Quint thinks The Eagle is a bland missed opportunity of a movie
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with my thoughts on The Eagle, a sword and sandal epic from The Last King of Scotland’s Kevin Macdonald.
I’m kind of baffled by my colleagues’ positive reactions to this movie, to be honest. With all respect to them and their opinions I don’t see how anyone can view this movie as anything but a missed opportunity.
The story, about a disgraced son of a Roman hero ventures out into the wilderness of North Britain in search of the golden Eagle his father lost with his newly found friend/slave in tow, is solid, the cast is pretty strong, the director’s a quality filmmaker… so why is this movie so bland?
I know the instinct is to point and blame Channing Tatum. I would have assumed that myself thanks to his many dead-eyed performances leading up to this one, but when I saw Ron Howard’s The Dilemma (itself a poor movie) I was shocked at how much life, energy and charisma Tatum brought to his tiny role as the hot young thing Winona Ryder’s character is having an affair with.
Tatum is actually pretty good in The Eagle, at least as good as he can be with such on the nose casting. They’re trying to make his character somewhere between Leonidas and Maxiumus, which isn’t a bad note to strike if the script had been able to support the character better.
It’s not Tatum that should receive the criticism, but the screenwriter Jeremy Brock… and maybe the editor, too, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
If you end up seeing the movie pay close attention to the dialogue. More than half of the words spoken in the movie explain to the audience exactly what they’re seeing. “This is what we’re doing right now!” “Yes, right now this is what we’re doing!” type of stuff.
There’s even a moment towards the end of the movie where the characters have to explain, while running for their lives, why their pursuers will eventually catch up with them despite the fact that our heroes are on horseback and their pursuers are on foot. Twice. Two different times they explain this as they gallop across picturesque landscapes.
Donald Sutherland’s character pops up in the story early on and acts as Old Man Exposition, especially during the scene that introduces Jamie Bell’s slave character. Poor Donald Sutherland then has to spew out dialogue explaining everything about Bell’s character to Tatum and us, the viewing audience… all during an arena game.
The writing couldn’t be more rushed, on the nose and bland. Bland, bland, bland. So goes the writing, so goes the movie.
To be fair, Brock might not have been the only one to blame for this script, but he’s the only credited writer so he gets the brunt of my disappointment.
Macdonald isn’t an innocent in this mess either. He made a stylistic choice to go for a naturalistic light, which works well in the early battle scenes as the Romans do battle in open field, but it makes the rest of the early part of part of the film feel like a soap opera. Later on, as Tatum and Bell journey into the wilds of North Britain, the mood changes to grays, which is better but still uninteresting.
I have to give a lot of credit to Jamie Bell. He gets the MVP award for doing the most with the material. There’s a complexity to his character, played mostly with his eyes and body language… Lord knows it’s not his dialogue that puts any of this across… that really made me long for a much better version of this story to be unfolding.
Another fault of the movie is it’s lack of any sort of edge. You can tell they wanted to have more violence in the battle scenes, but they always cut away. I don’t need my sword and sandal flicks to be all blood and guts, but when the cut-aways become distracting to the action you have a problem. And distracting it is, not just during the battles. We’re see some Predator-ish “warnings” upon entering the wild unknown the footage is as choppy as Rush Limbaugh’s bathwater.
The word that best describes the movie should be obvious by now… hell, I’ve used it enough in this article. Bland. It’s just bland, but the frustrating kind of bland… You’ll be able to see the better movie in there, even with all these same elements in place they could have done better. I shit you not, they got Mark Strong as a mysterious character met upon the journey and waste him completely. How do you do that? You have a feral man played by Mark Strong, who actually has a good arc, and you make him feel like a plot device instead of a character?
The flick is a big missed opportunity. If you go see it you’ll have something to hold on to with Bell’s great performance and Tatum’s solid, if uninteresting performance… and that’s about it. The rest of the movie is either okay or mediocre, only once or twice being bad enough to get some unintended laughter out of.
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Feb. 11, 2011, 4:42 p.m. CST
Feb. 11, 2011, 5:20 p.m. CST
by professor murder
Feb. 11, 2011, 5:34 p.m. CST
I thought, hmmm. I'm first to post. An hour later, I'm third. Not the most popular article so far...
Feb. 11, 2011, 5:37 p.m. CST
by Stereotypical Evil Archer
Massa's opinion agrees with mine more often than not.
Feb. 11, 2011, 6:14 p.m. CST
Feb. 11, 2011, 6:32 p.m. CST
Doesn't take a rocket scientist to know this is going to suck. When you have an underwear model with zero acting ability in the lead of a PG-13 movie that should be R, and reveal the entire story in the trailer, you know you're in for a stinker.
Feb. 11, 2011, 6:35 p.m. CST
"We’re see some Predator-ish “warnings” upon entering the wild unknown the footage is as choppy as Rush Limbaugh’s bathwater."
Feb. 11, 2011, 6:57 p.m. CST
At this point, I don't care if the last legion all got together in a big oil pit and fucked themselves to death. PICK ANOTHER HISTORICAL EVENT!!!!
Feb. 11, 2011, 7:04 p.m. CST
maybe in the world. Not only would I never pay for ANYTHING he's in, but literally would not watch him for free or even for remuneration.
Feb. 11, 2011, 7:41 p.m. CST
"We’re see some Predator-ish “warnings” upon entering the wild unknown the footage is as choppy as Rush Limbaugh’s bathwater." Please, continue telling me what bad writing is. Bear in mind, the writing in this movie could be bad. Or bland bland bland. Or something. But I'm just a fan of irony.
Feb. 11, 2011, 7:59 p.m. CST
Both are dead-eyed, talentless, pretty boy hacks that do not deserve to have speaking roles, much less Hollywood careers.
Feb. 11, 2011, 8:40 p.m. CST
It's interesting that you have difficultly choosing whether or not Channing Tatum (Christ, even his name says 'bland.') or Paul Walker is blander. I'd have to give the crown to Channing Tatum because, while Paul Walker seemingly has facial muscles incapable of independent movement, he seems earnest to me. Kinda like Keanu Reeves, who's only really decent role was in Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure, possibly because he was playing a character seemingly little removed from himself. I just saw Paul Walker in The Lazarus Project via Netflix, and while he was his old wooden self, you get the feeling that there's a pretty decent actor somewhere under that stoic facade. Channing Tatum tends, to take roles that call for a actor with greater range, though admittedly I have only seen him in G.I. Joe because there's no way that I am going to see Dear John without major coercion, so his woodenness seems even more apparent. All three actors greatest strengths seem that their primary purpose is to get women in the seats, though it wouldn't surprise if if they each had large male homosexual followings.
Feb. 11, 2011, 8:46 p.m. CST
by kanye west
Feb. 11, 2011, 9:04 p.m. CST
...if you yourself got rewritten on THE HOME? What if the dialogue you attempted to get right was turned into dreck and you had to take the blame for it? I'm not saying that's what happened with the Eagle. I haven't seen the film, don't know Brock, never read his scripts. Maybe he does deserve all your critiques. Maybe he doesn't. Maybe the dude was rewritten at 4:00 a.m. the night before production by some highly paid hack with a Coke and Martini problem. Hollywood's one big glass house; not a good idea to throw stones unless you truly know the score.
Feb. 11, 2011, 9:07 p.m. CST
You could be right, but whomever this person is name is being credited for the screenplay, so he should get any scorn directed at the writing. If this were the most fantastic film ever, he would be getting the credit.
Feb. 11, 2011, 9:50 p.m. CST
Quint's got his critic hat on, not his screenwriters hat. it's is *job* dude.
Feb. 11, 2011, 11:42 p.m. CST
by The Krypton Kid
Feb. 12, 2011, 12:22 a.m. CST
Yoooo Rome! Deeply sorry.
Feb. 12, 2011, 12:36 a.m. CST
I understand what you guys are saying. Let me clarify a few of my thoughts as I wrote my previous post in a rush. Makneil -- if I read your post correctly, you're saying that if a writer accepts a sole credit on a screenplay, he/she should be ready to take the blame (or praise) for it even though he/she may not have written the parts that are criticized/praised. This would be fair, if Hollywood were not batshit fucking insane. Let's start with how credits are apportioned. Quint's criticisms of the Eagle script seemed directed at the dialogue. However, the way WGA credit arbitration currently works, it's possible for a writer to receive sole credit and not be responsible for one word of the actual dialogue in the film. Further (though the rules just changed in the last few months) if a director, producer or production executive rewrote a script, they'd have to change 50% or more to receive a co-writing credit. The original writer could receive credit if he/she was deemed to have written 51% of the film. Think about it for a second. A writer could write a brilliant script along the lines of CITIZEN KANE. Another writer could come on and change all the dialogue and make it sound like G.I. JOE. Or, the director could change a little under 1/2 of the screenplay and turn the last 50 pages into something akin to HOWARD THE DUCK. The original writer would get the credit...and the blame. Now, you might say "fine. Then take your name off the film if they made such a mess of it." Again, it's just not that simple Say you write a movie that gets rewritten into something truly embarrassing. As I understand it, you can't just take your name off it. You can use a pseudonym, but only if it's given "in a timely fashion" (which can mean not much time at all) and the pseudonym is not deemed insulting to the movie or the studio. Further, if a director or producer rewrites you, that script will go to arbitration automatically, even if you don't want a sole credit. The WGA decides who gets what. Finally, many screenwriters need the credit, even if it's for something that's subpar. Credit - gives you at least a modicum of legitimacy (i.e. you got produced). A credit can help get more work. Credit means residuals, and residuals are what help most film writers feed and house their families. We're not talking chomping on foie gras in Beverly Hills; for the majority of working screenwriters it's burgers in North Hollywood. It's a fucked up and Byzantine system. If it were up to me, I'd credit ALL the writers whose work showed up in a movie and try to divvy up the residuals accordingly. It'd be a nightmare, but still more accurate than the present system. Now, as to Mojination's point that Quint's "got his critic hat, not his screenwriter's hat" when reviewing this film, let me say this: A) I like Quint's posts. I've been reading them for years. He's a good writer. B) I understand that it's his job to review movies and give an honest opinion. C) Since he possesses a good deal of knowledge about the film world and is a screenwriter himself, I expect he already knows everything I just blabbered on about above. This is why I'm taking him to task. He's a critic who is read by a lot of folks in the movie business, whose opinion matters, whose thoughts can potentially affect careers. He's also a screenwriter who knows how the credit system works. When he critiques a fellow writer, it behooves him to get his facts right. Based on his review, I'm just not sure that he did. If he didn't like the script, the dialogue, whatever -- fine. You can say you don't like the script. But I don't think it's fair to go after the screenwriter himself unless you know for sure that he's at fault. That's the reason I put the question to him about how he would feel if the same thing happened to him. Because unless he's amazingly lucky, it will. Maybe not on THE HOME, but almost certainly on a future project. Critics may blast his script without knowing how good it originally was before getting screwed up. In the end, who cares. The asteroid's going to hit, we're all going to die and mutant ferrets will one day rule the earth. Maybe by then they'll have figured out a new credit system...
Feb. 12, 2011, 1:13 a.m. CST
by Jeremy Davis
Feb. 12, 2011, 2:57 a.m. CST
I have lost a lot of trust about the AICN's crew capacities as reviewers thanks to the blind mindless gushing about Abram's latest movie. but i have to say, if i have to trust, i trust Quint's reivew above Massa about THE EAGLE. something in Quint's review strikes me as more accurate then Massa. I wish that it was Quint who was it wrong, because me loves some roman kickass movie, to saciate my sadness for the demise of ROME's TV show. But i suspect this movie is as Quint's says.
Feb. 12, 2011, 4:04 a.m. CST
I'm still speechless, but I loved it. The dreadful atmosphere, Sean Bean as a true medieval Christian (not the cutesy modernized Christian that Hollywood injects into so many medieval films... this guy is the real deal: frighteningly dedicated), and the uncompromising look at the disturbing nature of religion. The movie's turns constantly threw me, and I was never sure where it was headed until that final scene, which just floored me. I also loved the gritty handheld camerawork. This movie had balls. I can't wait to see it in theaters in March. Also, great to see Carice Van Houten in another powerful role after Black Book.
Feb. 12, 2011, 7:13 a.m. CST
Channing Tatum was believable and awesome as a messed up inner city teen in this movie. This movie is the only reason I believe the guy can act. Keanu couldn't have pulled this role off.
Feb. 12, 2011, 7:21 a.m. CST
You said it, brother. Couldn't had put it better myself about BLACK DEATH. That ending was a real kick in the guts.
Feb. 12, 2011, 7:47 a.m. CST
I guarantee you it's a much better film.
Feb. 12, 2011, 11:52 a.m. CST
Feb. 12, 2011, 12:57 p.m. CST
It's prompted us to discuss far better genre films.
Feb. 12, 2011, 2:38 p.m. CST
Feb. 13, 2011, 11:26 a.m. CST
Bland? Did we watch the same movie? You found it bland when the druid was attacking? The beheading? This movie is great. In fact based on 2011 so far its the best of the year. Oh and they catch them on foot because they can go where the horses can't. That makes perfect sense based on being as far north as they were. Its all hills and on a horse it would of course take a lot longer to get anywhere.
Feb. 13, 2011, 11:30 a.m. CST
NOTHING bland about it. Its just not overly melodramatic which I appreciated. I think by writing Quint must mean dialogue since the writing would include all the action scenes which are plentiful. Massa = right Quint = didn't get paid off on this one I guess
Feb. 14, 2011, 9:29 a.m. CST
Obscure enough reference? Not that Limbaugh is obscure, but his bathwater? What am I missing?
Feb. 14, 2011, 1:24 p.m. CST
... and that is: SPOILER ALERT ... the whole slave issue. The slave has a chilling story of what the Romans did to his family. This would give any man reason to hate the Romans with a blind passion. And yet, the slave, with very little explanation save for talk of an "oath" that he will not break, not only aids this Roman on his quest to restore lost Roman pride, but ends up happily killing his own people along the way. In fact, at the end, when he brings the old Legionairres back together, he is standing there smiling. SMILING. That part of the film I found totally impossible to swallow. Maybe it's handled more believably in the book, but here, it derails COMPLETELY what could have been an excellent flick. I loved certain parts of this movie, like when the Roman soldiers rescued their POWs early on using a very cool shield formation ... but the slave thing just took me out of it completely. Sure, he may not have killed the Roman who saved his life, but would he REALLY have helped him get his stupid Eagle back? He basically betrays his entire family, his entire RACE, for reasons totally unknown. Maybe he liked Tatum's ass.
Feb. 14, 2011, 2:20 p.m. CST
Agreed, that's the exact same problem I had, and it's a biggie. Besides that I enjoyed bits and pieces of it far more than expected. And despite what other TBers are assuming, Channing Tatum is actually not half bad here and isn't really the problem with The Eagle (although before I saw it, I would've agreed with you).
Feb. 15, 2011, 3:38 p.m. CST
Consider that the slave didn't lived in the same as we do and had culture values we don't share. What doesn't make sense to us would be perfectly understandable to them and vice-versa.
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