DVD Review: The Messenger: The Story Of Joan Of Arc.

I am a major Luc Besson fan. I love almost anything he touches (directs, writes, produces... though mostly directs). As such, there are few films that he's made/directed that I haven't yet seen. The Messenger was one of them, and I'd been wanting to see it for years now, but never getting around to doing so. And now that I have... well, I wish I could take it back.

Joan (Milla Jovovich) is a peasant girl who, as a child, saw her village (and some of her family) destroyed. Now about 17, she believes God has chosen her as a messenger to speak with the rightful king of France (John Malkovich) and lead his army to victory against the British to reclaim French territory. And if you know the story of Joan of Arc, you know it isn't exactly a comedy.

And that's the biggest fuck up (pardon my French... and my bad puns) of the film. The tone is just terrible. During even the most serious of moments were strewn with most likely unintentional comedy that ruined most of the scenes. And then there were the scenes with intentional comedy that mostly didn't work. Tonally, the film was an utter mess.

And that leads in to how we feel about Joan (whose name sounds more like John through the film). Among other things, which I'll get to momentarily, Joan is portrayed as a flat-out lunatic. I know that in history, the controversy is that either Joan was really having visions and hearing God's message... or she was shizophrenic and just a strongheaded crazy lady. Besson really goes with the latter, and (again, bad pun coming) that really ruins what should have been the message of the film. Joan is so obviously insane that she's more of a joke than a martyr. By the time the movie ends and you see the title about how she was eventually canonized as a saint, it feels more like a mockery ("This crazy-ass chick is a saint?"). It was just a weird juxtaposition of information. It would be like having a movie that shows the true nature of Bin Laden and how he believes God told him to kill the infidels and take back his rightful land or something. But then he's arguing with himself the majority of the time, twitching... and then the movie ends with him dying in a cave... it fades to black... and you see "He was later canonized." The movie was supposed to be this ultimate tragedy, and it wasn't.

But Joan had other issues, and I'm not sure if I should put the blame on the acting or directing (as much as I'd hate to). When you first see Milla-Joan, she's this meek young woman who is near tears the entire time. Then there's this huge time lapse with no montage or training sessions or anything, and you see her on a war horse with a sword, and her personality has completely shifted. She's become this strongheaded, arrogant, crazy woman. And she got on my freakin' nerves. Seriously, there's a scene about halfway into the movie where she gets shot by an arrow. I know she's not gonna die because, well, there's still half a movie left and I know my history. But when she got shot, I couldn't help but do a mental cheer and wish that she would. Either the way Milla played her or the way Besson directed her was horrible.

Not to mention, with only a few exceptions, the casting of the film was awful. I've already discussed Milla. I like Malkovich, but a French king with an American accent surrounded by other people with accents? Why not just pick a French person? Or at least have Malkovich attempt an accent. And that was a big issue for most of the cast. It was a weird mix of nationalities (that should have been one nationality), and they didn't even attempt to make it more authentic. And then, of course, there's Dustin Hoffman, who I didn't realize was in the movie. So when I saw him near the end, I was like "what the hell? Dustin Hoffman?" He acted his part very well, but the character was too vague. It's listed as her conscience, but you don't know if it's that or Jesus/God or Satan or who. And his character brings in some of that awkward comedy (the 'where did the sword come from' scene... funny, but out of place).

For editing, it was hard to tell a lot of what was going on sometimes. One minute Joan would be one place, the next she'd be in a completely other place with things moving like a dream sequence. But then it turns out that it wasn't a dream sequence, and you're left confused. Though that could be an issue of scripting, as well. And I do think the script had some issues.

Overall, the movie is just a mess. My opinions aren't completely negative. There was some good cinematography (at least at the beginning) and some good (although miscast) acting. The fight scenes were decent, though incredibly fake-looking when it came to the blood or gore. It got overly cartoonish and sometimes slapstick at times, which just goes back to the tone. But now I'm going back to the negative during my positive section. I know this movie has a lot of lovers, especially at places like imdb. But although I have my deep love of Besson's films, and I'll still continue to see any others he puts out, I have to say I was highly disappointed in this one, and it took quite a bit not to just turn it off.

The Zed Word

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