Dir: Kevin Reynolds. UK-Ger-CzRep. 2005. 125mins.
It's not the Wagner opera but the original Tristan& Isolde legend that gets the Hollywood treatmentin this period romance from 20th Century Fox and Scott Free Entertainment. Inthe hands of Kevin Reynolds (director of RobinHood: Prince Of Thieves) the Dark Ages legendbecomes a tragic love story that's picturesque and moody but emotionallyunder-powered.
Short on marquee talent andmale-oriented action, this Tristan will probably attract only a modest,female-led theatrical audience, although it may make up a bit of ground lateron video.
Fox gives the film amid-sized release in North America this weekend (the Martin Luther King holidayweekend), but with competition from two wider releases as well as holidayseason holdovers the opening isn't likely to be big. The studio will be hopingthat the PG-13 US rating will at least help draw teen as well as older women.
Fox and some independents(the project was originally licensed overseas by Franchise Pictures) will openthe film in international territories over the next few months. Given thestory's European roots, the mostly British cast, and the Irish settings, Tristan might - like such medievalstories as Reynolds' Robin Hood,2004's King Arthur and last year's KingdomOf Heaven - do considerably better outside NorthAmerica.
In this version, Tristan(Franco, who plays Peter Parker's best friend in the Spider-Man movies) is a knight to Lord Marke(Sewell), who is trying to unite the tribes of post-Roman Britain against thethreatening forces of Irish king Donnchadh (O'Hara).A twist of fate leads to a brief and secret affair between Tristan and Donnchadh's daughter Isolde(young British TV and film actor Myles).
Later, when Tristan goes toIreland to win a bride for Lord Marke, he ishorrified to discover that the 'prize' is Isolde.Unwilling to betray his lifelong protector, Tristan tries to stay away from Isolde, but eventually the two succumb to their passion,with far-reaching and fatal consequences.
Though it has itsgiggle-inducing moments and some hackneyed lines of dialogue, Tristan & Isoldemostly steers clear of the kind of incongruity that can ruin Hollywood periodpieces. And its script, by Dean Georgaris (2004's The Manchurian Candidate remake), does adecent job spinning out the legend into a three-act narrative.
The script seems to run outof ideas, however, once Tristan and Isolde are forcedtogether in Lord Marke's castle, leaving the film tomark time until the story's inevitable conclusion. And Reynolds - who came onboard after Scott Free partner Ridley Scott, the project's long-time champion,opted not to direct himself - does not find much for the lovers to do otherthan moon around in a lovesick funk.
The slow spells demand a lotof the film's other elements. Franco is smoulderingly handsome throughout buthe never quite fits in with the rest of the cast and his accent wavers wheneverhe raises his voice above a mumble. Myles is a fresh face and a brightpresence, but she does not have much in the script to work with and there'svery little chemistry between her and Franco.
The handful of fight scenes(perhaps inserted partly to broaden the film's appeal) are confusingly shot and(probably due to the PG-13 rating) a bit lacking in visceral impact.
The locations, in Irelandand the Czech Republic, are neatly used and beautifully shot by Polishcinematographer Arthur Reinhart (Nothing).
MFF (Tristan and Isolde)
Qi Quality International
20th Century Fox
David Patrick O'Hara