Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Film Review: Zulu [1963]

EDIT (2013): WARNING - I wrote these reviews aaaaages ago and possibly don't even agree with them any more.  I have since discovered that one sentence reviews are a lot more fun.  Please see One Sentence Film Reviews tab.

So what do you think of my pitch for a film about a battle between four thousand Zulu warriors and only a hundred British soldiers?  Obviously, you have studied 1870s African colonialism wars.

What do you mean no?  Fine, but I think most people are very familiar with this period of history.  Well I am.  Right, so that settles it, I’ll just assume everyone knows exactly what is going on and not bother explaining the historical setting at all.  Good.  That’ll work.

And just to add to the all the whats and whys that will be lying around, I thought I’d put in a million characters, so it’ll be littered with whos as well.  Yes, this is definitely a good plan. 

Well, whatever; there’s always the acting to fall back on.  No it isn’t camp.  Stop giggling.  Look, with a plethora of characters like this, the audience are bound to like one of them.  At least one of them.  Oh, come on. 

Fine, if they’re bored by those characters, what about the seventeen hours of Zulu warriors dancing, and singing, and preparing for battle I’ve planned?  It’ll take an awful lot of effort to coordinate, so basically, I want it all to make the final cut.  Of course it isn’t boring; there’s lots of fighting to keep the audience awake.  I presume battles involving lots of skewering on spears and bayonets is just like a big, harmless game of tag, isn’t it? 

Look, I think you’re being very negative.  I’ve always wanted to see a film about a historical battle and I’ve got exactly what I asked for.  I can’t think of a single other reason someone might watch a film so I definitely don’t need any other levels to the story.

Oh, how have I handled the colonial angle?  I thought I’d make it exactly like a Western, you know, that focuses on homesteaders versus Native Americans.  The small band in the wagon circle being beaten down by an expert warrior race who are on their own land and yet feel like the villains.  No, I never represent the Zulu warriors as bad; in fact, I constantly praise them.  You know, like how they willingly sacrifice their own men just to test the enemy weaknesses.  Well, I don’t actually want the audience to side with them!  I’ve got some cracking scenes towards the end of the British getting some organised firing lines in action and I don’t want the audience to feel conflicted.

So what’s the point?  SPOILER ALERT.  The point is everyone loves the underdog, and a film of one hundred men being slaughtered by four thousand men will never be made, so it’s just a matter of sitting it out to see how these few will defeat the many.

Great?  So you’ll release it?  Still worried about no one having any interest in watching it?  Don’t worry, I don’t need any advertising; in the future people will just buy it because it has some guy called Michael Caine in it.  Apparently, he’s going to be big…


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