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The chemistry between Leonor Varela, who stars as the bewitching queen Cleopatra, and Billy Zane, as the steadfast Marc Antony, is undeniable. Their love scene is one of the steamiest to hit network television. However, once you move beyond this couple's sexual energy, the movie tends to droop, leaning toward the lackluster.
The tale of Cleopatra has hit the screen in many guises, but none have succeeded as well as Cecil B. DeMille's 1934 film. Here, director Franc Roddam tries once again to tell the story of the exotic queen who won the hearts of both Julius Caesar (Timothy Dalton) and Antony, while reigning over a troubled country. But how do you tell such an epic in a mere 140 minutes? Obviously, much is left out, making this film more worthwhile as a pleasant diversion than a real history lesson. The sets are quite remarkable for a TV movie, but unfortunately, the acting and dialogue leave something to be desired. Cleopatra comes across as a bratty child rather than an intelligent and manipulative seductress. Surely this tremendous queen had more going on in her life than her romances with Romans, but you wouldn't know it from this movie. Zane is the best part of the film, although his constant do-good boyishness can grate. Dalton is adequate as Caesar, although he seems to have a hard time taking the role seriously. Yet, for all its flaws, the action moves swiftly and while the battle scenes may leave you cringing with embarrassment for the director, the rest of this carefully staged piece is beautiful to look at. If you really want to know about the Queen of the Nile, though, you may be better off with A&E's Biography: Cleopatra or the Intimate Portrait: Cleopatra. --Jenny Brown
- Cleopatra's Hidden Treasures Game
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Top customer reviews
She portrayed the great Queen of Egypt as a child who wore her mother's royal robes. In those scenes where she was supposed to look fierce or intimidating, she ended up looking constipated. Caesar, the most powerful man in the world (now THAT portrayal I believed. Thanks, Tim Dalton!) fell in love with her?! Suuuure. A Queen whose only skills lie in the bedroom? You would think that the great Caesar would fall in love with a woman who knew political strategy and possessed maturity. Apparently not.
Positives? Timothy Dalton was a delight to see, and he bought his considerable acting skills to the role of Caesar. Again, Lenora Valera ruined this for me. I kept asking myself, "Why would this man fall in love with this woman?"
Billy Zane. Hmmm...if he meant to portray Marc Antony as a drunk living in Caesar's shadow...well done. In this regard, I do believe that he and Cleopatra were well suited.
The costumes. Loved the Egyptian costumes. The headdresses? Not so much.
I can only give this movie 2 stars.
Like the earlier film production, this one plays fast and loose with the actual history, albeit in different ways. The figure of Octavian/Augustus is far more present earlier here than he was in history; for a production that goes on the greater part of three hours, remarkably little detail about the history is brought forward, and I found that distracting. The last hour could have easily been recut into a half-hour, and some judicious editing throughout the rest of the film could make it into a much better paced two-hour film.
The acting was tolerable but generally unconvincing. Timothy Dalton as Julius Caesar, Billy Zane (who got top billing) as Marc Antony, and Rupert Graves as Octavian were not up to their usual acting standards in this production. Dalton was not very expressive, and Zane and Graves were overly so (Graves plays an almost flippant character, not at all in keeping with the historical Augustus). Ironically, the title character Cleopatra was played by relative newcomer Leonor Varela, who was probably the best actor in the piece.
The sets are great, as are the costumes (if not always appropriate - Cleopatra rarely wore Egyptian garb, preferring her more native Greek), and the music is worthwhile. The battle scenes are pretty typical television fare (with occasional glitches that make these seem more minor skirmishes than great battles). Unfortunately, the sea-going scenes of ships looked far too obviously fake to suspend disbelief.
This is a pleasant diversion, but in the end not a truly memorable production save for bits and pieces here and there. But it is a good thing that such productions are still being undertaken.