Fewer pastimes are so truly American as wallowing in Mel Gibson's ego. Last Friday, I had a chance to do just that with his classic film, Braveheart. It concerns Sir William Wallace and his fight against the English. As perfect as that sounds, Gibson allowed some shortcomings he could have avoided if he had let me screen his movie back in 1995. I was 5 years old at the time and would have been perfect to understand the full impact of Gibson's narrative.
It doesn't get more 90s than this
Firstly, Braveheart would have been a more successful film if it had captions telling you what emotions to feel. You know it's true:
“Wallace’s wife is being senselessly slaughtered. Feel sad for Wallace.”
“War is brutal. You should feel a combination of thrill and horror. Observe the blood spurt from that man’s severed leg.”
“These peasants are mad at the government. They would rather die than live in bondage.”
“Look how grimy the heroes’ countenances appear. Warriors do not have time to bathe.”
“We totally could have managed a husband/wife relationship throughout a three hour film if we had wanted to.”
These types of subtitles would have enhanced (almost subliminally) the viewer's experience, leaving no one in doubt of the quality of this noble 90s epic.
As pumped as I was to hear how many “Squish” sound effects existed in the 1990s, it was hard to concentrate on the battle sounds when there were so many girly Englishmen traipsing around. Though every student of history knows that all Scotsmen have virile, deep voices, and all Englishmen are effeminate with high voices, it was not Gibson's best choice to cast the film so accurately. It detracts from the battle scenes.
And speaking of battle scenes: WHY CANT FIGHT SCENES B LONGER THEY R 2 SHORT. I felt so gypped. I mean, I'm sure that almost half the movie was something other than fighting. Mostly talking about fighting while staring at the English army. Really, Wallace? Really? Get your butt into battle. We don't want to hear you talk about Freedom and Kilts and Stuff. (I have to admit the kilts were cool, since we all know that Scotsmen wore kilts in the 13th century.)
Anyone with a name like Lord Mungo Murray would have to wear a kilt
Wallace, despite this flaw of not fighting enough, is truly awesome. The inclusion of a lead with no discernible character was a truly brilliant move on Gibson's part. It shows how even the most boring people can become heroes if all their peers blindly follow them for no apparent reason.
There are so many morals with modern impact in this film. Aside from the one enumerated, it wasn't until I watched Braveheart that I discovered that the current set of swear words was the norm during the late medieval era. I also didn't know that battle during this era looked like a confused Civil War reenactment from 1995.
One last gripe: Gibson got so close to eliminating all his female characters...but he didn't. Why? He got Wallace's wife killed off within half an hour, then he had to go and have a fling with the future Queen of England. What in the world?
Wallace should have forsworn womanhood so we didn't have to watch him interact with a person who he saw as an equal. Unbecoming.
As for the queen, Wallace should have shipped her to Norway or she should have just knitted in the background of every scene in the English court. She could have gotten so much more knitting done if she hadn't messed with Wallace, which is truly a loss.
The bottom line with the ladies of the film is that it was damaging to have people with some sort of personality in the movie.
I'm afraid I left before the end, as my bedtime prohibited a contiguous viewing. That doesn't mean that I cannot affirm that Braveheart is the best film in the history of films that have men in kilts mooning the camera.
It's a winner.