Friday, March 09, 2007

One Night With the King - A Movie Review

Curious name, since she had quite a few nights with the King... This movie was vaguely based on the book of Esther. Vaguely.

Before I go on, let me state that I understand the need to amplify Bible history for the screen. Movies have different requirements than Biblical stories. To shoot an accurate rendition of Esther would be a tad boring. The only ticking clock in the real story is Haman's proclamation to kill the Jews - several months distant. A good movie has a ticking clock to heighten urgency, high stakes to make losing dangerous, and collision course characters to make it dramatic.

I just didn't care for the Director's choices for all of these. First, he tried to make it a love story with a dash of intrigue. Esther isn't a romance, it's political intrigue with an unlikely heroine. The movie confused the conventions of both and was so neither. I did like most of the characters, I just didn't like the directorial choices.

I thought the changes to Haman were interesting. I don't know if the vengeance angle had any merit, but he was an Agagite, so... okay. The actor spoke so gutturally, though, that I couldn't understand him most of the time (which was a problem with the whole thing. I couldn't hear the gutturals of Haman and the neat eunuch, nor the whispery voice of the King. So figuring out what was going on was quite tricky). Other than needing to gargle, he was a good actor. His actions, though, were perplexing. They took forever to set things up, then flew through the important stuff like they were rushed at the end. The whole war thing, and slaughter the Jews for their possessions was just silly. It caused more problems than it solved (it was the ticking clock decision - and a poor one).

Xerxes looked like he'd been ripped off the cover of a Romance novel. Still, I liked him. He did the whole wounded expression very well. I just don't think the real Xerxes was such a wimp. Nor do I think he was all that in love with Esther. Liked her, maybe, but bodice ripping love? Probably not. He was playing Hamlet, not Xerxes.

Mordachi: Great. Love this guy. He's lost a lot of weight since Raiders of the Lost Ark, though. Hope he's okay.

Esther. An engaging young lady who acted well, but again, I don't think the real Esther was anything like this girl. She was too strong. Still, she and Xerxes did have nice chemistry, and they made me believe their love for one another (until he came back from wherever and suspected Esther was unfaithful - right, she'd be dead if he did. And she's mad because she thought he had a concubine? Didn't all kings have them???)

The Eunuch. My favorite character, if only I could understand what he was saying... More could/should have been done with the wonderful relationship between Esther and him. I could see this relationship raising the stakes more than the war.

Beautiful costuming and sets. Flowery script that told too much and showed the wrong things. Muddled directing. Good cinematography.

I've noticed a bad trend in Christian/Bible movies: Poor directing (exception: Facing the Giants). It used to be bad scripts, actors, directing and tech. Actors have improved (exception: Facing the Giants and any Left Behind). Scripts are pretty good to great. Tech has even improved, sometimes drastically. Just bad directors (to stave off the inevitable thoughts, no, I wouldn't direct well. I think I could get the story and actors working, but staging and cinematography? Not a hope).

So, my bottom line on One Night With the King. Confusing, a little boring, pretty to look at... C-