Black Death (Movie Review)

Title: Black Death
Director: Christopher Smith
Producer: Ecosse Films
Starring: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice van Houten
Excellence: 1 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: In a word: Bleh; in a sentence: even setting aside the bad history, it was just bland, uninspiring, and peopled by characters no one would give a damn about

I though this movie was rather terrible. I gave it a chance, being a medieval history buff and a Sean Bean fan. Let's face it, I'm a sucker for things treating of the Middle Ages and end up watching every film set in that era despite disappointment after disappointment after disappointment. I went in with very low expectations based on past experience, and this film still managed to beat those expectations (in a bad way). The history was, of course, quite bad -- one wonders if any research beyond a Wikipedia search or two was done in preparation of this film. Actually, even Wikipedia gives a more fair and balanced portrayal of the era of the Black Death.

The monochromatic palette made for very bland viewing. I suppose it was intended to "set the tone" but is just made things boring. As for the characters, there was no one to rood for and no one to identify with -- they were all essentially a**holes for various reasons (both the Christians and the pagans; I suppose I should consider it a plus that they made both "sides" equally detestable rather than romanticising the pagans as usual). If they were even characters to begin with, that is; they were all card board cut-out clichés from the fornicating young monk full of doubt about his faith, to the fanatical murderous knight, to the beautiful, cold witch.

The action wasn't even much good. There were only two action sequences in the whole film, and I found them rather lacklustre. Lots of gurgling dying sounds, but not much else. The hand-held camera moved around so violently the viewer could barely see what was going on, and since the same viewer doesn't care about the characters, there's little investment in the outcome. This is definitely one to avoid.


Anonymous said...

I sympathise with your disappointment at such sloppy - nay - non existant historical effort in this flick. Sadly, the old line 'One can't let the truth get in the way of a good story' rings more loudly each time medieval genre films are released... Keep up the good work!



Nicholas D.C. Wansbutter said...

I could forgive the historical inaccuracy if (a) it weren't so blatantly anti-Catholic and (b) the story were actually a good one. Take for example Timeline, which also has a lot of historical inaccuracy and even such 'great' lines as "the only thing worse than dying here [in the Middle Ages] is living here." Yet unlike Black Death it has decent characters, good action, and a good story so one can overlook the inaccuracies.

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