What happens when you merge a little bit of “Troy” with Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”? “Tristan and Isolde” is what happens and it’s just as unremarkable as that sort of influence would dictate. Running at just over two-hours, director Kevin Reynolds (“Waterworld”) takes an unimaginative love story and stretches it as far as possible in an attempt to make it epically grand. Instead, the end result plays out like a George Lucas film without spaceships and lightsabers.
When a kingdom in England is attacked by Ireland, Tristan (James Franco) is stabbed with a poison blade and left for dead. His comrades give him a king’s funeral by placing his body on a boat and casting him out to sea. But his vessel lands on the shore of Ireland where a young princess, Isolde (Sophia Myles), finds him. Realizing the man is still alive (and where he might be from), she stores him in a secluded cave so he may regain his health.
Nothing more has to be described for you because all we have here is just another story about lovers from opposing kingdoms. We’ve seen that story play out thousands of times before and we’ll probably see it a thousand times more. Like many other films before it, “Tristan and Isolde” follows the archetype flawlessly without veering away to try something new or different. It’s an exhausting two-hour ride filled with horribly choreographed action set pieces and repetitive dialogue exchanges between equally wooden characters.
There is a scene that has Isolde describing her hidden romance with Tristan as a “stolen moment that leaves too quickly.” This would have been a perfect way to describe this movie, only it doesn’t leave quickly at all.
The dialogue is incredibly hokey and the performances are equally stale. Most of the main cast (especially Franco) holds an odd gaze over their face, as if the thought of their paycheck consumes them more than the material itself. The scenes set in Ireland include only one person with an actual accent – that’s almost as bad as setting a movie in Japan and having everyone speak English.
The recent trend of Hollywood epics gives future possibilities grim hope. Look at Kingdom of Heaven and Alexander for example. These films fell short of any expectation above failure – both financially and critically. The days of David Lean and Cecil B. Demille are long gone and at this rate, those days are never coming back.
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