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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quantity over quality, May 26, 2011
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This review is from: Warriors (DVD)
Quite frankly, if it weren't for the sheer number of movies included in this pack, it would be a great disappointment.

"Hannibal: Rome's Worst Nightmare" starring Alexander Siddig is without a doubt the best film included in this bunch, and it's not even "officially" included, but a bonus film. It is perhaps the single most historically accurate TV/movie portrayal of ancient Rome I've ever seen, bested only by HBO's Rome in terms of aesthetics, and at 89 minutes, aside from a pointless one-off scene involving Imilce, Hannibal Barca's wife, in Hispania before they begin the campaign, is intensely crisp and fast-paced, while giving most events proper brevity and impact, complete with fitting music for dramatic effect and cut-aways giving information as to important historical figures, such as Hanno the Great, Quintus Fabius Maximus, Publius Scipio and his son, the future Scipio Africanus, Gaius Terentius Varro, Hasdrubal, Mago, Maharbal, etcetera.

Similarly, the film on the Shogun, following Tokugawa Ieyasu, is excellent, taut, and perfectly paced. My only complaint is that it was done in English. Despite the fact that pretty much all the others (except the one on Genghis Khan) are in English, I felt that this film could have benefitted far more from being in Japanese than not, though some of the lines spoken by the actor portraying Tokugawa Ieyasu, despite being in flawless English, sound as though they were truly Japanese.

The film on Genghis Khan is another rushed affair, which is done in Mongolian (or else some other Asian language) but is much less of a narrative like the others and more like a documentary, with the primary story being told by the narrator rather than the characters. It's more accurate than the totally unrelated movie "Mongol", but not nearly as enjoyable.

The other ones are very disappointing, varying in quality, but none coming close to the level of excellence of the aforementioned three. The film on Spartacus is horribly done, incredibly sparse on historical detail and accuracy, and pretty much just a vacant, pale re-creation of every other Spartacus production already done, with a far lower budget.

The Napoleon Bonaparte film was extraordinary in its concept of only portraying Napoleon's initial rise to significance in the military (and also, I feel, could have benefitted from being in French rather than English) but was too muddied, unclear, and scattershot. We see and hear a lot of odd things reflective of the Great Terror and the political mood and climate of early Republican France, but very little expansion of this as to HOW it affects the events in the story or WHY, and ultimately suffering the same problem as in the French-Canadian 2002 miniseries "Napoleon"---it doesn't show us anything special about Napoleon Bonaparte, but portrays him as ambitious, but average.

The Cortez film had such great potential, but (again, should have been in Spanish rather than English) was in my opinion overly rushed, and some questionable decisions made with the shooting (such as when Moctezuma and Cortez first meet, Moctezuma initially speaks his native language, but then BOTH start speaking English, while acting as if they cannot understand each other, using a native woman as interpreter. The rest of it suffers from lack of details, and total lack of understanding as to context---why stuff is happening in what context is unknown, and situations treated with gravity are completely lost on the viewer because there is no context given as to WHY it has gravity.

The film on Attila was an utter catastrophe in my opinion. We don't know anything about the Huns ethnically, and the only description would make them of apparent Asian descent. Speculation places them to be Turkic, Indo-European, or Steppe nomads from modern-day east Russia. Here, they are thickly, deeply Celtic, with Attila portrayed by Crateros! As in, Rory McCann, the guy who played Crateros in the 2004 movie "Alexander", and Marcus Agrippa as Edeco! As in, Allen Leech, the guy who played Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa in the second season of HBO's Rome.

While their portrayals were competent, Attila comes across not as a cunning genius or butcher here, but more a drunken oaf with an utterly arbitrary streak of cruelty that comes around the middle of the film. He is thoroughly unremarkable. He seems like a generic Hollywood-style leader who, after the fact, the writers remembered is supposed to be a feared figure, and so superficially added instances or dialogue showing him as brutal and vicious. He's less like Attila and more like a greedy Robin Hood.

Making the film even more disastrous, aside from Attila coming across so dim and incompetent, is the story, or lack of one. Almost nothing really happens beyond ideas that are executed and only sparsely tied together.

The filmmakers also seem to have completely forgotten that the Huns are essentially cavalry soldiers. They're said to be on horseback all the time, urinate on horseback, eat on horseback, fight on horseback and so on.

The Huns are NEVER on horseback in this ENTIRE film except for the opening sequence involving a diplomatic meeting.

The film on Richard I was unremarkable as well.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 4, 2014 11:02:12 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2014 11:02:27 AM PDT
I agree with your overall, that there was some unevenness in quality. Personally, I would rank the Genghis Khan, Hannibal, and Shogun films among the best historical docu-dramas I've ever seen.

I would also agree that the ones on Cortez and Attila were disappointing. The Germano-Celtic depiction of the Huns is a pet peeve of mine as well and Cortez was just a disaster in my opinion. Not sure how I feel about Richard... it had potential, but ultimately fell short. I really wanted to like it.

Where I would disagree is the Napoleon episode, which I would rank near the top three in terms of quality and even more engaging due to its tighter narrative. I didn't find it scattered at all, and the concept of focusing on a more intimate, narrow-scoped examination of Napoleon's early career in revolutionary France and how that shaped him militarily and psychologically was intriguing and well implemented.

But, the 4 best films, to me, are enough to make me forget (if not forgive) the rest. The extent of detail and the quality of the special effects and battle recreations alone make this series remarkable, rivaling Hollywood epics in impact and scale, without being flashy (although some parts of Attila felt more like a made-for-TV movie, than a serious docudrama).
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