August 27, 2002 -- "The Scorpion King" movie is a well-crafted action film and the Widescreen Collector's Edition DVD of the same film is even more impressive. Loaded with features, the DVD takes you deep inside the movie, including an alternate version of the film with an enhanced viewing mode. This is a review of the DVD only. A review of the film itself can be seen by clicking on this link. This DVD will be released October 1, 2002.
The alternate version of the film consists of several key scenes that were cut in the final version of the film. The alternate version restores cut dialogue and shots. The way it works is that when you are viewing the enhanced version of the film, a sword appears in the lower right corner of the screen. Pressing a button on your DVD player's remote activates the alternate version of the scene. After that plays, you see the scene again as it appeared in the film's final cut. Two or three of these alternate scenes are good enough that they would have improved the film had they been left in. One is a recitation of a prophecy which is referred to in the film, but never heard in the final cut. A later alternate scene again repeats a portion of the prophecy at a climactic moment in the film, giving the story a nice symmetry. This is a nice feature, and I wish more DVDs had it. You can also watch the alternate scenes separately from the rest of the film using another feature.
A similar feature is available on The Rock's commentary track. A symbol appears on the screen indicating that if you press the enter button on your DVD remote you get additional commentary from The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) which is not on the regular commentary audio track. At the same time, The Rock appears in a picture-in-picture on the screen. He was filmed while recording the audio track. It is an interesting feature I haven't seen in other DVDs. I'm not sure if it adds much to see the Rock with headphones on, looking at a monitor and talking into a microphone. Why couldn't they have just included all of the Rock's commentary in the audio track instead of separating out some of his commentary into an extra feature? I did switch over from the director's commentary to Rock's to find out if that was Al Leong fighting with Steven Brand (who plays Memnon in the movie) in a martial arts scene in the film. Sure enough, I got the information I was looking for. It was Leong, who has appeared in many films, including "Lethal Weapon" (he tortured Mel Gibson's character with electric shocks). Leong is credited as the Asian fight trainer and sword-fight trainer in the film. It seems from the commentary, he was also a fight choreographer. The Rock also has a funny comment about fake breasts at the beginning of the film.
Director Chuck Russell's audio commentary track (separate from The Rock's commentary track) concentrates mainly on the visual aspects of the film, such as special effects, matte paintings, locations and set design. He has good things to say about effects companies Centropolis and Riot. He also talks some about the actors. One interesting comment he made on the actors concerns Sherri Howard who plays the warrior queen, Isis. It seems Howard won an Olympic gold medal in the 4x400 relay. Not only that, she's got a degree in electrical engineering. Brains, beauty and athletic talent, keep and eye out for her.
Russell also has good things to say about Peter Facinelli, who plays the evil Prince Takmet in the film. One scene that gets discussed a lot by Russell and others is a fight scene between The Rock and Michael Clarke Duncan, who plays Nubian king Balthazar. The Rock accidently hit Duncan in the chin with his elbow during the fight scene and knocked Duncan out. During the featurette on fight sequences in the film, Duncan vehemently denies being knocked out, but both the Rock and Russell say he was knocked out. There is footage of the incident which makes it look like Duncan was hurt more than he wanted to admit, but you can't tell if he was knocked out, or just dazed.
In addition to the featurettes called "Preparing the fight: A Look at the Process of Shooting a Fight Sequence," there is another featurette about "The Rock and Michael Clark Duncan," which talks about their friendly rivalry. There is a feature called "The Ancient World Production Design." By the way, that is Production Designer Ed Verreaux riding the elephant into Gomorrah in the movie. There is also a featurette about the making of the film and another about the special effects used in two scenes. One scene uses both real cobras and digital cobras. The other scene uses digital ants. Another featurette is called "working with animals." It shows The Rock getting thrown off a camel. Apparently camels are very difficult to work with, and The Rock actually handled the camels better than some of the wranglers, according to Russell's commentary.
In addition to the featurettes, there are several written features on the film, including an essay called "Scorpion King: Man or Myth," regarding archeological evidence which indicates there may have been a real Scorpion King. As you may recall, there was carefully orchestrated news story about this issue that came out about the time of the film's release. Other written materials include production notes, and cast and filmmaker notes. Then there is a long list of names called "The Scorpion King MovieClub Ultimate Collectors." There is no explanation of what this is, but it appears to be connected to an official Scorpion King fan club set up by Universal Studios.
More features include the theatrical trailer and "Universal Showcase" which consists of theatrical trailers for "The Hulk" and a Spielberg-SciFi channel production about alien abductions called "Taken." There is also a very short featurette called "WWE Legends," which promotes both the World Wrestling Federation and World Wrestling Federation Entertainment (which is one of the production companies behind the film). The featurette includes such former wrestlers as Killer Kowalski and Ernie Ladd. Yet another feature on the DVD is a music video, "I Stand Alone" by Godsmack. Suprisingly, it is a loud heavy metal song. There are also a couple of featurettes on Universal Studio Theme Parks and the Scorpion King Playstation 2 game. The DVD also has DVD-ROM features for computers with DVD-ROM drives and Internet access. This feature enables the user to access certain exclusive web sites.
The dual-layer DVD includes English and French soundtracks in 5.1 Dolby (TM) Surround. English and Spanish subtitles are also included as options. The film comes in an anamorphic widescreen format with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The picture was sharp (except for some of the alternate scenes which appear faded, perhaps because they didn't make it to final production). All in all, this Widescreen Collector's Edition DVD of "The Scorpion King" has about everything that can be packed into a single non-superbit DVD. It is really loaded with solid, well-thought-out features. It rates a B+.
Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.