Cameron's Review of Ivan the Terrible, Part II (Ivan Grozniy: Skaz Vmroy - Boyarskiy Zagovor)
Part two of the epic saga begins and, well, it's actually even shorter than its 100-minute, "epic" predecessor. So yeah, these films aren't the most sprawling epics, but hey, if you watch them back to back, then you get over three hours of, well, not too much sweeping atmosphere, possibly because they were saving it all up for the massive final installment, which would have been, like, 105 minutes. I joke, but we're talking about Sergei Eisenstein, whose other big "epic" was "The Battleship Potemkin", which wasn't but a bump or two past an hour, so for Eisenstein, just one of these films is pretty much "The Godfather", only neither are nearly as good, or with a third installment, for that matter. Of course, then again, it took them forever to get "The Godfather Part III" out, and 14 years for the second part of this series to get out, so if this series goes the route of "The Godfather", only by its own standard of waiting times (I guess you could say that this series has a history of not "Russian" out into the theaters; I am so sorry), then it's only a matter of time before we finally see the well over 50-years overdue "Ivan the Terrible Part III". Granted, the only reason why it took them so long to get this sequel out was because of political censorship (Curse you, Stalin, for "stalin'"; again, I am so sorry), and plus, Sergei Eisenstein died before the filming of "Part 3", but hey, you never know. Until then, if there even is a then, that is, we're going to have to settle with what we have, and I guess I'm okay with that, as these films are pretty decent. That being said, these films fulfill full potential about as much as they achieve individual epic runtimes, for although this film, like its predecessor, is worth checking out, your race to see the second installment of Eisenstein's would-be trilogy might find itself slowed down by political censorship-I mean, a couple of factors.
Regardless of what the nostalgiac say, these films shouldn't exactly be noted for their acting department, yet there were quite a few decent performances in the predecessor, as sure as there are quite a few decent performances with this film, and yet, with all of these commendable performances, there are a few acting jobs that sometimes fall flat, and rather awkwardly, to the point of momentarily disengaging. Acting faults aren't too common, yet they remain, and prove detrimental to the film, yet not quite as detrimental as a much more prevalent misstep: slowness, for although the predecessor did indeed limp out time and again, this film particularly loses steam and occasionally plays with dullness. There wasn't much livliness to "Part 1", and there's even less with this film, which isn't to say that this film is juiceless, yet it is to say that film all too often limps along ever so blandly, which makes worse such major missteps returning from the predecessor as a do-little story structure. The film isn't exactly packed with nothingness, yet much nothing goes on, finding itself occasionally broken up by a forced happening or two, and standing as a key culprit to this film's repetition. The film limps along ever so blandly, and all too often in circles, being about as awkward and overambitious as its predecessor, only with a less flattering strength-flaw ratio. Strengths stand, and firmly enough for the final product to stand as watchable, yet at the same time, flaws stand as all but abundant and bite at the film, taking the film's bite with it, until by the end, the film is rendered even more bland and underwhelming than its predecessor. That being said, as I stated in the beginning of the preceding sentence, while missteps are abound with this film, strengths still stand firm enough to keep this film going, with one of your more empowering strengths merely being the worth of the concept that this film all too often betrays in execution.
While Eisenstein's trilogy never found itself completed, your usual three-part saga of this type has tensions really rises at part two as further flesh-out comes into play over our characters, and sure enough, there's a bit more intrigue in the story concept, yet at the expense of a fair bit of dramatic depth, and with the momentum within the concept going diluted by the aforementioned story structuring and telling mishaps, the final product finds itself turning in a weaker story, though one that's still hardly weak by its own right. The subject matter's execution stands to have more weight, yet the premise is a worthy one with much of its own natural weight that sparks some life into this world, further brought to life by convincing and handsome production designs. The film's product value sells you on the look of the era and setting, while what helps in selling you on the more tonal and thematic depths is, of course, Andrei Moskvin's and Eduard Tisse's cinematography, which has indeed dated, yet remains reasonably striking with its playing with lighting and scene staging to accentuate certain environmental aspects as supplements to the film's thematic and tonal depths, while looking reasonably good. Another strong aspect that supplements some of the film's deeper artistic pieces is an aspect that's actually less strong this time around, being much less used, - thus aiding in the dilution of entertainment value this time around - with tracks that aren't quite as well-selected, yet that doesn't stop Sergei Prokofiev from still being quite commendable, with dynamic livliness that provides both quite a few neat tunes and compliments to the film's tonal depths. Certain artistic aspects find themselves with a little bit less to work with, while plenty others have about as much material as they did in the predecessor, yet artistry still strands promiment, as well as worthy of such emphasis, being both a supplement to the bringing of this world to life and to the livening of the final product up, so much so that the film wouldn't be saved as decent without its artistry, which isn't to say that storytelling touches that do, in fact, work don't also help quite a bit in keeping things going. Sergei Eisenstein's direction is indeed with quite a few flaws, as well as questionable artistic touches, such as the crowbaring in of random colorization during one big chunk of the film that nears the final act, yet Eisenstein still manages to grace the film with effective subtlety and symbolism, broken up by, albeit even more occasional, yet nevertheless present moments of genuine resonance. This sequel proves to be lesser, and the initial installment wasn't necessarily all that commendable to begin with, yet through all of the missteps, this film ultimately emerges with enough going for it to keep you going with it and enjoying yourself more often than not.
In what is apparently the end, seeing as how there's not much of a chance of a third installment, the second installment in Sergei Eseinstein's vision slips a bit in the acting department on occasions, yet disengages even more through considerable slowness that accentuates the do-little, repetitious story structure that limps along ever so blandly until the final product is rendered even more underwhelming than its predecessor, yet still not all that "terribly" underwhelming (Forget Ivan, these puns are "terrible"), boasting a worthy premise that goes brought reasonably well to life by fine production designs, fine visual style, sharp score work and, of course, inspired moments in Sergei Eisenstein's direction that provide the occasional resonant moments and reasonably graceful subtlety that go into making "Ivan the Terrible Part II: The Boyars' Plot" a decent sort-of conclusion to Eisenstein's decent saga, even if it could have been more.
2.5/5 - Fair