‘Medieval’ (2022) Review

Within the first few minutes of Petr Jákl’s Medieval, we know exactly what the movie is going to be. Unfortunately, what it’s going to be is a messy, unfocused stumbling through the story of Jan Žižka (Ben Foster), a legendary medieval warrior.

Jákl’s attempt at legend building is valiant. However, it falls far short of being either captivating or inspiring. In what I assume is supposed to represent a critical moment in the building of Žižka’s mythology, his eye is sliced during battle. Leaving him with a gnarly scar and a makeshift eyepatch bandana around his head. The significance of this supposed badassery remains lost on me.

Much of the movie feels like filler to just get us from one action sequence to the next. These filler scenes lack interesting character development or anything resembling tension that can take us from plot point to plot point.

Once we get to the action sequences (which appear to be main concern of the film) they exist as unearned catharsis with little to no real meaning. The violence is mostly incoherent. Battle scenes are sloppy in their editing, clumsy in their choreographing, and odd in their framing. There is no real sense of how we ought to move through them. Should we be awed? Or maybe we should be shocked. The intent still confuses me.

There is the slight possibility that the chaotic, blundering violence is intentional. It’s cinematic nature reflecting and echoing the violence of the time period being depicted. As much as I’d like to make this connection, there is not enough evidence in the rest of the movie for this claim to exist with much credibility.

Although most of the action is fairly unremarkable, there is at least one moment of greatness that features a gnarly decapitation. With each passing battle, I found myself hoping for more inspired violence. Or really for any actual emotion to be elicited.

There are character deaths here and there that exist only to satisfy the necessary narrative beats. A romantic subplot boringly develops in a way that seemingly drags on forever but is somehow simultaneously rushed. As the ending credits begin to roll, a series of texts about Jan Žižka’s life flash on the screen. Unfortunately, these closing words are both more informative and more interesting than everything else we’ve seen prior.

Medieval is sadly a movie without a purpose. It offers no clear sense of what it wants to be about or what it wants to explore. A good period piece will look back at yesteryear in order to highlight something about our current times. A good action movie will entertain or excite. I found myself wondering when either movie would appear.

As the most expensive Czech film ever made, Medieval very well may exist as a passion project for director Petr Jákl. His efforts are not unappreciated. Žižka’s story is an exciting one. And one that audience members should certainly know. Framing the film through his rise to prominence is a bold choice and certainly not an easy undertaking.

Fans of Inglorious Basterds will be happy to see an appearance from Til Schweiger (aka Hugo Stiglitz). Also, Michael Caine is in this movie! So, that’s awesome.

For all of its shortcomings, Medieval will be sure to enlighten some and entertain a few others. With a bit of script doctoring and some technical tightening up here and there, Medieval could have been something to absolutely rave about. Unfortunately, what we’re left with is a confused, muddled, and lackluster period piece biopic.

Author: Raf Stitt

Brooklyn based. Full time movie fan, part time podcaster, occasional writer. Follow on Twitter: @rafstitt