Monday, July 11, 2011
Dir: Jonathon English
I was looking forward to seeing this film, as the city of Rochester is close to my heart, and I spent many happy hours examining Rochester castle when I lived next door to it. I have always wanted to build a model of a Norman castle like Rochester, perhaps not one quite as big (though as castle's go its not big), and I have quite a few diagrams and a couple of books about Rochester castle to that purpose. Consequently I am sufficiently well read on this particular building to bore your pants off.
I had no expectations of historical accuracy from the film, not least since the hero shown on the posters appeared to be a Templar Knight (because why?), and I was therefore not surprised by how many historical inaccuracies there were. What did surprise me was the scale of those inaccuracies, the biggest of which was the complete absence of the city of Rochester! The castle stood alone, by its bridge across the Medway, as if Southern England were a deserted swampy wasteland.
This made way for a few nice matte image backgrounds, and a story that utterly ignored nuance with Paul Giamatti doing his best to be King John (and doing a fair job it has to be admitted) and James Purefoy pretending to be a Templar Knight who just happens to be named after Sir William Marshal (but again; why???). Purefoy seems bored most of the time, or perhaps he was put off by the detestable presence of Brian Cox who once again uses his Midas-like touch to turn a promising film into a crock of shit.
Seen from a purely wargaming/model building perspective, the film wasn't so bad. There were a lot of skirmish situations with numerous shots of seige combat (and some amazingly rapid firing trebuchet'), but on the whole I was disapointed by the cardboard cut out characters and the absence of any decent sub plots. The quality of some of the supporting actors (such as Derek Jacobi and Charles Dance) doesn't make any difference either and although I really wanted to like this film, I just couldn't forgive King John's blue painted, shaggy Danish mercenaries who looked like they walked out of a Hollywood assembly line.