When I first heard about Richard the Lionheart, directed by Stefano Milla and written by Gero Giglio, I had high hopes that it would be a strong, well made film. Unfortunately, what I wound up with was disappointment. However, I do believe there are those that would find the film enjoyable, still.
Several things threw me off right from the get-go. For starters, the font used to explain the time period and set the story up, although apearing time appropriate, was very difficult to read. That alone is costing the film happy viewers. People need to be able to read what the filmmakers deem necessary to have the story make sense.
The next thing that bothered me was the magical witches, or witch, that just hands over the most powerful sword in the world to Caesar. My problem does not lie with the fact that there are witches or that she just gives them the sword, but the wardrobe, in my opinion, is lacking. Literally. The witch has basically no clothes on besides two super tiny strips of linen covering her breasts. They could have given her more clothes and still had her looking sexy. The only reason to give her such an absence of clothes that I can think of would be to make up for the lack of story.
That brings me to the third point: the story is very weak. This story had great promise to be a strong story. King Henry II (Malcolm McDowell) banishes his son, the prince Richard (Chandler Maness), to a prison where almost no one makes it out alive. From the film synopsis on the back of the DVD case, the King wants to see if his son is loyal, honorable and skilled enough to lead England to war against France. Problem with that is that it is never shown in the film, so it just appears that the King has it out for his son. Inside the prison, the prisoners are put to tests called “torments”. These tests are very disturbing and torturous. The purpose they are expected to serve in the film is to build character and the viewer’s liking of Richard as he overcomes each challenge. But seeing as the beginning of the film is thrown together so inadequately, there’s no chance that the audience can actually care for him through his struggles.
The quality of sound in the film was horrible. At times, it was necessary to strain your ears to hear the dialogue over the overpowering film score. Other times, there was no sound what-so-ever besides the dialogue. But to give a positive light to the soundscape of Richard the Lionheart, the film score by Giovanni Lodigiani was a good accompaniment to the film.
As I was watching the film, I couldn’t help but feel that Milla was influenced by two other works: the film 300 (2006) and the television show Lost (2004). Richard the Lionheart definitely takes on the grittiness that is portrayed in 300, as well as the style of editing. The slow motion fight scenes and overly dramatic and graphic blood splatter that can be found in the 2006 film is present in Milla’s film, too. From Lost, Richard the Lionheart borrows the dramatic fade/cut to black, followed by silence and then jumping right back to the story–even the music accompaniment at these points mimics that of Lost. Although Milla used techniques from these two great pieces of work, Richard the Lionheart still falls short because of its poor quality.
I wish that I could recommend Richard the Lionheart, but it just would not be right. This film is only recommended for guys (or girls) who enjoy gritty, low budget films with action and blood. It is definitely not recommended for children, those with weak stomachs or who get nightmares easily and anyone wanting a solid storyline and high production value. If you do wish to see the film, you can get it on DVD, Digital HD and Video on Demand today, January 21, 2014. If you happen to really enjoy it, I’ve read on IMDB that there is a sequel to Richard the Lionheart being filmed right now.