Star-Crossed lovers who failed to tear up the box office, fail to do so again on blu-ray.
Director: Kevin Reynolds/2006
Street Date: April 11, 2017/Kino Lorber
“Before Romeo & Juliet, there was Tristan & Isolde!” says the Blu-Ray back cover to the latest Blu-Ray release from Kino Lorber for this 2006 film. Unfortunately, there is no similarity or historical tie to substantiate this claim. While both stories feature star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of the proverbial “tracks” (a reference that pre-dates the technological advances of both film’s time periods), this is where the similarities end. What this film does feature is the direction of Kevin Reynolds (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Waterworld, Fandango….see the Kevin Costner connection?), with the interesting connection to executive producers Ridley Scott (Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner) and his brother, the late Tony Scott (Man on Fire, Top Gun, Crimson Tide).
Of all the stories that this seems to have the closest resemblance to, it is not Romeo & Juliet, but rather another English tale, that of King Arthur and his ill-fated love for his Queen Guinevere, and her love for Arthur’s trusted warrior, Lancelot. The problem with the film is that it never is all that interesting.
Tristan & Isolde tells the tale during a time when Briton’s tribes are not yet united following the fall of Rome. With the Roman threat gone from the island, the unorganized tribes are subjugated to the threat on the neighboring island of Ireland, who was left untouched by the Romans, free to strengthen themselves and fill the void of power without the Romans to contend with. When the Britons seek to organize against the Irish and their leader King Donnchadh (David O’Hara), the king uses a spy to squash the rebellion when they are signing a treaty of unification. Killed in the fighting is Tristan’s father. Tristan is saved by Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell) who raises Tristan as his own son alongside Marke’s nephew Melot (Henry Cavill-Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice). Tristan is played as a child by Thomas Brodie-Stangster (Love Actually, Maze Runner), and then the film jumps ahead 9 years where Tristan is portrayed by James Franco (Why Him?).
As he gets older, Tristan trains for battle and actually fells the huge man who killed his father, but not before being cut by a poisoned blade. Thinking him dead, Melot puts Tristan in a boat where he is cast off to sea, with a fiery arrow lighting his boat up. He actually maroons on the shores of Ireland, the sea having quenched the fire before it could burn him. Fortunately, he is found by Isolde (Sophia Myles-Transformers: Age of Extinction), King Donnchadh’s daughter who is ready to run away having been betrothed to Morholt (Graham Mullins), the very man whom Tristan had slain. She knows the remedy to this poison, and slowly nurses Tristan back to health, and falling in love with him along the way. Giving him a false name initially so that he wouldn’t know she was the king’s daughter, she sends him by boat back to Briton when her father finds out he is on their island.
The story eventually leads to King Donnchadh planting a trap to divide the Briton tribes from opposing him by offering his daughter to the winner of a tournament. Tristan enters it on behalf of Lord Marke, after they make a secret plan with the tribes, that whomever wins the tournament, all the other tribes will back the winner’s tribe against Donnchadh. When Tristan wins and finds out Isolde’s true identity, he is crushed because his win means that her hand in marriage will go to Lord Marke, and not himself. Caught in a triangle, Tristan seeks to distance himself from both of them, but just can’t seem to quit loving Isolde, engaging in an affair that threatens to bring down their newly established kingdom.
Of all the stories that this seems to have the closest resemblance to, it is not Romeo & Juliet, but rather another English tale, that of King Arthur and his ill-fated love for his Queen Guinevere, and her love for Arthur’s trusted warrior, Lancelot. The problem with the film is that it never is all that interesting. The cast is strong, and the story well-told, but there is not much life in the performances itself. It is set up, much like director Kevin Reynold’s bigger hit, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, except you don’t have an actor like Alan Rickman bring gravitas to an otherwise thin antagonist, and you lack the inspirational, if not cheesy, romantic song that Robin Hood had with Bryan Adam’s Everything I Do (I Do it for You) popping up to inspire us of this tale. Like King Arthur’s love triangle, all 3 of these people genuinely love one another and and there is therefore no one to root against, or for, in terms of how this will all work out.
Kino Lorber is releasing this blu-ray and it comes loaded with several extras. These include 2 audio commentaries for the film. One features Executive Producer Jim Lemley, and Co-Producer Anne Lai. The other features Screenwriter Dean Georgaris. There is also a feature called “Love Conquers All: Making of Tristan & Isolde“, as well as a music video for both versions of Gavin DeGraw’s song “We Belong Together” which, like I said, doesn’t have an impact on the film like Bryan Adams did for Robin Hood. There are also numerous TV spots to accompany the theatrical trailer, reminding us that plenty of advertising went towards this film, and resulted in a large flop at the box office in 2006.
The film is presented in color, runs 125 minutes, and is 1.85:1, and 1920 x 1080p, with English subtitles.
The images in this review are not representative of the actual Blu-ray’s image quality, and are included only to represent the film itself.