Welcome to class, students, today we are learning the history of Christopher Columbus films. There are surprisingly few, which maybe shouldn’t be so surprising because he did some bad shit and I don’t think you can really win. Either you show the horrific stuff and it’s a bummer and no one wants to see it. Or you gloss over the horrific stuff and it’s a bummer and no one wants to see it. Anyway, in 1992 people took the opportunity of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to throw caution to the wind and make not one but two major Columbus films. Neither were good and so we’ll enjoy another one in the (probably) not too distant future. But is that it? No! There was also a German animated film called The Magic Voyage which starred Dom DeLuise as Columbus and Corey Feldman as Pico, a talking woodworm who eats away at Columbus’ square globe (???), thus convincing him that the world is round… I… uh… wait, why aren’t we watching The Magic Voyage? Oh right, cause we had to watch the major motion picture 1492: Conquest of Paradise. Whatever…
To summarize, Topher Columbus is a big ol’ dumbo who is like “who are you to say I can’t sail across the ocean and find Asia?” and everyone is like “Uh, math, though?” and Columbus scoffs. But the Queen of Spain likes his bravado and everyone eventually kind of shrugs and says “if he dies, he dies… but if he doesn’t=$$$.” So he gets some boats and a crew and off they set. Everyone starts to get a little wary of their suicide mission until Columbus gets very lucky and they find land. He meets all the natives there and is pretty intrigued with this “paradise” that he has found. They leave a bunch of people there to set things up and head back to Spain. He is hailed a hero and even his skeptics are like “yo, that’s my dude Columbus.” He was also a shrewd businessman, so now he had a big stake in the land he discovered so he gins up support for a huge colonization effort centered on mining gold. When he gets back he finds all the people he left murdered and things start going pretty poorly. He tries to found a capital, but it falls apart, and he starts to meet resistance from his countrymen. There are a lot of tensions with the natives that result in Columbus doing some pretty terrible stuff (but according to the movie he feels really bad about it). He is relieved of his post and imprisoned in Spain, but the Queen has mercy and lets him have another voyage. His reputation is tarnished and he is real sad, but his son convinces him to tell his story, implying that it’ll make him a hero again. THE END.
I was so sure after watching this film that I would read what Ridley Scott thought about it and he would imply that maybe he misjudged the public’s hunger for Columbus content… but no! He basically said that Americans don’t like accents. What?! This movie is like reading a textbook. Maybe that’s why, Ridley. On a positive note, I think it’s beautiful to look at and I appreciate how much care was put into telling the story of Columbus without gross dramatizations. I think the historical inaccuracy accusations levies at it are overblown other than the fact that they show Columbus taking a whole bunch of natives as slaves and bother to have him sadly be like “I wish it wasn’t this way.” Seemed like they were trying to have their cake and eat it too in those moments. Overall, it’s just a little boring for a mainstream movie, but not bad for a movie that you throw on in history class for a little fun. As for Knight Rider 2000, that’s what I’m talking about. This is some real dumb funny stuff. It’s so stupid. It also has one of the greatest credits of all time “James Doohan as himself.” That’s right, they had Scotty from Star Trek do a cameo where everyone is like “OMG! OMG! It’s Scotty from Star Trek.” Every few scenes there was something bizarre on the level of the Scotty cameo to amuse and delight us. I loved it.
Hot Take Clam Bake! Get me some of that sweet Amerigo Vespucci drama. The reason the Columbus films haven’t worked are two-fold. It’s hard to weave a tale around a brutalizing dumbo. But guess what was actually dramatic (and kinda fun): the guy who they named America after. Why? Basically no one knows what he actually did or if he was a big ol’ scam artist liar. He’s even called the “most enigmatic and controversial figure in early American history” (that’s a quote). Uhhhhhh… drama, anybody? Get me that steamy Vespucci erotic thriller where he is hoodwinked by a femme fatale into falsifying letters about his voyages to America… man oh man, I’m getting all steamed up just thinking about it. Hot Take Temperature: Hot… that’s just a hot idea. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! 1492: Conquest of Paradise? More like 149-Snooze: Snooze-quest of Snooze-adise! Amirite? You better be ready for a nap because you are about to get the history lesson you didn’t want or need. Let’s go!
- This is a history class film. This is a film you would be shown in history class that you had to get a permission slip from your parents because you see some breasts and some people die / get their hand chopped off.
- It is a cool story I guess. In that a journalist went to Seville and looked over the primary source communications from Columbus about his trips and decided to write a script for a film about Columbus to coincide with the 500th anniversary of his voyage. Cool but boring.
- Oh, I guess I did mention that: this film is a snooze. I don’t deny that it has qualities. It is usually a good idea to try and make historical films with accuracy (and this at least seemed to attempt to give some historical context to the atrocities committed by the genocidal maniacs that were explorers at the time). It is usually good to give a full telling of the events that occurred in a person’s life. But my god, the film is like an hour too long. Once he goes back to the New World there is just so little additional interesting stuff to tell.
- Spoiler: Columbus was an idiot who thought the world was much smaller than it provably was at the time. He managed to bother the Spanish crown enough that they gave him some ships to go on his suicide mission to find Asia in precisely the wrong place. He accidentally found not-Asian instead and coincidentally it ended up being juuuuuuuuuust in a spot close enough to Europe that he didn’t die in the process. Good job man. Nailed it.
- Depardieu is such an interesting actor in that he goes from the hot young actor in France, to a weirdly famous actor in America (somehow), to now … well, now he is an oddly obscure French actor who pops up as a mobster in French television shows because those parts don’t require him to move around much. He’s good in this I thought.
- I could give or take basically everything else in the film. Beautiful though, so I guess you can give Ridley Scott credit for that.
- Okay Setting as a Character (Where?) for Spain / the New World I suppose. A+ Specific Year Setting (When?) for the very rare year-in-the-title for a film set in the past. I think that is it. This film is closest to Bad, too boring.
- Along with a year-in-the-title film from the past, we had to find a year-in-the-title film from the future (much easier). Jamie pointed out the TV movie Knight Rider 2000 was, indeed, set in the distant future of the year 2000 when being made in 1991. This. Film. Is. Bonkers. I watched the pilot for the original series. That is pretty bonkers as well, but it comes across as basically a standard how-solved-it, although very very 80s. This film though (1) is set in San Antonio and is arguably an extended advertisement for the Riverwalk there, (2) has the very important stakes of solving the assassination of the Mayor of San Antonio (?), (3) has an odd 2nd Amendment thing running through the film and (4) purports that Dan Quayle is president of the United States and there was a war with the Philippines and junk. Also, clearly a backdoor pilot for a new Knight Rider series starring Susan Norman and Carmen Argenziano (it feels like precisely the setup for the Highlander Series, except that was picked up). A. I’m definitely down for watching more backdoor pilots as BMT Friends. They are always amusing since they have to set up the premise of the show, but also can’t have huge stakes or else the pilot would waste a big storyline. The assassination of the Mayor of San Antonio. C’mon.
Read about the sequel to 1492: The Conquest of Paradise called 1585: Roanoke. Cheerios,