" I’ve got a government job to abuse "
— John Travolta, Face/Off

MRQE Top Critic

Operation Condor

Jackie Chan meets Indiana Jones —Andrea Birgers (review...)

Chan borrows from Raiders

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The Scorpion King came out this spring, offering audiences a good bit of brainless fun. Borrowing from both Raiders of the Lost Ark and professional wrestling, it’s a silly movie with lots of action and a sly sense of fun. And now, finally, it’s available on DVD.

The Movie

Big explosions, special effects, and grand desert cinematographyFellow Movie Habit critic Heather Wadowski seems to have her finger on the pulse of The Scorpion King. She wrote:

“The movie industry has a tendency to throw money at the latest overnight sensation in hopes of cashing in at the box office. Britney Spears, Tom Green, The Spice Girls, Vanilla Ice. But for every A Hard Day’s Night there are a handful of Spice Worlds.

“In The Scorpion King, World Wrestling Federation giant The Rock plays Mathayus, an Akkadian Assassin sent to kill a sorceress (Kelly Hu) who supplies an evil warlord named Memnon (Steven Brand) with his most valuable weapon — the ability to foresee the future.

“Screenwriters Stephen Sommers (the director of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns), William Osborne and David Hayter smartly place the biggest and most aesthetically pleasing fight sequences in places where the script runs a bit dry on substance, making it almost impossible for viewers to take their eyes off of the screen.

“Probably the most distracting element of The Scorpion King is the film’s sudden change of pace. While its opening sequence sets viewers up for a wham-bam, no-thinking-required type of action film, a half-hour into the movie the story becomes much more serious and slow-paced. Though this change is for the better, it happens so quickly that viewers will be thrown out of the story momentarily.

“Though sometimes the action sequences go a bit too far — WWF fans will be able to easily spot a few wrestling moves that were snuck in — watching The Rock do what he does best is entertaining. Granted his ability to body slam someone probably won’t win him an Academy Award, but for this genre of films, his current acting and stunt abilities should carry him along just fine.”

Picture and Sound

Just look at the cover art and you’ll see what The Scorpion King is all about. Big explosions, special effects, and grand desert cinematography give The Scorpion King a beautiful orange-and-black look. It’s no Lawrence of Arabia, but it will look great on your home theater screen.

The explosions, battles, and special effects also give the movie a big thundering sound. Turn up the subwoofer and annoy the neighbors. That’s what you have the DVD for, isn’t it?

DVD Extras

There are two audio commentaries. Director Chuck Russell’s track is tolerable, although it’s a little self-aggrandizing. He took The Scorpion King far more seriously than anyone in his audience. Most of his comments are summed up in the six paragraphs inside the two-page booklet.

The other commentary track features The Rock. You wouldn’t expect someone named after an inanimate mineral to be very articulate, and you’d be right. About ten minutes was all I could stand. Instead of seeming like a conversation with a VIP, listening to The Rock’s commentary track is like sitting next to a stranger who won’t shut up. He sounds personable enough, but he doesn’t contribute anything. Maybe there’s an interesting factoid buried in his inane comments, but it’s not worth the trouble to mine them.

The Rock’s commentary is mislabeled as “Enhanced,” by which Universal means an icon occasionally appears. Click the icon and you can see The Rock making his inane comments. There is no apparent rhyme or reason why one comment goes on the regular audio commentary track and another goes on the “Enhanced” push-button scene. Frankly, I didn’t care.

There are some interesting behind-the-scenes features. One covers fight choreography. Another shows director Hayter trying to bring an ancient bazaar to life. These glimpses are interesting in their own right, and they also shed light on what a charismatic, personable guy The Rock is when he’s not scowling for the cameras.

In addition, there are tons of other features. A section of outtakes wasn’t quite as funny or amazing as any given Jackie Chan movie. Several alternate scenes are presented, most of them different from the final cut in insignificant ways. There is a music video and a feature on special effects.


The Scorpion King is a lot of fun, and it’s sure to sell well on DVD. There are many extra features on the disc, but almost none of them add to the fun of watching The Scorpion King. I think the lesson is that DVD extras work best on films with subtext or artistry or complex themes. Movies like The Scorpion King don’t require any explanation and don’t benefit from any introspection.

If you end up with a copy, don’t bother with the extra features. Just watch the movie and turn up the volume. When the movie’s over, put the disc away.