Tristan & Isolde

on January 13, 2006 by Bridget Byrne
Who? After endless minutes of watching two nice-looking people with tousled tresses, dressed in the woof and weft of macramé-embellished clothing, alternatively locking lips and looking faintly troubled, one has absolutely no idea why these lovers, title stars of "Tristan & Isolde," might be the stuff of legend.

Of course their myth is pretty murky, stemming as it does from England's dark ages when rival tribes were war leaders who would be kings. In this very non-United Kingdom when Ireland, just a boat ride away across a choppy sea, was trying to lord it over the men of Cornwall, Somerset, and where and 'wex ever, the story goes that these two -- called Tristan or Tristram or Tristrem and Isolde or Iseult or Isoud, or various variations of such -- were bound together by an adulterous love, which they ultimately sacrificed to higher ideals of loyalty and faith.

Writer Dean Georgaris can make nothing of them here. They are hollow people mooning their way through a backdrop of endless battles in which wild-haired, wild-eyed men chop each other about. Director Kevin Reynolds can do no better -- his fight scenes are confusing, with much clash and clang but no thrill, while his amorous scenes, when people actually have to speak Georgaris' dialogue rather than just bash away with swords, are as clunky as ill-fitting armor and also not thrilling.

The actors can't beat the odds. James Franco as Tristan displays his James Dean profile at its broodiest, but actually loses out by a fraction in the looks contest to Henry Cavill as Melot, (or maybe that's Merlot or Melout?) who's more closely related to -- but in less close favor with -- Lord Marke, the most decent man in the bunch, whom everyone betrays. Sophia Myles as Isolde is pretty enough in a cliché fairytale princess way. Rufus Sewell, who a few years ago would have been cast as Tristan, is now Marke, the older noble Isolde is obliged to marry. That doesn't seem such a bad deal, as Sewell still looks good and actually sometimes manages to hit the mark, making the character almost come alive amid all the dreary doom and gloom. Starring James Franco, Sophia Myles and Rufus Sewell. Directed by Kevin Reynolds. Written by Dean Georgaris. Produced by Lisa Ellzey, Giannina Facio, Moshe Diamant and Elie Samaha. A Fox release. Romantic drama. Rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences and some sexuality. Running time: 126 min

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