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Overall Rating
3

Awesome: 12.77%
Worth A Look: 10.64%
Average42.55%
Pretty Bad: 31.91%
Total Crap: 2.13%

5 reviews, 17 user ratings


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Tristan + Isolde
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by Lybarger

"'Moldy' and 'classic' are not synonyms."
2 stars

The story of Tristan and Isolde goes back for at least 1,000 years. It’s provided inspiration to artists as diverse as Sir Thomas Mallory (who worked portions of it into his own 14th century text Le Morte Darthur) and opera composer Richard Wagner. While the tale may be ageless, the new film adaptation that opens today makes little lasting impact.

I won’t fault screenwriter Dean Gregorias or director Kevin Reynolds ("Waterworld") for deviating from the original legend. Mallory and Wagner undoubtedly took their own liberties when they adapted it. Where Gregorias and Reynolds can be faulted is in the fact that they simply can’t bring anything new or engaging to the story. For all the swordplay and groping, "Tristan & Isolde" is consistently dull and dreary. The longer the film ran, the more I wanted to be put out of their misery.

A watery-eyed James Franco (who’s best known for harassing Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man) stars as Tristan, a young warrior from Cornwall who’s become like a son to the local king Mark (a sleepwalking Rufus Sewell). At the time the film is set, the entire island of Great Britain is under Irish oppression because the Romans have fled, and the locals are too divided to rule themselves.

When Tristan stages a raid that frustrates the Irish overlords, he inadvertently becomes so badly wounded that he’s placed on a funeral barge that floats him into the healing arms of Irish princess Isolde (Sophia Miles). Before they can get too attached, he has to flee.

He later encounters her and falls for her charms again when he wins her hand for Mark in a tournament. How this works is still a bit vague. Despite having thousands of years of mythology built up about the characters, Gregorias instead devises a palace intrigue where characters are hurriedly introduced before they become little more than plot points with dialogue. As a result, it becomes hard to care who triumphs. C-SPAN coverage of a Senate highway bill offers more suspense and entertainment value.

Gregorias’ skimpy material receives little help from Reynolds' tepid direction. As he demonstrated with "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," he has little feel for period pieces. His action scenes are clumsily staged and edited, and the costumes and sets aren’t terribly authentic or even interesting.

As for the two main lovers, their romance simply isn’t that compelling. Franco’s one-note performance doesn’t help, and Miles, while undeniably attractive, isn’t charismatic enough to carry the film. Reynolds’ adaptation of "The Count of Monte Cristo" almost worked because he had a flexible and commanding leading man in Jim Caviezel. The director has no such luck here.

No matter how often Franco and Miles go away to flail their arms or grope with all the passion that a PG-13 rating will allow, the two simply don’t have the chemistry to make this thing work.

For almost 30 years, "Tristan & Isolde" has reportedly been a project that Sir Ridley Scott had wanted to direct, but other (frequently better) projects like "Alien," "Thelma and Louise," "Black Hawk Down" or "Matchstick Men" got in the way.

Scott is credited as a producer here, but his hand behind the camera is sorely missed. While he probably couldn’t have done much with the script, he at least could have made a more visually engaging film and has a better hand with actors. Without a storyteller of Scott’s skill, "Tristan and Isolde" becomes not a classic but simply another old story.

Scott is credited as a producer here, but his hand behind the camera is sorely missed. While he probably couldn’t have done much with the script, he at least could have made a more visually engaging film and has a better hand with actors. Without a storyteller of Scott’s skill, "Tristan and Isolde" becomes not a classic but simply another old story.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13735&reviewer=382
originally posted: 01/14/06 01:23:02
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User Comments

8/29/10 PAUL SHORTT STATIC AND DULL 2 stars
10/01/08 Mia Mital One of the best I've ever seen! It had a LotR feel, but less mystical and more hardcore. 5 stars
12/12/06 Angela Saunders Not typically predictable for this type of movie, overall great film! 4 stars
12/11/06 Wendy Straw Loved it...Watched it twice in 2 days 5 stars
12/09/06 varun mishra its fabulous..wot mor 2 say..it has evry thin..movie nvr lost its rhythm..war n luv 2gthr.. 5 stars
12/08/06 John MacGillivray fine film 4 stars
5/08/06 jeanne Any film that paints Rufus Sewell as the booby prize is demented. The man is smokin' hot! 2 stars
5/05/06 ES Excellent action and great visuals but way too slow and choppy as hell 3 stars
5/01/06 taz awsome film loved the wedding especially. Worth seeing again and the ending was very deep 5 stars
4/23/06 Mase Watchable nothing more, nothing fresh but I enjoyed being taken to this time period. 3 stars
1/23/06 Soha Molina Bad movie 1 stars
1/21/06 John pretty far fetched story 2 stars
1/20/06 Amanda The chemistry and editing could have been better, and Franco added the emotion it lacked. 4 stars
1/19/06 jghfg kkjh 5 stars
1/16/06 Lauren i thought it was wonderful...definately the best love and war story in a while 5 stars
1/16/06 Darcy Koscal A great film...but a really depressing ending!! 4 stars
1/15/06 Perry Mason Much better than I thought it would be. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Jan-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 25-Apr-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  16-Mar-2006




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