starved for sex and flexing his muscles at every point. Perhaps that’s how it was five or six thousand years ago, I don’t know; but I do know that movies with The Rock improved drastically after this mess.
Another element of the film I disliked was the deluge of new names to learn. Mathayus, Memnon, Arpid, Thorak…I don’t mind a few odd names here and there, but when you get this many at once they become incredibly difficult ot remember at if you can’t remember the name of the characters you’re watching on the screen, then there’s something wrong with the writing of the film. Simple names like “Cassandra” were easy to remember but…c’mon. Thorak? Really? And why did Michael Clarke Duncan appear in this film. This was the only movie he was in that I disliked (so far). How you go from The Green Mile to this, I don’t know. I guess he just wanted to have fun or something, I don’t know.
I just couldn’t get into this film. I thought after being disappointed with my viewing of The Mummy Returns that maybe my horrible memories of this one would be washed away by knowing what I was in for but…nope. I just can’t get into this film and considering I’m usually pretty lenient on the popcorn action flick genre, I’d say there are more problems that lie with the film rather than my ability to enjoy goofy flicks. Skip It.
Despite The Mummy films getting a nice fancy new treatment on DVD and Blu-ray, The Scorpion King gets shortchanged on the Blu-ray format, with only one of the handful of extras being ported over from its original DVD release. Not that I particularly wanted to watch a bunch of these extras, but it seems odd they left off so much when they included nearly everything from the past The Mummy releases on the Blu-ray editions. In any case, The Scorpion King arrives on Blu-ray in a standard Blu-ray case with an insert for upcoming Universal Blu-ray’s (I’ve typed that a lot in this paragraph, I know) as well as the actual disc itself which mimics the cover art. The cover is of the reflective foil variety, so it matches the other The Mummy films quite well. In visuals at least.
The video for this release is, I assume, a copy of the VC-1 encoded transfer from the HD-DVD release this film received (which also had a host of extras on it that aren’t included here).The transfer itself is fine, although it really isn’t too impressive as it lacks the basic detail levels and many times clothing and faces aren’t as defined as they should be, giving them a smooth look. It’s not horrible and the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track sounds fantastic, but it’s just not enough to polish this turd of a film. Yes I lowered my standards for reviews by using the word “turd”, but I figured if anything was appropriate to use that word for, it was this movie. You could say I was even holding it in until I got to this one. Ok I’ll stop.
Moving onto the extras…there’s not much. A commentary with Director Chuck Russell and that’s it. Not to say his track isn’t mildly entertaining, but it’s certainly not worth the time to check it out. Even more baffling is they include that track but not the one with the star of the film, The Rock. Seriously Universal, did you just decide to completely half-ass this release or what?
There are some extras via the U-Control function exclusive to the Blu-ray release and this is, I imagine, where all of the extras from the previous releases are stuffed, but with over a dozen chapters in the film containing these extras, it’s not the easiest thing to figure out to watch. I would have preferred that these extras be available by a separate menu, as accessing them only while the movie plays in the background is kind of cumbersome. Not a huge deal, but still confusing as most of the time it’s just actors talking about their characters, with no real pertinence to the sequence happening behind the picture-in-picture.
Overall The Scorpion King is not only a disappointing film but it’s also the most disappointing release for the film on the highest caliber format available yet. Sure the extras are there, but they’re tucked away inside the U-Control and at first glance there doesn’t appear to be anything new to go after (I actually wrote this review before discovering there were extras on another Universal title via way of the U-Control only. I’m still getting used to this format, I guess). If you really enjoy the film it might be worth it for the technical upgrade, but even that’s pushing it.
The Scorpion King arrives on Blu-ray on July 22nd.