This movie really has all of the typical ingredients in it to be a true historic epic, set in the Roman empire. It has the grand looking sets, the right characters and even better actors to portray them but yet the movie feels like a very imperfect one.

It remains a good watch throughout and even though the movie is nearly 3 hours long, it didn't ever bore me. However this was mostly because the movie was kept going by its powerhouse performances by the its great actors. This movie actually somewhat looks and feels like a Shakespeare play, with also some wonderful written dialog, that brings out the best of its actors.

Even though you could say that the main parts of the movie are being played by Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr, it still remains Peter Ustinov that absolutely steals the shows, as the very dependent and oblivious emperor Nero. This movie made me actually realize what a truly great actor he was and how much I have always really loved him in basically every other performance as well. But by saying this, I feel like I'm not giving enough credit to all of the other actors in this movie as well. Everybody is truly superb and bring the movie to a very high level.

And I also really can't complain either about the way this movie looks and got directed. Yes, you could say that it's a bit old fashioned but this actually suits its genre very well and was also exactly the approach the film-makers were aiming for. It's such an epic looking movie, with great set designs, costumes, settings and even some early special effects. It's a visual overwhelming movie, which doesn't make it a surprise that this movie got nominated in all of the visual categories for its year's Oscars. It was actually nominated for a total of 8 Oscars but it eventually won none. It also lost out on the best picture of the year award but if it's any comfort for the movie, so did "A Streetcar Named Desire" that very same year.

So far the movie sounds great you would say, which brings me to the problem of the movie; its story. It's not like the story on its own is not well written enough and all of the drama and characters don't play out well but a problem with the movie its story is that it's totally drenched with Christian-propaganda. It's up to a point that it makes the movie and some of its developments work out as ridicules. It's even more bible orientated than a movie like "Ben-Hur" was for instance and I'm even inclined to say also more than "The Ten Commandments" but I'm not sure if that's really the case. Problem is however that it really feels that way. It made the movie take some totally odd and unexpected approaches to its story at times, which all felt very preachy and like they were holding back the development of the story and all of its characters. Really, I of course have absolutely nothing against Christian propaganda, also not in movies but I do have a problem with it when it's slowing the movie down or is taking it in to a totally wrong and ineffective direction, as was the case with this movie. Seriously, you're way better off watching the earlier mentioned movies "Ben-Hur" and "The Ten Commandments", both starring Charlton Heston, if you're interested in Christianity and Christian themes in movies.

It sounds a bit cruel but it does make the movie a bit of a failure, since it didn't delivered on what it intended to do. But luckily for the movie it still has way too much class and powerhouse performances from all of its actors to truly honestly regard this movie as a failure.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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