Friday, September 24, 2010

Agora - Zero Stars

Agora is apparently about the famous Roman atheistic female philosopher/astronomer Hypatia. Unfortunately Hypatia is only in maybe half of the film, and what's more unfortunate is that of that half, maybe half of the scenes involve her walking around a sandbox with a stick, drawing diagrams of the Earth's rotation and orbit in relation to the Sun. Even more unfortunate is that these scenes aren't even the most boring material in the film.

If we've learned anything from films like Gladiator or 300, it's that subplots involving ancient political power struggles might be the least interesting thing able to be captured on film. Okay, maybe that's an overstatement, but given the last decade's sampling of attempts, the difficulty level of making ancient politics interesting seems to be pretty high. Agora doesn't prove otherwise, focusing the bulk of the film on the power struggle between Christians and anyone (and everyone) else. There are beatings, stonings, stranglings, sword fight battles, and people set on fire, and I assure you none of it will entertain you or make you care. It looks and feels like a low-rent Gladiator with a duller color palette and weird cheap CGI effects involving zooming in or out from the moon all the way into a building in Egypt.

And that's not even getting into the love triangle between Hypatia, her slave, and one of her students, who ends up being the region's Prefect later on. Slave and Prefect love her, but she loves philosophy. Nothing comes of either subplot, with the Slave joining the Christian Army for no apparent reason, hanging out instead with a crazy bearded guy, wreaking all sorts of havoc on statues of Roman Gods and whatnot. It doesn't really make any sense. It also doesn't help that every character in the film is ultra serious. That could not have been the way people were seventeen-hundred years ago, and if they were, then I think it warrants taking creative license to make characters seem at all interesting, or at least tolerable to watch for two hours and seven minutes.

The only thing that does make sense in the entire film is the message, which is screamed at the audience, at full volume, at every possible moment... Christians are the enemies of reason and unappreciated scientists are the true martyrs of history. The only valuable moment in the whole experience is one poignant line that comes at the very end. Too bad it's completely crushed and muddled by the burden of so much other nonsense and clutter going on to truly register.

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