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10 Questions You Had About Byzantium: So, It's Like a Vampire Movie With Babes, Right?

By Amanda Mae Meyncke | Film Reviews | June 28, 2013 | Comments ()


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WHAT IS IT?

It's a vampire movie with Saroiroise Ronanonn and Gemma Arterton. One of them is cool with being a vampire, one of them keeps trying to blow their cover by telling every random person she meets. Not cool. Anyway, Clara (Arterton) is trying to escape her past as the only female vampire of her kind, a wanted criminal on the run from the vampire law, Eleanor (Ronnanannnan) just wants to put down roots and tell everyone about who they really are. They run away from their old town and find a schmuck willing to take them in, they live in a big abandoned hotel, and seem to have lots of connections to this little town they wound up in. Eleanor sort of falls in with a boy, even though he too is lifeless and kind of creepy. True love, eh! What're you gonna do, you know? As the truth is slowly revealed about their past, the two women struggle to maintain their present-day place in the world.

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IS IT SCARY?

In the same way a sheet flapping in the wind on a clothes line is scary. Were you hoping to see a scary vampire movie? Byzantium isn't scary at all. In fact it's rather lifeless. Every potentially scary thing is dismantled with lengthy explanations that still don't seem to convey meaning, and then the killing scenes are predictable. The scariest thing that happens is a beetle crawls across Eleanor's face at one point, oh, and also the process of becoming a vampire in this world is kind of terrifying, I'll admit that. There are also rivers of blood and at one point Gemma gets all in them.

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WHOA, SAM RILEY IS IN IT? IS SAM RILEY HOT IN IT?

Oh yes, but he's not in it much. Perhaps I can interest you in some Sam Riley in a suit? Sam Riley was hewn, from an ancient bit of Black Walnut wood, with two little quail eggs for eyes, for the express purpose of wearing suits on this green Earth, and wear them he does. Burberry pays him to do this, and movie studios pay him to do this and by god, at least someone is doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing in this world.

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HOW MUCH CLOTHES DOES GEMMA ARTERTON WEAR?

Varying amounts. Sometimes, when she is doing her whoring, she wears very little. The rest of the time she puts on a bit more. But not too much, don't worry. Gemma Arterton is a particularly tasty bit of pasty, all ribbons and lace and heaving bosoms piled up high. She takes her role as the resident fallen angel very seriously, and is always seducing somebody. She's very active in this movie too, always running or lunging or pulling or pushing or punching or biting or screaming or thrashing.

IS KIND OF A LOT OF THE MOVIE DEVOTED TO HOW GEMMA ARTERTON'S CHARACTER BECAME A PROSTITUTE?

Yes! But mostly to kind of show what a good and bad mother she was, all at once. No one is one sided! Everyone has positive and negative about them! That is totally, like, a message of one sort or another!

SAORISEIEIEIE RONANNANAN.

That's not a question, but she's growing on me as an actress. She still relies far too much on staring as a means of conveying emotion, but as a winsome, damaged little flip of a thing, she's pretty good in this. On the other hand, it doesn't really require much effort, so perhaps congratulations are premature.

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ARE THERE COMPLEX THEMES EXPLORING HUMAN SEXUALITY, ONE'S PLACE IN THE WORLD OR MALE/FEMALE POWER DYNAMICS?

Oh my, no, not really. These themes are passed over briefly but never dwelled upon. We are privy to the thoughts of Eleanor as she contemplates the sadness that has stayed with her for 200 years, the really bummer situation that is being a vampire who ain't got nobody to talk to. The men in this movie are a waste of space, weak-willed or violently aggressive, there's a few who are good, but one of them comes across like someone you shouldn't trust anyway, and the other one is a vampire who is hunting them down and did one nice thing one time, basically. The story being told across two different time periods works fine, I suppose. Mostly it just doesn't matter.

IS THERE ANYTHING MEMORABLE AT ALL?
At one point a beetle crawls on Eleanor's face and I got the feeling it was a real beetle and my skin crawled.

Other than that, no. The writing isn't particularly strong, the performances are hampered by a bad script and lackluster direction, the rest of the movie doesn't stand out as anything exceptional either. I always hope for a few scenes of absolute beauty so I can at least give a shout out to some excellent cinematography, but there just isn't anything worth looking at in this, other than Gemma Arterton's snappy garters.

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WOULD I LIKE THIS MOVIE?

If you like vampire movies, no matter how weakly drawn. If you like any of the actors in it enough to go see a movie they are in, then yes.

YOU JUST HATE EVERYTHING, YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING! SHOULDN'T WE SUPPORT ORIGINAL CONTENT OVER SEQUELS?

Yes, dangit, I wanted this one to be good, I wanted it to be bone-chilling and frightening and fascinating and captivating. It's based on a play by Moira Buffini, and yes, some of the elements would probably work much better in a theater setting. Byzantium stumbles a bit in the story, the stakes aren't high enough and it doesn't seem to bother with any of the problems it sets up for itself. I loved the idea of two women roaming the globe together, mother and daughter relationship melting into a deep-seated sisterly affection, sexy, warm and open at times and heart-stoppingly fearful of the past at other times. The potential was all there, and still it failed. Director Neil Jordan, who's made a bunch of movies with varying degrees of success, should know better. It isn't enough to make a thing, you have to make a new thing that knows what it wants to say and why it's even there saying it. Byzantium was silent on all fronts, pre-occupied with the business of existing, and too all-consumed with minutiae to bother with being relevant or incendiary.

Amanda Mae Meyncke lives in a cigar box and has a thimble for a hat.







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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Jake

    Stoker

  • Tony Maxwell

    Doubt if I would have watched this in any event, but I'm SO glad I got to read the review - that's some great writing.

  • googergieger

    Thought the genre died the second Thirst was over.

  • Gemma Arterton is a particularly tasty bit of pasty, all ribbons and lace and heaving bosoms piled up high.

    Yes, she is. That is all I got.

  • SnowMan

    If Miss Arterton is a vampire, why can her reflection be seen in that mirror in the header?

    Dammit, people! What's the use of having rules about these things if no one follows them?

  • Yocean

    Thanks for the self awareness in last question. Now I am curious to see how you defend Spring Breakers. As for this movie...damn I wanted it to be good too. But to me, heaving Gemma Arterton bossoms are enough beauty to check the movie out.

  • L.O.V.E.

    One question, really. Is that Gemma Arterton in the header?

    Yes? Good Lord. Ok, a follow up question, then. When can I buy all the tickets? Maybe you didn't read that right. Not one ticket. Not some. Bring me ALL the tickets.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    What play by Moira Buffini?! Where?! She's awesome.

  • Amanda Meyncke

    "A Vampire Story". I have no idea. Seems like it has more heft to it than the film, an underpinning of environmental awareness. Less moping more mystery.

  • AM

    That appears to be a cricket, not a beetle.

  • Amanda Meyncke

    Ugh, I thought for sure it was something from the genus metoponium.

  • BWeaves

    If it has more legs than I do, I don't want it on my face.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I don't know, there are some hot sphinxes out there.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Come on, her name is not that hard to spell.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    It's certainly much trickier to pronounce.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Saoirse is one of the easy ones, believe me.

    I'm reading Of Gods And Fighting Men at the moment, and not being able to pronounce the names of persons and places correctly drives me nuts. Your pronunciation guide is not helping, Lady Gregory! *shakes fist*

  • BWeaves

    It's pronounced like inertia, which makes it sound terribly depressing.

  • Guest

    When we were looking at Irish names for Little J, we noticed that there are so many names that either look lovely and don't sound so great, e.g. Grainne and Roisin, or we would be unkind to give to a child because of the challenge posed by the difference between spelling and pronunciation, such as Saiorse and Siobhan. But then we went ahead and chose Sinead for a girl and he is a boy and we went Scottish and called him Ewan and people still can't get it right.

  • emmalita

    My real name is not my discus name. My real name is a little unusual, because my parents were hippies with poor communication skills, so the nurse took over and named me. My name is only a little unusual, I've met at least 6 other people with my name, and there is a town in France with my name. Unlike most French names, my name sounds exactly like it looks like it should sound (much like Ewan). Still, 90% of people get it wrong. I hated my parents for a long time for gifting me with this weird name, but now I love it. I bond with other people with my name, it's a great conversation starter, and I win every how did you get your name contest. Eventually little Ewan will thank you for the brevity and beauty of his name.

  • ,

    And you blame "people" for this? Its pretty damn hard to mispronounce "Joe" or "Bob" or "Bill," you know. You could have made life easy on the poor little fucker, but no: You had to try to be clever, give him a name many people don't know how to pronounce. And that's THEIR fault?

    Look, name your kid whatever the fuck you want, name him Mister Mxyzptlk for all I care, but don't blame "people" when he takes an axe and gives his mother 40 whacks because he's had his name mispronounced all his life and keeps having to correct everyone, especially people at job interviews. Yeah, it looks real good when the first thing you have to do with your interviewer is tell him/her that he/she made a mistake. You've set the kid up for failure, a life of abject poverty and misery, but at least you'll have the comfort of blaming "people," because you're saintly and your kid's future livelihood couldn't possibly get fucked up because you gave him an unpronounceable name.

    And now this public service announcement from Old Media: By all means, NEVER call your newspaper when little Mister Zxflmwuhvwneb scores two points in his biddy ball basketball league game and complain that the stupid paper can't spell his name right in the box score. Once we have you off the phone, we will laugh at you and declare that YOU can't spell his name right. Bob and Bill and Joe ain't spelled like that.

    Just your luck, you caught me in a foul mood, so you can piss right off. I'm tired of this competition among insensitive and selfish parents to see who can use the most tiles randomly spilled from a Scrabble board to design some impossible-to-pronounce kid's name. Right fucking tired of it.

    And just how the hell do you pronounce "Ewan" anyway, if it isn't "You-wan"?

  • Jim

    I'd still probably see this before White House Down (which itself gets on its knees and pretty much begs for a review with the title "White House Downer" doesn't it?)

  • Amanda Meyncke

    White House Down is so fun to watch though. This is boring. Would you rather be bemused or bored?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Is White House Down bemusing?

  • Amanda Meyncke

    Oh yes. Very confusing, befuddling. But also, stupid delightful at times.

  • Jim

    oooooo now I'm intrigued.

  • BWeaves

    Why is it called Byzantium? Does it have anything to do with Constantinople or Istanbul?

  • Enarra

    The name of the hotel they stay at is Byzantium.

  • Amanda Meyncke

    Would be nice, right? No, I think it mostly just has to do with the idea of returning to a place that was once another place of importance.

  • Wednesday

    Istanbul is Constantinople.

    And it's nobody's business but the Turks.

  • Jim

    Even old New York was once New Amsterdam.

    Why they changed it, I can't say...

  • Mrs. Julien

    People just liked it better that way.

  • Candee

    Istanbuuuuuuuul...

  • Mrs. Julien

    Appropos of nothing, Brother Julien and I like to sing "Road Movie to Berlin" to each other on the phone right after our opening salutations of "FU*K YOU!".

  • Three_nineteen

    Can't you drive out the way you drove in?

  • Mrs. Julien

    No, but Peter came out and gave us medals declaring us the nicest of the damned.

  • Mrs. Julien

    You are freakin' delightful, Amanda!

  • Jolie S. Evans

    what Sylvia said I'm dazzled that some people can get paid $4793 in 1 month on the internet. have you seen this web page w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

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