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The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior (2008)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 8/19/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/24/2008
I'm not sure what the very first prequel was, but the first one that I was aware of was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Despite the fact that was many years ago, I can distinctly remember being confused as to why the story would go back in time, as opposed to forwards. I now know that the prequel is a very useful tool to writers who want to continue with a popular storyline or character, but the existing work has written them into a corner. By telling what happened before, the writer can not only avoid a lot of tedious explanation, but create a whole new series of rules. This seems to be the situation with The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, which has gone directly to DVD and Blu-ray Disc.
The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior opens in the city of Nippur in the land of Akkad. The king is guarded by a group of elite warriors known as the Blcack Scorpions and their best man is Ashur (Peter Butler). Knowing the harsh reality of being a Black Scorpion, Ashur has forbidden his son, Mathayus (Michael Copon) from joining their ranks, but the brash young man does it anyway. The night before Mathayus is to begin his six years of training, Ashur is killed by an evil spell -- which Mathayus is convinced came from Ashur's rival, Sargon (Randy Couture). Following the six years of training, Mathayus returns to Nippur to find that Sargon is now king. While attempting to get revenge for his father's murder, Mathayus discovers that Sargon has magical powers. Thus, Mathayus goes on a quest to find an enchanted weapon in order to slay the man. He is soon joined by his childhood friend, Layla (Karen David), and a Greek poet named Ari (Simon Quarterman). Together they will face many challenges to help Mathayus meet his goal.
Oh, what a tangled web it is. The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior is a prequel toThe Scorpion King, which was itself a prequel to The Mummy Returns. Are you confused yet? Well, in The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King, who didn't have a first name at that point, was an evil ruler who was granted supernatural powers and turned into a terrible special effect. In The Scorpion King, this character, now known as Mathayus, was a fun-loving warrior played by The Rock. He may have been a bad-ass, but he was essentially a good guy. Now, we get an earlier chapter of Mathayus' life, where we see him as a boy and as a young man, where he's developing his skills as a warrior. Ironically, if you watched all three films in chronological order, you'd see that Mathayus eventually becomes just like Sargon. What a pity.
As for The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior the movie, it's isn't very good. On the whole, the production resembles a Sci-Fi Channel movie. (Do you think that it irks the Sci-Fi Channel people that the term "Sci-Fi Channel movie" automatically conjures a negative image?) Director Russell Mulcahy (who was once one of Australia's most promising filmmakers) does what he can with the film's low-budget and he does deliver some pithy action scenes. The overall look of the film ranges from good (set design) to bad (obvious green-screen effects). At 109 minutes, the movie runs too long, and a scene involving an arena full of peasants who are in danger just keeps going and going. And we learn that the cheapest villain is an invisible villain.
The script offers a truly mixed bag as well. The writer of Speed 2: Cruise Control delivers a story which is filled with cliches and anachronisms. The first act of the film feels very familiar and most viewers will be tempted to fast-forward or turn the movie off all together. However, the film's mid-section veers away from the sort of narrative set up by The Scorpion King and begins to resemble something more akin to Clash of the Titans. The introduction of Ari brings mythology into the film and Mathayus' quest suddenly seems like something that one would see on Hercules or Xena. Taking the film into more of a fantasy direction is a nice attempt to bring something fresh and new to the series. (Although, to be honest, it all feels familiar.)
I honestly didn't expect much from The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, so the fact that the second act of the film was actually interesting came as a great surprise. The film is never able to overcome the fact it's a low-budget prequel and wrestler Randy Couture doesn't have the screen presence of The Rock (now, a rock...that's a different story), but those who miss the "sorcery" in "sword and sorcery" films may find something to like here.
The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior stings DVD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing very little grain and no defects from the source materials. There are several scenes which take place in the bright desert, so the lack of grain is a good sign. The colors look fine and the image is never overly bright. The image is somewhat soft at times and lacks in detail. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track offers some impressive and highly detailed surround sound during the action scenes, and I was quite taken with the specific noises coming from the rear channels. The stereo effects are good as well, and the battles provide nice bass response.
The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior DVD has a surprising amount of extras for direct-to-DVD release. The DVD contains 7 DELETED SCENES, which run about 5 minutes. All of these scenes are brief and don't add anything new. Next up is a 2-minute GAG REEL. "The Making of The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior" (14 minutes) contains on-set interviews with the cast and filmmakers. There is also a good deal of behind-the-scene footage, as the participants talk about working in South Africa and making the film. "Fight Like an Akkadian: Black Scorpion Training Camp" (6 minutes) has comments from stunt coordinator Mo Marais and shows the actors practicing their moves and rehearsing the fights. "Becoming Sargon: One on One with Randy Couture" (4 minutes) features an interview with wrestler. Karen David and Natalie Becker talk about their characters in "On the Set with the Beautiful Leading Ladies" (4 minutes). "Creating a Whole New World" (8 minutes) examines the production design and sets of the film. Production Designer Tom Hannam walks us through the sets. "The Visual Effects of The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior" (7 minutes) shows us how artificial locations and visual trickery added to the film.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has also brought The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior toBlu-ray Disc. (This is Universal's first day-and-date Blu-ray and DVD release.) The film is letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image looks quite good, as it's notably sharp and clear. There is no grain to be had, nor any defects from the source material. The image has a nice amount of detail and the landscape shots show good depth. The image is never overly dark or bright, and the colors look fantastic. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As with the DVD, the amount of detail on the track is very impressive, but even more so here. This track allows us to hear many minute sounds, and the speaker separation is great. The action scenes provide a wealth of stereo, surround, and subwoofer effects. Not as good as the tracks on The Mummy Blu-rays, but for a film like this, impressive.
There are no extra features whatsoever on the Blu-ray Disc.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long