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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.77%
Worth A Look: 10.64%
Just Average42.55%
Pretty Crappy: 31.91%
Sucks: 2.13%

5 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Tristan + Isolde
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Reynolds Crap"
2 stars

“Tristan & Isolde” takes another stab at the familiar legend of forbidden love that has inspired, among other things, one of the most famous operas of all time. However, anyone expecting the grand passion of the opera is likely to be thoroughly disappointed with this film, which demonstrates an emotional temperament that is less Richard Wagner and more Jack Wagner and features a pair of star-crossed lovers played by two people who couldn’t generate an authentic spark between them if they commenced their trysts by rolling around in gasoline and then firing flamethrowers at each other.

Set in the glory days after the fall of the Roman Empire when the lands of England were divided and suffering under the savage rule of Ireland, the film kicks off as Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell) attempts to unite his comrades in order to stand up to the hated King Donnchadh (David Patrick O’Hara). Predictably, it doesn’t go well, the Brits are largely slaughtered and Marke loses his hand saving the life of Tristan, the son of his most trusted comrade. Nine years pass and Tristan (James Franco) is now the trusted adopted son of Marke, essentially supplanting his real son in the process. When the Irish attack again, Tristan leads the troops into battle and handily defeats them at the apparent cost of his own life. Luckily for him, neither the poisoned sword that stabbed him nor the flaming arrows shot at the boat taking his unconscious body out to sea to give him a traditional English Viking funeral quite hit their marks and he eventually winds up drifting onto the beaches of Ireland.

There, his unconscious-but-studly form is found by Isolde (Sophia Myles), the beautiful-but-fiesty daughter of Donnchadh, who hides him away and nurses him back to health, perhaps because he is the only person that she has met in her life who is both as pretty as she is and as vapid. Before long, the two are rubbing their limbs together in a PG-13-approved bout of lust and yearn to run away together–of course, he doesn’t know that she is the daughter of the Irish king and she doesn’t know that he has helped relieve her gloom considerably by killing the foul oaf she was betrothed to in the recent battle. Tragically, the real world invades their happiness–specifically the boat that Tristan arrived on turns up–and he must flee before he is captured. Despite all her talk of breaking away from the chains of conformity, Isolde chokes at bat and refuses to run away with Tristan.

Seeking to destroy the Brits once and for all, Donnchadh proposes a tournament amongst the leaders of the various British kingdoms with the hand of Isolde as the prize for the winning king. Tristan, fighting for Marke, wins handily, only to discover that while he has won the love of his life, she is to become the new bride of Marke. For a while, both Tristan and Isolde are miserable to be so near yet so far apart until they let their hormones take over and endlessly snog behind the back of the essentially decent Marke. Meanwhile, there is treachery underfoot involving some traitorous British leaders, Donnchadh and Marke’s real son and when they discover Tristan and Isolde’s secret love, they use it to drive a wedge between father figure and surrogate son that leads to tears, betrayal, bitter recriminations and a lot of swordfights before the inevitably tragic finale. (Then again, as a learned scholar of the arts once said, “Whatd’ya expect from an opera–a happy ending?”)

This is, of course, the ideal material for a grandly over-the-top story of love, jealousy, betrayal and heartbreak that is best played cranked up to 11. And yet, “Tristan & Isolde” never gets around to working up the head of steam needed for such an approach. For most of the running time, it just plods along aimlessly without generating any emotion other than vague boredom. After a while, it just becomes another silly costume drama with actors in vaguely uncomfortable outfits reciting ludicrous dialogue in the most solemn manner possible. My favorite examples are when Isolde’s mistress scolds her for caring for Tristan by actually saying “This is indeed a dangerous game that you play” or when Isolde, on her wedding night, assures the lovelorn Tristan “I’ll pretend it’s you.”

By that, I can only presume that she meant that she would be getting a good night’s sleep since the single most crucial flaw of the film is that the two romantic leads are a pair of wet blankets. Both Franco (whom you’ll remember from the”Spider-Man” movies) and Myles (who seems to have been cast for her vague resemblance to Kate Winslet, who might have wound up in such a film if her career didn’t turn out the way that it did) are attractive enough but they are so vapid that it is impossible to buy their grand romance for even a second. They go through the motions but the lack of chemistry between them is palpable–watching them rolling around and whispering sweet nothings to each other is like watching a couple of beards passing the time waiting for their partners to finish up with their grand affair.

There are moments when “Tristan & Isolde” does momentarily come to life–as bad movies go, it is an uncommonly good one and director Kevin Reynolds once again demonstrates the flair for staging large-scale action sequences that he demonstrated in “Robin Hood” and the underrated “Waterworld.” However, when it comes to the sequences that don’t involve axes being sunk into spines, he sadly shows himself to be all thumbs. When a film along these lines works, it should leave viewers drunk on the heady wine of passion and excitement that they have seen on the screen. “Tristan & Isolde,” on the other hand, comes of as nothing more than a flagon of flat Smirnoff Ice.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13735&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/13/06 00:01:55
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User Comments

9/30/08 Mia Mital One of the best I've ever seen! It had a LotR feel, but less mystical and more hardcore. 5 stars
12/11/06 Angela Saunders Not typically predictable for this type of movie, overall great film! 4 stars
12/10/06 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
12/07/06 John MacGillivray fine film 4 stars
5/07/06 jeanne Any film that paints Rufus Sewell as the booby prize is demented. The man is smokin' hot! 2 stars
5/04/06 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
4/22/06 Mase Watchable nothing more, nothing fresh but I enjoyed being taken to this time period. 3 stars
1/22/06 Soha Molina Bad movie 1 stars
1/20/06 John pretty far fetched story 2 stars
1/19/06 Amanda The chemistry and editing could have been better, and Franco added the emotion it lacked. 4 stars
1/18/06 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
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  13-Jan-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 25-Apr-2006



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