"The Scorpion King 2: Rise of the Warrior" is a decently amusing if somewhat poorly plotted adventure once you get past the dirty muck that clouds this once interesting story.
The Scorpion King: Rise of a Warrior (2008, Blu-ray)
Directors: Russell Mulcahy
Producers: James Jacks
Writers: Randall McCormick
Michael Copon ... Mathayus
Randy Couture ... Sargon
Karen Shenaz David ... Layla
Simon Quarterman ... Aristotle
Peter Butler ... Ashur of Akkad
Natalie Becker ... Astarte
Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior Blu-ray Review
A few years ago Universal got their hands on a cancelled cult TV series called "Firefly." They produced a feature film, "Serenity," and while the film failed to ignite at the box office, the series has grown exponentially ranking high on numerous criticsí "Top TV Shows of All Time" lists as well as remaining consistently popular in rentals, sales and on web streaming sites like Hulu. So, when Universal finally decided to throw more than 5 or 6 million to a straight-to-video feature that wasn't attached to "Bring It On" or "American Pie," which franchise do they choose: "The Scorpion King."
Now, it sort of makes sense, a third "Mummy" film was making its way to theaters and this would prove to be a great cross promotion. Corporate synergy is king! Alas, "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" fizzled and now, just a few weeks later, "The Scorpion King 2" arrives amidst a cloud of disappointment, which will ultimately kill the straight-to-video sequelís overall take. Smooth move, guys.
After making bad decisions their mantra this summer (the cutting of "The Incredible Hulk" and the release of "Hellboy 2" come to mind), Universal has seemingly made another. Instead of throwing decent cash at a guaranteed successful sequel like "Serenity 2," they throw money at a franchise thatís largely considered dead-on-arrival.
That said, "Scorpion King 2: Rise of the Warrior" isnít necessarily bad. The film is actually a prequel, following the up-and-coming warrior-to be, Mathayus, the man who becomes the ferocious Scorpion King (as played by The Rock). Itís a fairly solid B-movie that, at least in script form, isnít much worse, or better, than the first entry. It immediately tries to appeal to "300" fans, but ultimately the film is far too retrained in both tone (this oneís largely aimed at preteens) and violence (the film is rated PG-13 and features not an ounce of blood). Why Universal didnít opt for an over-the-top ĎUnratedí film loaded with stylized action, nudity and gore is beyond me.
The film is poorly directed by "Highlander" filmmaker Russell Mulcahy, a once great visionary director who canít seem to find his creative stride anymore. He certainly knows how to stage action, forcing excitement out of every corner, but he just canít grasp the little things like staging drama and creating tension. He also canít direct his performers. Everyone looks like they donít know what theyíre doing. Poor Russell, your work in the 80s was so promising. Why is your most recent work (this and "Resident Evil: Extinction") so patently terrible?
The filmís biggest problem, though, are the dreadful performances. Our lead, Michael Copon, is just terrible as a young Mathayus. He delivers dialogue with a woodenness that would make actor Timothy Olyphant proud. He can barely capture the emotion of his character and ultimately, he makes the material boring. Ever worse is UFC champ Randy Couture as the evil king who kills Mathayusí father. Couture is just embarrassing here. He canít deliver dialogue to save himself. Itís honestly painful to watch his performance. At least his fight sequences are fun, but thatís about it.
While the film is lavishly designed with fantastic sets and costumes, surprising considering this is straight-to-video, visual effects are incredibly restrained and, when they do appear, underwhelming at best. The finale even features a fight with an invisible (!) scorpion. Most of the film actually takes place inside of tombs and caves, a common trick to lower the budget. This proves to be a fatal move for the middle act, tiring out the viewer with repetitious scenes of characters exploring their environments. There are a few decent scares in the middle act, but thatís about it.
The action sequences are energetic but they arenít as frequent as hardcore sword-and-shield fans might like. "Mummy" fans wonít find much here to indulge in, either. The performances are utterly terrible and hollow, the direction is horrible and the CG visuals are less than stellar. Still, "The Scorpion King 2: Rise of the Warrior" is a decently amusing if somewhat poorly plotted adventure once you get past the dirty muck that clouds this once interesting story.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: B
Film Value: D
"Scorpion King 2" arrives on Blu-ray in 1.78:1 widescreen at 1080p/VC-1 video on a BD25 disc. While the film boasts a colorful palette and a sharp look, I found nothing particularly engaging about this shot-in-HD film. While the image is sharp and detailed, I felt the transfer lacked depth. Lighting is stagy giving the film a flattened straight-to-video look. There are no dust specks or grain on the print at all. There is, however, an occasional haze that mars the print, giving it a soft look. "Scorpion King 2" looks fine, but itís just up to par when compared to theatrical transfers from new releases. Iíd say itís on par with the recent straight-to-video release "Stargate: Continuum."
"Scorpion King 2" arrives on Blu-ray with a fully uncompressed DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Like the transfer, I just didnít find anything particularly impressive about this mix. Itís reasonably designed, with a fair assortment of aggressive surround effects and clean dialogue. There is just nothing particularly engaging about this hum-drum track. Bass effects were a touch subdued, which could have added to the subdued nature of the track. Again, itís a fine enough track, but itís just not up to par with theatrical releases.
While this was touted as "Universalís biggest budgeted" straight-to-video release, the Blu-ray disc boasts no special features at all, not even a trailer or a commentary track. Methinks folks were disappointed with the overall results of this lavish, but expensive disappointment.
Making matters worse, the DVD counterpart features numerous featurettes, a gag reel and deleted scenes. Way to drop the ball, Universal!
Unless you count Universalís MyScenes bookmarking feature, thereís nothing on this disc.
Universal packs the disc in a usual ĎEliteí Blu-ray case. Design is classy and less confused as Universalís HD DVD discs were.
Terrible performances and weak direction drag this otherwise fine B-movie into the mud. The action pieces are fun to watch and should keep some fans at bay. The Blu-ray disc is weak. The transfer and mix are fine, but the film lacks any special features.
Film Report Card:
HD Content: N/A
Recommendation: Worth Renting.
On Blu-ray disc: August 19, 2008.
Read my Blu-ray review of The Mummy here.
Read my Blu-ray review of The Mummy Returns here.
Read my Blu-ray review of The Scorpion King here.
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----R. L. Shaffer