This is the eighth movie in my Ridley Scott retrospective.
Ridley Scott always has a tendency to go a little overboard when he is making a movie with its roots in history. 1492: Conquest of Paradise is certainly a victim of this. I had not seen this epic depiction of Christopher Columbus’ iconic voyages since its first release. I was not a fan back then in 1992, but I was twenty years younger as well. I thought maybe this movie would have aged along with me and leave a better impression this time around. Unfortunately this is not the case.
1492: Conquest of Paradise is impeccably produced. Every shot is composed like a painting and truly a sight to behold thanks to the production design by Norris Spencer (Black Rain) and camera work by Adrian Biddle (Aliens). But, as is often the case with paintings, this movie has no movement in it. For nearly two and a half hours we are presented with scene after scene with seemingly important information and situations, but it never resonates as a whole. It just gets really tedious after a while.
For a movie to keep moving you need something or someone to latch on to. That someone should have been Depardieu, who plays Columbus, but he is visibly struggling with this role. Physically he is up to the task, but the English lines he utters are about as convincing as a toddler reciting Shakespeare. It is endearing at first, but it gets on your nerves really quick. There are some stirring scenes in this epic failure. When 1492 gets it right it gets it really right. Regrettably this occurs way too little. I advise everybody to leave this for what it is and go watch Gladiator or the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven. At least you get some spectacle out of those epics.