Medieval movie review & film summary (2022)

ytsfreeSeptember 10, 2022

“Medieval” begins with a lot of expository dialogue and a couple of bone-crunching, but otherwise flat action scenes. This crash course in Czech history is often compelling for its intricate details, but rarely for its characterizations, dialogue, or dramatic tension. It does, however, feature Michael Caine as Lord Boresh, a surly imperial adviser who, for a few scenes, grumbles magisterially and also helps set up the movie’s plot. 

Speaking of the plot: after an overly complicated series of double crosses and secret allegiances, the sour-faced Žižka finds himself caught in a feud between the well-liked, but powerless Bohemian King Wenceslas (Karel Roden) and his conniving brother Sigismund (Matthew Goode). Žižka and his men are charged with abducting Lady Katherine (Sophie Lowe), the independent-minded fiancé of Lord Rosenberg (Til Schweiger), one of Sigismund’s allies. Žižka and Katherine instantly hit it off, though it’s never really clear why based on their halting conversations about God, or Foster and Lowe’s general lack of chemistry. 

Unfortunately, “Medieval” does not improve after Žižka takes it upon himself to protect Katherine from Sigismund, who wants to unseat his brother, and is also willing to betray his pal Rosenberg in order to do it. There’s some impressive antagonistic chemistry between Foster and Roland Møller, the latter of whom plays Torak, Sigismund’s main heavy. 

There’s also some appropriately upsetting battle scenes, all of which are either over-exposed or hyper-stylized to the point of distraction, and sometimes filmed with surreal and way too physically proximate hand-held camerawork, all of which approximates a sort of you-are-there derangement. Various body parts are smashed to bits, soldiers are knocked off their horses, and metal grinds against metal. The stuntwork and period weapons in these scenes all look fine, and some of the special effects and image-compositing look costly enough. But the real MVPs of “Medieval” are the foley artists and sound designers who made every metallic scrape and fleshy squelch seem more exciting than whatever’s shown on-screen.

There’s a heavy-osity in even these propulsive beat-’em-up sword-fights that creeps in from earlier dialogue scenes, which tend to drag on and look like somebody accidentally picked all the wrong settings on their new high-definition television. Too bad that, in conversation, Foster’s Žižka doesn’t get to say much that makes him seem like a game-changing leader. He tells his men that if they choose to fight with him, it would be for a “good cause” and “that’s a good death.” They respond by singing about being “God’s soldiers,” which seems presumptuous, but ok.

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