One Night With the King Reviews
My disdain for this movie has nothing to do with its religious nature. I do think Biblical epics are frequently quite bad, but as Gwen points out, epics in general are frequently quite bad. It's also worth noting that this story comes from one of only two books in the Bible that never mentions God. (The other is Song of Songs.) It's about devotion to a people as much as devotion to a belief. One person in the story says he will pray for another, but he doesn't even actually specify to Whom. The movie makes considerably more ado about religion than the Bible does, which is rather to be expected in movies based on Biblical themes, especially these days, but even that isn't really the problem. The problem is that they take a beautiful, powerful story, gut it of most of what's best about it, and miscast it. The sets are lovely, but the costumes are wrong. It's a waste, all of it.
The lovely young Hadassah (Tiffany Dupont), a Jewish girl and the niece of Mordecai (John Rhys-Davies), lives in Susa in the Persian Empire of King Xerxes (Luke Goss). One night, Xerxes is having a feast, and he sends for his wife, Vashti (Jyoti Dogra). She refuses to show herself before his drunken council of war. He puts her aside and swears that he will choose only the most beautiful, obedient virgin in the land as his new bride. Hadassah takes the name Esther--and is herself taken off the street to be one of the women hoping for her chance with the king. Esther at first doesn't much care, but she catches the eye of Xerxes and he the eye of her. They fall in love and are married--and she has not told him yet that she is a Jew. Meanwhile, Haman (James Callis) wants as much power in the court of Xerxes as he can get, but when Mordecai refuses to kneels to anyone but the king or God, he gets a law passed declaring all Jews traitors and their properties forfeit. Esther must stand up to be counted among the Jews in order to save them.
Honestly, the silliest part of the movie is when Haman is telling an assemblage of Persian men of the joint evils of the Greeks and the Jews. The Greeks through their foul democracy and the Jews through their vile God believe the same thing, he declares--that all men are created equal! Do you really think you could be the equal of a [i]slave[/i]? Now, of course, the Jews had long considered themselves God's Chosen People, which last I checked means you think you're better than members of other nations. As for the Greeks--Greek democracy was nowhere near even as egalitarian as the earliest years of American democracy, much less as egalitarian as it's become. After all, Greek democracy prevented non-natives from voting, which the US has never done. And of course, the Greek attitude toward slavery was formed in no small part by the fact that plenty of people ended up as a slave for a few years over the course of their lives; slavery in Greece was not slavery in the US.
They've given young Hadassah a boyfriend (I missed his name), who is one of dozens of men kidnapped off the streets and made into eunuchs to serve the hundreds of beautiful women. Which is just ridiculous. I mean, that's what slaves and prisoners of war are for, right? Quite a few of the actions Xerxes performs over the course of the movie seem designed to get him overthrown or assassinated. Yes, there's an assassination plot in the movie--it's what brings Mordecai to his attention, after all. However, he should have quite a lot more people angry at him, more people wanting him dead. Vashti's people, for one. I think she's shown to come from a conquered people, but it's still not the best way of going about things. In Bible and movie alike, the king is not shown thinking things through and ruling wisely. This is probably half because he's Persian, not Jewish, and half because quite a lot of the Bible is intended to show that having a king is a bad idea and that the priests should be in charge.
Part of my problem is that few of these people actually look Middle Eastern, though I suppose I ought to be used to that by now. Worse, only some of them can act. John Rhys-Davies is a fine actor, and there is random Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole, though I'm not sure any of the three ever share screentime together. (O'Toole is the Prophet Samuel in a prologue that takes place well separated by time and space from the rest of the story.) However, Tiffany Dupont isn't even doing as much as she can with the stilted dialogue she's given. Luke Goss rather reminded me of Michael Wincott--Guy of Gisborne from [i]Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves[/i]--and I entertained myself vastly for a bit by pretending he was; I figured Esther would be dead by the time the film was out, and that would be more interesting. The costumes were much more Bollywood than Ancient Persia. And the whole thing with Esther's pendant is silly even if you ignore that Jews wouldn't use the Star of David as a symbol for thousands of years.