Ah, here we have another one of those long-ass historical epics the Oscars folks seem to love so much. And here’s Mel Gibson, before he went off on his anti-Semitic rants. At least there were no Jews in medieval Scotland (or were there?!).
There seems to be a formula for this kind of film, the larger-than-life hero biopic. Find a man (it’s always a man), give him an origin story that drives him (revenge). Then pair him with a wacky sidekick for comic relief – most likely someone who’s bigger and dumber and less attractive than our hero. Brush past the boring political drama and go straight to the fights, and don’t skimp on the limb-chopping. In the end, the hero makes a sacrifice, but it’s all worth it, for the good of his people. The only thing we were missing here was the training montage, set to bagpipe music.
After the movie, I looked up some background on the film’s reception (okay, I’ll admit it: it was during the movie – honestly, how many times do you need to watch horses get spears thrust through their torsos?). Apparently, there were a few historical inaccuracies, starting with the fact that kilts were not worn in Scotland until two centuries after the events of the film. Many of the characters were depicted inaccurately as well, either chronologically (like Princess Isabella, who hopefully would not have coupled with Wallace at two years of age) or geographically.
To be honest, though, the inaccuracies don’t bother me that much, so long as we can all recognize that a movie is designed for a specific purpose – entertainment. We apparently don’t know much about the life of William Wallace today, but I’m guessing that we would find it pretty boring, or worse, more brutal than heroic. That’s the thing about heroes: they’re really more inspiring the less you know about them as humans.
Braveheart is less about the actual political events of Scotland in 1300, and more about the symbolic power of a figure of independence to an audience in the late 20th century. We like the idea of a group of people fighting for their freedom – as long as it’s a nice, recognizably white and Christian people, people with real principles we can understand.
If I sound at all bitter about this movie, it’s only because I’m irritated that I spent a perfectly good Friday night watching it, when I could have been re-watching Sherlock for the fifth time or darning my socks or something. I found Braveheart incredibly boring, which is partly due to my own movie preferences. I don’t like movies that involve a lot of different characters to keep track of, and this movie had more bearded warriors than The Hobbit.
As I gather more Best Picture films under my belt, I’m starting to get a sense of the preferences of each decade. The nineties definitely seem to be the era of the Serious Epic of a Man Finding Himself. No, wait, that’s every decade.
Interestingly enough, I watched this movie way back in January (and wrote the rest of this blog), but never had the chance to post it until now. I remember being burned out early on the massive epics at that point, so it’s nice to see that not every movie was like that. Just about half of them.
First Time Watching? Yes (in January)
Final Verdict: Don’t look under the kilt