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Season of the Witch: When The Facts Go Wrong

Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 10:54 by Helen O'Hara in Empire States
Season of the Witch: When The Facts Go Wrong

Last night, I saw Season of the Witch. It's the new Nicolas Cage effort, with Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell-Jones, Claire Foy and a brief cameo from the inimitable Christopher Lee. I was quite looking forward to a bit of a medieval/supernatural romp, despite the reviews. But as the film went on, details started to niggle at me and to gradually pull me wholesale out of the story. Some films seem determined to stretch my (considerable) capacity to suspend disbelief, and this was one of the worst offenders in ages. So let's talk for a minute about the debt that filmmakers owe to, y'know, facts - with regard to Season of the Witch but in a way that is free of spoilers.

Now before we go any further, OF COURSE this film has supernatural elements and isn't meant to be entirely realistic. I'm OK with that in filmmaking. I'm down with films that combine a real setting and fictional story; even real people and a fictional tale. I'm an outright fan of the likes of medieval supernatural story Ladyhawke, which takes place around a possible-but-not-actual city and seems rooted in its own reality. I can also ignore minor factual problems right, left and centre - it takes a howler on a level with "mutated neutrinos" to pull me out. Smaller howlers are absolutely fine by me.

For example, here the leads speak in faintly American tones, which Irish actor Robert Sheehan appears to mimic for harmony's sake. There's actually a case to be made for that - I've heard arguments that certain American accents are closer to Shakespearean English than, say, modern English is - but one gets the sense here that it's more because no one could be bothered to go full-RP.

That same sense of carelessness pervades the whole thing; one or two inaccuracies and artistic licences are bearable, but this cascade overwhelms the viewer. This film hasn't created its own reality; it's mashed up history into something mushy.

We were sold, after all, on a medieval European story that happens to feature witches, so it's fair to expect it to have taken place in something resembling medieval Europe. This story was supposed to feature the Crusades, and the Black Death - both of which were actual, devastating events that took place in Europe and the Middle East. Immediately, however, one difficulty intrudes: they took place nearly a hundred years apart. The final Crusade (to the Middle East, at least) finished in 1272, and the Black Death didn't hit until 1348 or so. Worse, if my memory of the explanatory captions serves, our heroes are supposed to have fought a battle at Artah, which in fact took place in 1105.

There were, maybe, ways around this. Our heroes could have been sent off to fight the Moors in Spain (although the 14th century was a relatively quiet one for the Reconquista thanks to the one-two punch of a Europe-wide famine and then the impact of the plague) or if set 50 years later you could just about have tied together one of the recurrences of the Black Death with the Crusades against the Tartars in eastern Europe from 1399. But that would mean losing out on the desert battles and walled cities we're familiar with, and would necessitate explaining that the Crusades weren't just a Middle Eastern thing (just mostly) and would all be a bit clever. So they didn't bother.

But OK, let's let that go. Let's assume that 80 years (or 250) here or there doesn't really matter given that both bits of history at least sort of happened. And centuries better not matter, because I haven't even mentioned the whole witch-hunt thing, a key part of the film's plot. The whole movie opens with the execution of three women for witchcraft at some indeterminate time before the action really starts. But you know what wasn't really in full swing in 1348? Witch hunts. You know when that really got going? 1487 - 140-ish years later.

Still, I'm still trying to be reasonable: it's understandable to think that witches might have been a scapegoat when the plague broke out, and that there could have been witches who were imprisoned, tortured, tried and executed during that time. But the howlers are building up, and my suspension of disbelief is faltering.

Let's talk about the Black Death instead. The victims of the plague in this film look less like the emaciated, pustule-covered forms drawn in manuscripts of the time and more like Nemesis from Resident Evil, swollen grotesquely and hugely out of all humanity. Again, to some extent this is fine: our heroes discover old corpses; some swelling and discoloration is likely. But the extent of the grotesquerie here is horror for horror's sake: what, death rates of up to 75 percent aren't enough? 

Still, even leaving that aside on the basis that maybe the filmmakers are trying to get into that whole medieval mindset where life is nasty, brutish and short, the geographical problems were what really pulled me out of the story. Our heroes look at a map that bears no obvious relationship to any country in Europe to plan their journey to a distant monastery. Logic would suggest that they're no further West or North than France when they do so, but this doesn't look like France. It looks like Greenland. Even if we assume that this is down to bad cartography (at least that is authentically medieval), the script delivers a clanger that I just cannot, in all good conscience, explain away. A character says:

"That's 400 leagues; about a 6-day journey."

That seemed a really, really low time estimate to me, so I went and double-checked. Is a league less than a mile? Is there any way that statement could work out? It turns out a league is defined as roughly the distance that a man could walk in an hour, and is usually measured as three miles. 400 leagues is therefore 1200 miles. So basically the film reckons that in medieval Europe, on medieval roads, without a change of horses, with a cart and through mountainous terrain, you can travel 200 miles a day.

I want to be charitable, I really do. I want to believe there was a misprint in the script, or that someone changed a line when they were suffering from temporary insanity. I understand that this is a silly, silly film and I can't take it too seriously (the evidence of this blog to the contrary). But there's only so much a body can take.

What it would appear, if we're generous, is this: the whole of Season of the Witch takes place in another universe. It is not a medieval story really; these are not the Crusades and it does not concern the Black Death. It takes place in an inverted Disneyland version of the same, a twisted mash-up of history that bears only a passing resemblance to anything that actually ever happened. And that might be OK, but it is so inconsistent and so lazy that it succeeds in creating a backdrop that's less convincing than the one in Ever After. Yes, really. Ladyhawke contains a better portrayal of medieval Europe - hell, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, where the road from Dover to Nottingham passed Hadrian's Wall, is more convincing.

This film also has as many missed opportunities in the plot, which I won't touch for fear of spoilers, so this carelessness runs right through and it's so frustrating because it kept having moments that capture the interest and then squandering them. So by all means, go see it when it opens tomorrow for Nicolas Cage's latest haircut and insane looking Crusader's helmet. Go see it because Ron Perlman is a legend. Go see it and think to yourself, "God, I really fancy watching The Name of the Rose." But don't call it a medieval story. There's only so far you can twist the facts before they just break.

The shame of it is? I still quite fancy seeing a medieval/supernatural romp. Wish someone out there would make one.

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Comments

1 hi charlie
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 15:06
Jesus if you want a history lesson read a book smart arse, it's a Nick Cage film for christ sake, fair enough if it was crap but you sound like a proffesional nit picker O'Hara, which in turn makes me question again why you gave True Grit five stars also your integrity as a critic/reviewer

2 Helen OHara
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 15:12
Thanks for those considered comments charlie.

When I want a history lesson, I very often DO read a book. As I made quite clear in the blog, I don't expect perfect historical accuracy in popular films, but neither do I expect quite the mish-mash that I saw here.

As for being a professional nitpicker, some would say that that is, at least to some extent, a critic's job, so thank you.

Where my integrity comes into it, I'm not sure. And while I did not, in fact, write Empire's True Grit review, that reviewer gave it 5 stars and I happen to agree.

3 TheWitherall
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 15:30
It bothers me more when a film dresses up history to please the viewer more. The Patriot, for example, is not only horseshit, but it's also pretty much designed to mis-inform us of history.

When it's a Nicolas Cage film entitled 'Season of the Witch', I'm probably expecting there to be a few inaccuracies.

It is frustrating though Helen, I agree! In the words of Captain Hook, (I don't know why) "Why lie, when the truth is far more entertaining?"

NB: Did you know that 'Hook' is said to be historically inaccurate too? I don't believe it myself...

4 iCowboy
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 15:55
Of course there were plenty of scapegoats to go round when the Black Death arrived in Europe. They're just weren't witches - they were Europe's Jewish communities who were blamed, persecuted, uprooted and murdered.

But you have to remember in a Nick Cage movie the normal rules about quality just don't apply. I consider it something of an achievement if I can get through to the end of the film without wanting to commit homicide.

5 Bobby TwoTimes
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 16:16
I normally think Helen's blog are total shit, but I actually quite enjoyed reading this one to be fair.

Although I do think that you have to bear in mind that 'Oscarwinning' Nic Cage does actually only make one good film per decade (80's - Raising Arizona, 90's - Leaving Las Vegas and 00's - Bad Lieutenant) and the rest are normally utter crap!

So we've now got a whole other 10yrs in which to wait for the next good Cage film, and I didn't exactly think that the one he released in the first week of January entitled 'Season Of the Witch' would be it.....did you??

6 Bizz90
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 16:42
Is anything good enough for you Helen? Naaah I'm kidding, these things are important on a basic intellectual level, I agree with you there. It does reach a stage where it appears to be more difficult to be moronic than it does to be accurate. I do, however, feel slightly disappointed that you still walk into a Nic Cage action movie expecting anything other than total crap so bad it'll make you lose faith in cinema itself. Fool you once shame on him, fool you Bangkok Dangerous or more times - shame on you.

7 divadcooper
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 16:48
I just wanted to weigh in in absolute support of this blog. Helen makes the intention absolutely clear and I found it interesting and reasonable throughout. If people don't wish to learn anything about the history used in films or be aware of inaccuracies then they should not be on a site that looks at and openly criticises, as well as praises, films for their merits and issues. Nor should that individual read a blog that clearly sets out in the opening paragraph that it will look at inaccuracies in a film set in medieval times and explain them.

Thanks Helen for another interesting blog. Keep it up.

8 richger
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 16:51
Agree with the comments saying that any film with the words Cage and Witch on the poster needs to be taken with a fistful of salt. But also agree with Helen – there is definitely a problem when you get pulled out of the film time and again by what is basically bad story-telling.
And audience's relation to a film is like a dreamer to their dream, you're both spectator and participant. It's a delicate balance. The viewer inhabits an impossible space (literally when the camera is high-up on a cherry-picker or buried alive in a coffin with a character). It's when a film's characters or the plot itself start to inhabit an impossible (as opposed to an invented) space that we have a problem.
This will probably get my comment struck off by the moderator but I've just set up a website about the relationship between films and reality, with 80 examples of the 'Could that really happen' variety. Google biggerboat.weebly if you're interested.



9 Chow Yun Slim
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 17:04
Fantastic blog! I can completely swallow minor "mistakes" or the vearing from the truth but sometimes it really does get too much to enjoy the film. I never understand why a film can't be more realistic in terms of period, clothing, dates and STILL be fun! I don't understand anyone saying this article nit picks. It's clear she didn't need to do much looking to find holes!!

10 seanofthedead
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 17:12
i think the american audience would not know enough about european history to care,end of the day it's sold as a medievel fantasy.

11 Lemure
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 17:34
Taking Nicolas Cage films seriously is never wise. Don't EVER watch Ghost Rider.

12 Marianita
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 17:54
Helen, this time I totally agree with you. It's not that one expects absolute perfection in historical details. Not even a high percentage of historical accuracy. Just enough to make the movie engaging. Of course producers and writers can't make films just for people with PhDs, but they should take into account that a lot of moviegoers can read. It's like seeing someone wear a watch in a gladiators movie. If it's too distracting you just can't enjoy the movie.

13 fantastic mr ethan
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 18:05
it's a Nicolas Cage movie that isnt Raising Arizona. who cares?

14 supermaddy
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 18:56
Random question: but what about Prince of Persia and stuff like that? I loved that film with a passion, not just because I'm young and female and it has Jake Gyllenhaal in it, often shirtless and soaking wet, but because I love pseudo-historical supernatural romps. And yet I'm someone who kind of loves Middle Eastern history, which the film totally messed up to the point that it was grossly misleading and wholly inaccurate. Minnarettes anyone? Comepletely wrong. Let me remind you how the Indiana Jones films portray Turkey, specifically Hatay, as well. If we're okay with this blatant historical orientalism- that it is okay to totally mess up history when its someone elses for the sake of entertainment- in movies not about Europe, why is it causing a problem when it's done to Europe? Double-standards dudes...

... having said all that some of my favourite films in the world play about with history, gosh supernatural historical romps are my favourites...

15 ZachSteel
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 19:19
I'll get started on the script then ... having developed a couple of medieval RPG systems in my time, and run both continuous table-top and LARP campaigns over several years (based mostly on real-world mythologies) I think this is one challenge I can rise to. Watch this space :)

16 monkeyfish
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 19:24
I never really held with this idea that, in Prince of Thieves, Robin Hood travels from Dover to Nottingham via Hadrian's Wall. Nobody in the script mentions it as Hadrian's Wall, we only know that it is because we recognise the filming location. It is clearly intended to be a location that represents a bit of ruined wall close to Robin's home. I mean, we recognise what the film chooses to represent as Nottingham as being shot on location in Carcassonne. This doesn't mean that we think that Robin has to go to southern France when he wants to steal the Sheriff's horse, it's just a filming location. The only fault here is in choosing to film in such an obviously recognisable location. However, there is a pretty glaring geographical error anyway in the script for this sequence. Robin lands at, what we can reasonably assume, is meant to be Dover as well as being filmed there, and says that they will be at his home by nightfall. That's about 200 miles away and they're on foot. Doesn't make me enjoy this ridiculous movie any less for seeing this sort of nonsense in it, though. I think if a film is fun then these things matter a whole lot less. Perhaps you were only troubled by the inaccuracies of Season of the Witch because it was so bad in other ways.

17 Mopictures
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 19:48
I think Helen's right, in that if it don't add up, it don't add up. You can't fault someone for being, y'know, smart and knowing stuff. I hear it's a good thing to be smart and know stuff, even if it does ruin films that are unnecessarily stupid.

The impression I'm getting from "Season of the Witch" (Ie, from the trailers) is that the filmmakers made the BIG mistake of panicking and throwing everything into the cauldron, so to speak. I mean, why have it set during the Crusades? Why have the Black Death in it? I could have HAPPILY watched a "3:10 to Yuma with a Witch" film without those things!

This is compounded by the fact that I KNOW that the filmmakers went back and reshot new battle-scene flashbacks for the film, which meant they sincerely didn't have faith in their strong, simple concept. I LOVED the first trailer (Before the reshoots) because it looked like a moody, stripped-down, non-CGI psycho-thriller set in Witch-burning times. After the second trailer, my heart sank.

When are people going to realise we actually often want LESS in a film? (Other examples include Terminator Salvation and Tron:Legacy - Just give us two hours of H-K's and Lightcycles!)

18 litespell
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 20:22
Someone reminded me of the outrageous swindle that was The patriot, and for that matter Braveheart, (another Mel Gibson fantasy) which were both about as historically accurate as ...oh Superman say. This can be very annoying when the story is set around a historic event or character. That's entertainment, so Inaccuracies are ok-ish in a movie, but twisting history out of all proportion is unforgivable. Especially as most kids learn history from movies rather than books. There seems to be a genuine disparity between world history, and American "history".
I am usually dismayed at the very low quality of film criticism on Empire i.e. Avatar was given 5 stars...really??? CGI plus bad script does not a classic make!
However, I was happily surprised at this honest and critical review. More critique and less generic hype is very welcome.

19 vdjfrancis
Posted on Thursday January 6, 2011, 21:10
Well, rewriting history in films can have bad repercussions when they are presented as faction, case in point U571. As you may know, in the film a WW II German submarine is boarded in 1942 by disguised United States Navy submariners, seeking to capture her Enigma cipher machine. Thus allowing future generations of Americans to believe that they were the one's to have such a break through and deserved all the glory. I'll let Wiki explain the rest:

"Although the film was generally well received and won an Academy Award, the plot attracted criticism for two reasons: firstly, it was BRITISH personnel from HMS Bulldog who first captured a naval Enigma machine, from U-110 in the North Atlantic May 1941, before the United States entered the war. Secondly, German U-boat crews were portrayed in a negative light.
The real U-571 was never involved in any such events, was not captured, and was in fact sunk in January 1944, off Ireland, by a Short Sunderland flying boat from No. 461 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force."

20 badsanta
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 01:30
It was obviously made for 12 year old boys - like most Hollywood films.

21 badsanta
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 01:36
... so it (the film) should please most Empire readers.

22 Mc Bovril
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 09:04
Zing!

23 Helen OHara
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 09:56
Monkeyfish, if Robin Hood travelled 200 miles in a day, perhaps he borrowed Nic Cage's horses? But of course, in this case it was the build up of errors and lack of redeeming features that was the problem.

I'd agree re Prince of Persia's dodgy history, btw. That niggled at me too.

24 MoBiUGeArSkIn
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 10:25
Really want to see the film, even though it's getting bashed.

Thing is, I wouldn't go into something like this expecting any kind of "historical accuracy" even if it does feature some real world elements.

It's a fantasy.

I don't think it needs to fit into any particular context because the core of the film... a witch... well, those aren't real. Monsters etc aren't real. And if we're to swallow that Claire Foy is some kind of bat-denom-witch-beast-whatever (suggested by the trailers) then I'm just going to roll with it. The whole thing. When, where, whatever.

We're not in the realm of fact anymore. It's squarely fiction.

25 f
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 10:50
Surprised nobody named Gladiator yet.
For me the first hour of the movie was ruined by the flying horse bringing Crowe to Andalusia in a single cut (unsure now, but wasn't the general wounded as well at the time?).
All the other historical mistakes in that movie I could have forgiven and probably wouldn't have even noticed if this hadn't taken me out of it.

Though I never complain about Dinosaurs and cavemen in the same movie (which is awesome and for my money the actual truth).

26 Louis Cypher
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 11:29
Totally agree Helen with you about historical inaccuracy's, p1sses me off no end, especially hollywood's determination to rewrite history to suit their own ends! The list is pretty endless, U571, The Patriot, Braveheart (which was actually Robert the Bruce nickname, not William Wallace), Pearl Harbour even p1sses on their own history doesn't it?? Granted its a Nic Cage supernatural knights and swords epic, and we can all let historical accuracy slip in the name of a good film or even just some quality action n violence! Solomon Kane I thought was actually a bl00dy good film!! But if your gonna be lazy and half arsed with your historical accuracy then why not do a Conan, Willow, even Krull or the immortal straight to video Barbarian Brothers and set it in a paralell dimension of time and space that may or may not be earth, where you can have knights coming back of a crusade to pestilence and witches and warlocks and to the ever growing threat from Mordor engulfing the land, with Orc's roaming the lands.... Ohh wait... that's familiar....

27 piccolo135
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 13:40
Considering they were transporting a witch it's probably more likely they were travelling 400 leagues as the broom flies. It is disney after all.

Like Helen said I have no issue with the odd glaring error in a fantasy film. As long as the film overall lets you just enjoy it for what it is, without needing to think. Otherwise, its simply lack of effort.

On the other hand, every Ron Perlman film should be cherished. Bar none.

28 HamTheMan
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 13:56
I don't mind the odd historical innaccuracy as long as it adds to (or at least doesn't detract from) the film. I can, for instance, forgive Prince of Thieves because it's a good film (and has Alan Rickman); and even Braveheart (apparently William Wallace did NOT sleep with the future queen of England), which is great fun (altogether now - "They may take our lives...."). And Gladiator because, well, its awesome - though I must say the flying horse trip from Germany to the south of Spain with a wounded Maximus always bothered me, as well as the grossly exaggerated size of the Colosseum.

Anyway, where I start to get frustrated is where film-makers take such liberties with history as to insult our basic intellegence, and where failures to take into account actual historical facts reeks of laziness rather than any need or desire to enhance the film. If I'm going to pay a small fortune to see a film (£14 now at my local!), I want the writers/director/whomever to at least do some bloody research!

29 andybud
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 14:01
I for one really enjoyed your comments on this film Helen. You show the kind of intelligence and care for history that i crave in not only company but reviewers. Highly amusing to read as well, you should go on Grumpy old women on the bbc.

30 unreal_uk
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 15:08
"no one could be bothered to go full-RP"

You NEVER go full-RP.

31 jencat
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 16:57
Honestly, if we're critiquing Robin Hood for inaccuracies, then I'm inclined to be a lot more forgiving of Prince of Thieves because it's not exactly claiming to be anything but silly, and it's just so much damn fun.

The recent Ridley Scott version on the other hand... Freaking. Boring. So I'm a lot less inclined to overlook the teeth-gratingly awful ending, or the similar ridiculous march across the country, or Russell Crowe's usual laughable attempt at an accent (he nearly does manage one in The Next Three Days though, which was a shock) . Mostly because it was claiming to be 'serious and realistic' whilst actually being far more cheesy and overblown plotwise than either the Kevin Costner version or indeed the Disney effort (really... He turns out to have a Significant Heritage? That's... original. It's not bloody Robin Hood though.)

I'm dithering on whether Season of the Witch will be enough fun though... fingers crossed!

32 mmmpieisgood
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 18:50
"It was obviously made for 12 year old boys"

Nice to know that the kids of today are being well educated. Surely this appeal is a reason for it to be more accurate; they'll grow up believing all kinds of nonsense just because Nic Cage did it.

33 zombie mastermind
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 19:04
Nic Cage is shit in anything other than Con-Air.


34 legsebs
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 23:00
All the objections to the Black Death/Crusades/Witch hunt timelines are equally applicable to The Seventh Seal. Which Sena is probably rather smugly pleased with himself about ripping off.

Not sure what that implies. Just thought I'd point it out because I'm smugly pleased with myself for noticing it.

35 label
Posted on Friday January 7, 2011, 23:40
Maybe historical accuracy is of utmost importance in reviewing a movie in the UK. But to me, here in the states it seems that a review is a discussion of the entertainment value of a movie. It's a stupid fantasy piece of fiction! Don't visual effects, cinematography, acting, etc, etc matter more than historical accuracy? Give me a break!

36 kathryn0013
Posted on Saturday January 8, 2011, 12:44
I haven't seen Season of the Witch, nor am I likely to, mainly because it looks crap. I am, however, a massive fan of historical fantasy drama stuff.

However, I often wonder why movie makers insist on making stuff up about history when a tiny, tiny bit of research would help them to create a better story and save them from a beating by critics. Some mistakes or alterations are ok, and often add to the entertainment value but when they are overwhelming that is when it is just silly.

I am a history teacher and you could ask the kids in my classes when the Black Death and the Crusades were and a lot of them would be able to tell you- why don't the writers open a book? or even use the internet? One google search and you can find that the plague never really went away and there was a massive outbreak in London in 1665 which is much closer to the witch hunt type time. And there are loads of other horrible diseases to choose from... On top of that why does it have to be crusades? It is not like European History is bereft of wars...

If you can't be arsed to do the history bit why bother setting it in a time frame or period or actual place when you can just not do that? As with Merlin on the BBC (or even better The Princess Bride) it is sort of medieval but because it isn't a real place they don't have to worry about accuracy- that makes more sense to me.

On another note- does it count as fiction if it is apparently linking itself to factual events? And visual effects, cinematography, acting etc may be more important in a film review, but I bet that most of those things are a bit rubbish in this film as well.

37 DanTDavies
Posted on Saturday January 8, 2011, 15:22
I agree with the general thrust of the piece. I can't stand it when writers just make stuff up and can't be arsed to do a bit of research which most school kids could do in half an hour. Perhaps the real reasoning behind it is that they can do the research but are told not to. Fearing that if you mentioned a medieval war other than the Crusades most American kids [the target audience] would just look blankly "why are they fighting over some Roses???" and not turn up to the box office. So the same over simplified crap gets trotted out same and again. Perhaps if producers actually credited their audience with some intelligence then that would be reflected in the script.

As for historical accuracy and so on, the best I think has to be Prince of Thieves: Kansas Accent? Check. Walking to Nottingham from Dover via Hadrian's Wall? Check. King Richard actually setting foot on English soil? Check [i'll ignore the Scottish accent as Sir Sean is a God in my eyes]. Pantomime villains complete with Boo Hissability? check. Mullets? Check. Gunpowder? Check [this one actually really really really really really really annoyed me]. However, it's still a damned good film :)

38 jimbobbsan
Posted on Saturday January 8, 2011, 16:44
jencat,

I totally agree. The Russell Crowe one could have been so good if they had kept up the sommersby angle, but just include bad tax collectors...Robin/Robert could have been conflicted by his need to fulfill his duties to the king, but also look after the peasants, the source of wealth and tax. Plus, the French are the bad guys? Didn't the Kings of England also maintain a claim to the throne of France. *sighs*
One history professor, Bucholz, talks about how many films have people thinking in ways that they could never have thought in. Would never have thought in.

Great blog subject.

39 anakin solo
Posted on Saturday January 8, 2011, 16:50
it's not meant to be accurate, it's a fantasy. I've just seen this movie today and was to busy enjoying the movie to notice and frankly even care. It had cage and perlman in it apart from being cleverly scripted was extremely interesting to watch and had cool battle sequences and demon wolves.

40 ScalyMeerkat
Posted on Sunday January 9, 2011, 10:08
I think anakin solo is an alias for Nick Cage.

41 Can_Write_Will_Write
Posted on Sunday January 9, 2011, 14:27
EXCELLENT ARTICLE!
I understand that film is mostly a medium to entertain but that is not an excuse for shoddy work! When I think of the amounts of money that change hands during the making of a film like this I feel so sick; so many people with actual talent never have a chance for their 'big break', and all the while crap like this gets made. I can overlook innacuracy for involving storytelling (Braveheart, Gladiator, etc), but come on, lumping together actual historical events that are hundreds of years apart? It's like having the Nazis turn up in WW1... If you're going to make a fantasy, then make a fantasy through-and-through.

42 Can_Write_Will_Write
Posted on Sunday January 9, 2011, 14:29
...If you don't care for anything like, say; plot, character, accuracy (if not to history then to an established setting), stay home and watch television adverts.

43 BenTramer
Posted on Sunday January 9, 2011, 17:14
Movies, especially popcorn Nic Cage flicks, are not documentaries and are not the truth. If it's a choice between historical accuracy and dramatic licence, the writer will always go with drama as that's the job they're hired for. Historical accuracy is a luxury. Did you really need to get your knickers in a twist over this? Really. Any movie dumped in the No-Man's-Land of January is a stinker anyway. This is the perfect movie to go see on a cold, wet January afternoon when the brats are back at school and the cinema is nice and quiet and empty.

44 mcloughiom
Posted on Sunday January 9, 2011, 23:59
I couldn't agree more with the article. Hollywood has messed around with history for far too long and there are too many people watching these films who actually think they are portraying what really happened.

Americans only appear to learn history from watching films which is why they probably think they won WWII single handedly and that William Wallace fathered a future King of England who was born well over a year or more after his so called dad was hung drawn and quartered.

I also watched Independence Day over the holidays with my six year old son who for some reason loves the film. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum launch a nuclear missile into the alien mothership with a 30 second fuse. 1 minute and 30 seconds later it explodes ! Messing with history is lazy film making but messing with physical time is even worse.

45 kristina evans
Posted on Monday January 10, 2011, 05:27
If you want to know about realms, myths, magic and the creation of vampires then look out for a book that is due to be released soon. The title is Vanessa Smythe.

46 Gazme
Posted on Monday January 10, 2011, 10:57
hahaha Charlie just got served!

Good review, I was looking forward to this in a "its definitely going to be ridiculous but super crazy Nic Cage can be fun and Perlman will be awesome" kind of way...but these stupid impossible things they put into films really do draw me out of it in the same way that Jeff Bridges' Prot's weirdly plasticiney smoothed out head took me out of Tron...then its really hard to enjoy something.

Luckily my knowlewdge of history is nowhere near as good as my knowledge of The Dude :D

47 Bill Clay
Posted on Monday January 10, 2011, 13:32
January is known as the dumping ground after all and with Nicolas Cage's recent track record we couldn't really expect anything else. (I really didn't see the love for Bad Lieutenant).
However Season of the Witch is a new low, not as bad as Wicker Man, it does rank up there with one of Uwe Boll's gems. And what was with the Syfy Original style effects!

Athough I did think Claire Foy was quite good.

48 Barry
Posted on Monday January 10, 2011, 14:30
And another thing...

Churchill called Stalin "Marshall Stalin" in the beginning of The King's Speech. I'm tellin' ya... If it wasn't such a good film that line alone could have ruined it for me... Sure Stalin didn't become a Marshall until World War II started!

Also, the fact that Churchill was an avid supporter of Edward VI and didn't want him to abdicate also goes towards showing that The King's Speech got its history wrong.

Ah well... I still enjoyed it.

Try talkig about Michael Collins if you want historical inaccuracies... I'm surprised Neil Jordan didn't have De Valera himself pull the trigger as opposed to a young Jonathan Rhyss Myers.

49 the_pity_party
Posted on Monday January 10, 2011, 15:03
I must admit that at times a film can annoy if liberties are taken with fact. This can (and often does) occur mostly in period pieces. I myself will often nit-pick at things post viewing, but it is cinema, it's supposed to be fun and, hell, it's a Nicolas Cage film. Given his recent record, I'd believe anything!

50 Adrian
Posted on Monday January 10, 2011, 16:55
Would Beowulf not count as a supernatural medieval movie? I mean it's definitely medieval, and dragons and monsters (sorry.. monstahs) definitely count as supernatural, surely?

51 StewieGriffin
Posted on Monday January 10, 2011, 18:03
Hmmm... I guess it's whatever inhibits your ability to suspend disbelief. I'm not really up on my medieval history so a lot of the 'problems' you list would not bother me (my school history was more focused on Nazis and the like). Having a doctorate in chemistry means my particular hell is bad psudoscience. As such I watch 'The Core' as a slapstick comedy.

Does anybody have this problem with actors? Rather than watching the character all you see is the actor? I can't enjoy a Leonardo DiCaprio film for that reason.

52 MadMatt
Posted on Tuesday January 11, 2011, 21:40
While we're all busy patting ourselves on the back about how clever we are and how dumb Hollywood filmmakers are, how many of us could seriously claim to have known any/all of those dates Helen casually threw out without spending a couple of hours on Wikipedia first? For most of us, even those of us who can read, the medieval period is one vague mush of crusades/plagues/witch-hunts anyway. I did social and economic history at school, so maybe if they were playing fast and loose with a Spinning Jenny or the Tolpuddle Martyrs I might have got a bit tetchy, but otherwise I honestly couldn't give a toss.

That aside, looking for technical accuracy in a Nic Cage-paycheque flick is surely the first sign of madness. All I need to know is, does it have bees in it, and lots of them? If so, I might have to check this one out.

53 JagLover
Posted on Wednesday January 12, 2011, 15:37
I felt exactly the same when watching King Arthur. A fantasy King Arthur romp is fine with me, but one that pretended to historic realism and then got so many key details wrong just left me cold.


54 zombie mastermind
Posted on Wednesday January 12, 2011, 19:50
The worst thing about King Arthur was Clive-worst actor of his generation-Owen. How does this guy keep getting work? He is more wooden than a very wooden thing.

Geoffrey Rush was the only thing that made it bearable, but alas could not save it.

Nic Cage reminds me a bit of Clive Owen, I would imagine that Ron Perlman is his Geoffrey Rush in Season of the Witch.

55 dapieman
Posted on Monday February 14, 2011, 13:51
I rewatched Russell 'oirish accent' Crowe's Robin Hood last night and therein lies a classic example of what you are talking about Helen. What makes it even worse is that, unlike some nic cage trash, there was supposed to be an element of historical believeability about it.

I can forgive the boys in the wood bits, the piss poor military tactics (landing an invasion fleet on a beach open to the waves, commiting to a cavalry charge when your longbow men had a commanding position etc etc etc) and I can even forgive the great man's accent.

However as the film works up to the climax robin gets himself the fastest damn horse in christendom! seriously there are horses on the front of ferraris that can't cover the distance robin manages in the time he takes. In Barnsdale, Yorkshire the lord chancellor informs Robin that godfrey is attacking nottingham and that Philip of france's fleet is in the channel. Robin is able to scarper back to Nottingham, save all and sundry and then get to dungeness (via a white horse in Wiltshire) to smack the frogs about, a conservative estimate of 300 miles or som, and all before a fleet is able to cross the narrowest part of the channel.

It only took William the conqueror 1 day to cross the channel and he crossed at the widest part. Either Philip takes a week to sail 20 something miles or robin has some serious speed.

I still enjoyed the movie but it did rather unsuspend my disbelief and I couldn't help thinking that a) ridley is a brit and should know better, b) in a movie where they are striving for historical 'accuracy' they should be holding themselves to a higher standard and finally c) would such mind bending geographical shenanigans be accepted if the setting was the US? I'm not sure they would.


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