Sunday, 19 April 2015

Medieval Mayhem! - Ironclad (2011) & Black Death (2010) - SPOILER ALERT

Oh look, I watched some films that were made within the past 5 years...that doesn't happen much!.

So, having watched Lindybeige's videos, where he takes a look at these films and critiques them for their appalling historical accuracy (The phrase "Useless floppy apron" had me pissing myself laughing for a considerable amount of time), I decided to watch these films myself, seeing as how i am not adverse to a bit of good old blood and guts action.


So, the opening blurb tells us that in the year 1215, King John I signed the Magna Carta, which is generally thought of as being a good thing, however almost immediately afterwards, Pope Innocent III declared the document null and void and ordered King John to reclaim his country from the rule of the Barons, thus sparking the "First Barons War".
The film itself deals with a heavily fictionalised and somewhat anachronistic version of the siege of Rochester castle, which did actually happen, although the film would have us believe that a mere 20 defenders held off a horde of over a thousand "Danish mercenaries" (the film basically depicts them as being Vikings, even though by 1215 there were no Vikings, but at least it doesn't go down the route of having them with big horns on their helmets), and makes out that King Johns forces had access to some substance similar to napalm to use in their attempted assaults...oh, and for some reason, the river Medway seems to have the power to appear and disappear at will, or at least, at the convenience of the films director.

So to start with, the title of the film seems to have been chosen in order to evoke mental images of fearless knights fighting the good fight etc etc, however throughout the film, only the main "good guy" character, the Templar "Thomas Marshall" is the only one to don a suit of armour, and even then its not until over half way through the film, and even then its just a helmet and quilted overcoat he puts on anyway, which he then wears for all of about 2 minutes as he rides his horse out of the castles stable towards the keep (a distance of about 50 feet) whilst swinging a flail/morning star type mace at the horde of not-vikings who have managed to get in through the gates, seemingly to little effect (they gang up on him and pull him off his horse in the end, because charging a single horse into a mob of blood crazed enemies is a bit stupid, and if this weren't a film, he would have been unhorsed and killed within seconds of hitting the mob).

Another familiar trope common to this sort of film is the "religious person breaking their vows" trope, which the chaste Thomas Marshall manages to do about two-thirds of the way in by having the sexy intercourse with the lady of the manor, the inevitability of which had been set up right from the moment they walked in through the castle gates.

One major bit of "artistic licence" in the film is the slow torture and death of William D'Aubigny (Played by Brian Cox) on orders of the King towards the end of the film, which is a right bugger being as that  the real life D'Aubigny survived the siege and died in 1236 after playing a big part in the second battle of Lincoln after King Johns death and the subsequent crowning of his son Henry III in 1216...a mere year after the time in which this film is set (I presume that after having his hands and feet cut off, then having his corpse fired from a trebuchet and splattering on the castle walls, he "got better").

So, is Ironclad a good film?, well, as a medieval sword swinging blood splatterfest goes, I'd have to say yes, despite it being riddled with historical inaccuracies, ridiculous plot developments, its a good example of one of those films you can put on and expect to get some level of entertainment out of without being bogged down with a ton of "talky" bits getting in the way of drawn out scenes of people getting limbs chopped off by improbably large swords and axes, and the inevitable blood splatter that follows.
As a film giving an accurate depiction of a recorded historical event and the world it took place in, then I'd have to say no.

Black Death

It is the year 1348 and the Black Death is sweeping the British isles, well, except that it isn't, and didn't reach full on epidemic levels until about 2 years later, but, despite this glaring historical error, that doesn't stop the heroic knight "Ulric" (Sean Bean) from going to a monastery and demanding that the Abbott (David Warner) furnish him with a guide so they can find a village that rumour has it has not been afflicted by the, ok.

Enter Brother Osmund, a novice/monk/friar (the film cant make its mind up exactly what he is, as he is referred to as being all three, even though this would both be impossible and somewhat stupid), who is a bit naughty in the fact that he has a secret girlfriend who he earlier sent to find this village so she would be safe from the plague...Ulric turning up gives him an excuse to leave the monastery and meet up with his bit on the side for sexy times etc etc, so he volunteers because apparently thats where he comes from and knows the way quite well, or something.

Nah, as it turns out, Ulric and his band of unkempt, smelly mercenaries are really looking for the village because apparently it contains a necromancer who is bringing the dead back to life, and God might not like that so they are going to hunt down and kill the necromancer because fuck you that's why.
In order to complete their mission, they have brought along a torturer and his highly anachronistic "iron maiden" like torture contraption, which is conveniently attached to a rickety looking wagon, so they can capture the necromancer and deliver him to the local bishop..I presume that will occur after they have killed him and he has then brought himself back to life or, yeah.

So they travel across the countryside, via a forest which consists of nothing more than some very nice modern looking conifer trees which grow in perfectly straight lines, and have a few sword fights along the way before they finally find the village they were looking for...which turns out to be a haven for pagan heathens who don't believe in God.
Also along the way, Osmund finds out that his secret girlfriend seems to have been killed by the forest bandits, he blames himself and gets all dead guilty and shit, innit.

Ulric and his remaining men enter the village and are welcomed with open arms by the villages head man, "Hob", aka "The Lord Percy Percy", aka "Captain Darling", however despite being offered sanctuary and washing facilities (you know the villagers must be evil because they break the cliche of daring to wash both themselves and their clothing whilst living in medieval times) Ulric warns his men that evil is afoot so they must be on their guard.

So, the "necromancer" turns out to be a woman who is a skilled herbalist, and just uses the trappings of ritual and witchcraft to keep the yokels in awe of her super powers, plus also it helps that the village is miles away from anywhere else so the plague hasn't shown up there because they don't generally mix with outsiders.
Its at this point that the standard "religious person breaking their vows" cliche is used to get Osmund to not only kill his secret girlfriend (as it turns out, she wasn't killed in the forest, she just got beaten up a bit and the villagers found her and nursed her back to health, then the witch used her to try and get Osmund to come over to their side) , but to also turn him into an angry vengeance fueled killing machine.

Only Osmund and Ulrics right hand man Wolfstan manage to survive the inevitable bloodbath that occurs (once again, Sean Bean ends up getting killed in a film, surprise surprise) , Osmund returns home to the monastery, where Wolfstan, in voice over, states that although he never saw Osmund again, he heard stories that he had set himself up as something akin to a witch hunter and spent the remainde rof his days hunting down the woman who had bewitched him, killing lots of other women who had some resemblance to her in the process, but this was a good thing as he did it all in the name of God...oh, and God punished the evil pagan heathens by bringing the plague to the village, which promptly killed off anyone who was still living there (just before he dies, it is revealed that Ulric is suffering from the plague, thus bringing the disease there)

Yeahhhhhhh...again, this film is little more than an excuse to have people getting body parts cut off by big swords and axes, but, unlike Ironclad, it doesn't pretend to depict real events, or be a dramatic adaptation of events of historical note.
Also unlike Ironclad, the story is a rather poorly written  mish mash of plot holes sandwiched in between fighting and torture scenes, which ends on a rather dark note of having the young hero of the piece become Darth Vader and set about revenging himself on women via the excuse of being a witch hunter.

Good film?, not even as a bit of mindless flighting and bloodsplatter entertainment.

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