Tristan + Isolde (2006) Kevin Reynolds

Production Budget: $31 million (very unofficial. official numbers were impossible to find)
Worldwide Gross: $28 million

Tristan and Isolde…yeah first I have to bitch about the title a bit.  Is it Tristan + Isolde, Tristan & Isolde, or Tristan and Isolde?  There is a difference.  Depending on the website, the search engine will tell me I’m a f*cking idiot if I type it with a +, &, or an “and”.  Of course this could send me on a whole Nerd rant on stupid title inconsistencies.  Remember 500 Days of Summer?  Or is it (500)  Days of Summer…

Anyway, this project was originally supposed to have been directed by producer Ridley Scott in the 70’s but he opted to do Alien instead.  The movie is billed as being “Before Romeo and Juliet” although the more apt comparison is to say the story that inspired the Arthurian love triangle (although that’s harder to fit on a poster admittedly).  The story is derived from a French poem about a knight Tristan who wins the maiden Isolde from beating a knight.  Tristan delivers Isolde to his uncle the King and through differing circumstances (whether it be actual love or a love potion in one variation) Tristan falls for Isolde.  The movie plot is set during the Dark Ages of Ireland and Britain.  Britain is being devastated by Ireland is only a band of scattered tribes.  Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell) is the one threat to unite the English against the Irish.  An attack kills many of his associates and during that fight Marke sacrifices his hand to save a young boy Tristan (played by James Franco).  Marke raises Tristan as his son in the aftermath Tristan becomes Marke’s greatest knight.  When Tristan comes of age, he wins a tournament which seals a political marriage between Marke and Isolde which will ensure peace between the Irish and English.  However (through a series of events) Tristan and Isolde somehow met before this and fell in love setting up a love triangle.

Is it any good?  Funny story (or not, I don’t care).  I actually caught this movie about two weeks ago but with the commentary and the virus I caught I wasn’t quite up to doing the review.  Now I popped in another bomb flick from Netflix (review coming shortly) and the previews had one for Tristan + Isolde.  And I remember thinking to myself “Shit, I never did finish that goddamn movie.  I have to rent it again.”  But then I remembered I had finished it and in the span of two weeks I had forgotten the movie.  Yes, this movie is so forgettable, I completely blocked it out of my memory after such a short amount of time.  But now I have to review it so I had to undergo some hypnosis to pull up the memories again.

Now, Tristan and/+/& Isolde is not a bad film.  I will say the one highlight of the movie is the character of Marke and the performance by Sewell.  His character is so fleshed out and played so well, that I was rooting for him more than our title characters.  Typical Hollywood love triangles dictate the third man be a petty, spiteful, and evil bastard to make us root for the main characters.  However Marke is the most level headed and reasonable person yet at the same time lovable.  Marke is a loving father to Tristan and also a fair and honorable Lord.  When he is betrayed, it is not only as a lover but as a father and as a future king.  I really liked the scene where Marke chastises Tristan, not for stealing the woman he loves, but for screwing up a about a hundred year peace process all because he couldn’t keep it in his pants.  He is a person that while is passionate, has the intellect to know there are larger things at stake and Sewell plays the part perfectly.  I applaud the movie for really going against lazy writing and going with this.

But that’s about where the creativity ends.  The main romance is your usual crap where its not so much about “love” and caring about the person inside but about lust and meaningless googly eyes at one another.  It’s kind of the Edward and Bella of the Dark Ages.  It is strange that we get so much depth with Marke but our title characters are so paper thin and dominate most of the screen time.  Sophia Myles does alright but Franco continues be rather wooden.  It’s a shame because Franco can be a charismatic guy in real life and can play a funny buddy role but he’s saddled with really stern and proper characters than he can’t really emote with.

We also have to Hollywood the ending since for some reason we couldn’t have Marke kill Tristan.  Instead we have a Grima Wormtongue type guy who wants to sabotage the political marriage.  Then we get a Hollywood action movie climax where Tristan kills the traitor proper.  Um…yay?  Why not make a Scarlet Letter movie now and give it a happy ending?  Wait, shit.

Um, anyway, this movie isn’t horrible.  As I said you get some decent performances and some of the action is alright.  The main love story though is poorly executed and nothing really stands out being all that remarkable.  In the end this is a bland and forgettable movie; so much so I forgot it two weeks after seeing it.

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