Jul 5, 2006

Seduced by pastiche and overrun by irony

Michael Gove complains about Hollywood's inability to make classic adventure stories.
The major studios appear to find it ever more difficult to offer us classic cinema which believes in itself. The idea of making a proper swashbuckling historical adventure that appeals to the adventurous adolescent in all of us appears to be beyond film-makers, who can’t approach the genre without wanting to subvert it. It seems as though irony has entered Hollywood’s soul.

Of course it’s going to be tough to recapture the innocence of the days of Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks Jr in a world where Michael Palin’s Ripping Yarns and Mel Brooks’s Robin Hood: Men in Tights cast a long shadow. But it is still possible to make cinema which, if not epic, does at least live up to the best traditions of classic adventure. The 2002 production of The Count of Monte Cristo had its darker elements, but it succeeded triumphantly in marrying modern high-production values with a thunderously traditional narrative. Given how often, recently, we’ve had cinematic travesties of Dumas’s work (from Disney’s The Three Musketeers to Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds) it was a relief to see the essentials of a great story played so straight, and with conviction. But why is it done so rarely?

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