Grade: D+ (1.5/5 stars)
We’ve seen Roland Emmerich destroy the world in many ways. He’s done it using aliens (“Independence Day”), “Godzilla”, natural disasters (“The Day After Tomorrow”) and Mayan calendars (“2012”). He has also displayed Mel Gibson as a patriot, Kurt Russell as a “Stargate” dude and Jean Claude Van Damme as a “Universal Soldier.” For his first film that’s not an action flick, Emmerich shows that he has a problem with saying goodbye to CGI and just filming a freaking movie.
William Shakespeare’s plays have been portrayed on stage for many years, and they have been told and retold many times on the silver screen. But what if the legendary playwright didn’t actually write any of these plays? That’s the theory posed in “Anonymous,” a dull, dreary and bloated historical bore that meanders between multiple plot lines, time frames and supporting characters that it loses focus on its main thesis.
This theory isn’t new. Oh no. Just ask any English teacher, and they’ll probably tell you that multiple people have proposed their own idea on whether Shakespeare wrote his plays and sonnets or if it was someone else. To me, Shakespeare was Shakespeare, the author of all the work for which he is credited. Pose your ideas and “facts” to me all you want. I won’t believe you, just like how I couldn’t believe Emmerich and his dopey story.
We are introduced to this thesis via the Prologue (Derek Jacobi, who deserves better). It’s 2011 at the Broadway Theatre. The play is called “Anonymous.” The Prologue sets the stage, while the actors get ready for their big performance. The play then becomes the film. In this telling, the supposed writer is actually the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans, only good actor worth mentioning). He’s the smart wordsmith whose writing is selling out theaters across the land. However, his royal family ways would consider his work to be blasphemous and shameful, so he labels his work Anonymous. He then decides to pen the name William Shakespeare, because it seems fitting and cool. Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) is an illiterate drunkard who sleeps around, goofs off and looks like the great, great, great grandfather of Kenny Powers. Sure he didn’t write the plays, but he gets all the credit and all the love from the townspeople.
Sprinkle in some anachronistic backdrop of the Elizabethan era where scandal, greed, incest and corruption have ruined the political power. We see Queen Elizabeth in her prime (portrayed by Joely Richardson), and in her elder years (portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave). The film poses the thought that the Earl could have possibly slept with her and she is rumored to be his real mother. Oh, such juicy, front page tabloid news! Too bad the film makes no attempt at making its characters convincing or memorable, or the scandals sexy and involving. We even see Christopher Marlowe get murdered, even though he died prior to the year in which the movie is set.
With “Anonymous,” Emmerich doesn’t destroy something using pyrotechnics and special effects. He does, however, destroy his chance of people wanting to believe his argument. With no clear intention on where he wants to steer the story, “Anonymous” becomes lost in its own web of confusion. It’s an unfunny comedy of errors where we don’t care if any of it is true. Like sitting through the most dull lecture, we just want it to end.
Anonymous is currently playing in select cities and will possibly open in the Chico/Butte County area soon.
David also writes as the National Boardwalk Empire Examinerand for We Got This Covered.
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