"Our bodies are prisons for our souls. Our skin and blood, the iron bars of confinement. But fear not. All flesh decays. Death turns all to ash. And thus, death frees every soul."
- Grand Inquisitor Silecio (Stephen McHattie)
Izzi (Rachel Weisz): Will you deliver Spain from bondage?
Tom Verde (Hugh Jackman): Upon my honor and my life.
Izzi: Then you shall take this ring to remind you of your promise. You shall wear it when you find Eden, and when you return, I shall be your Eve. Together we will live forever.
"Death is a disease; it’s like any other. And there’s a cure…a cure. And I will find it,"
- Tommy Creo (Hugh Jackman)
At a glance: Darren Aronofsky’s ambitious tale of life, love, death, and immortality spans the ages and provides some unique visual imagery, but it drowns in a sea of its own murkiness and inaccessibility.
Tommy Creo (Hugh Jackman) is a surgeon who redirects his work and risks his career to try to find a cure for his wife’s Izzi’s (Rachel Weisz) cancer. 500 years earlier, a conquistador fights to save his queen, and supports her in her quest to find the Tree of Eternal Life and the ancient Mayan Fountain of Youth. Muddled, uninvolving, and inaccessible until past the halfway point, it finally begins to gain some traction with its core story of love, death, redemption, and immortality – but most viewers would have turned out by this point. There’s no doubting director Darren Aronofsky’s prodigious talent (check out Pi) but he just can’t get his massive message across. It’s as if Aronofsky is channeling a metaphysical David Lynch. Clint Mansell’s always-wonderful music, the visual imagery, and the warm, dark sets are almost enough to compensate for the murky narrative. Note that this film originally had double the budget it ended up with; when Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett pulled out, Aronofsky recast and restructured the film. I thought Rachel Weisz lacked the ability to portray the depth this story required; as Roger Ebert mentions in the quote below, a director’s cut might be interesting as well.
"And yet I believe we have not seen the real film. When a $75 million production goes into turnaround and is made for $35 million, elements get eliminated. When a film telling three stories and spanning thousands of years has a running time of 96 minutes, scenes must have been cut out. There will someday be a Director’s Cut of this movie, and that’s the cut I want to see."
- Roger Ebert
"I don't pretend to fully understand Darren Aronofsky's latest film, to unravel its knots of time and character, or its oozing realities. But at its core there is the unmistakable essay on the way love is cheated by death, just as death is cheated by love."
- Urban Cinefile Critics (Urban Cinefile)
"This film raises an interesting question: How far is a viewer willing to follow a talented filmmaker down a rabbit hole, when it becomes clear that said filmmaker has lost his way?"
- Steve Biodrowski (ESplatter)
"There is a strange deadness in the film, together with a callow self-importance and self-pity which become more stultifying with every minute that passes."
- Peter Bradshaw (Guardian [UK])
"If only all reputed turkeys gave us such a trip."
- Tim Robey (Daily Telegraph)