Ivanhoe (1997) movie review

I think you all know this, but I am a rather big Ivanhoe fan.  I read the book for the first time a number of months ago and absolutely fell in love.  Well, now that I loved the book, I must needs try out the film adaptations, mustn't I?

My first preference would have been for the 1982 version starring Anthony Andrews and Olivia Hussey, as I'd seen clips of that and they looked decent.  Unfortunately, however, my library system doesn't have it, and neither does YouTube or Netflix or other such commodities:(  Thus, I had to content myself with first seeing the 1997 miniseries version, which I just finished yesterday.

Here are my thoughts;)

Opening scene:  Why is it starting with Ivanhoe being flogged?  This makes little sense.

*sigh*  Overall…I'm torn.  Certain things were done extremely well, and some were done…not so well.  The main problem, put succinctly, is that it kept making me have this reaction so many times:

Seriously, though.  I mean, I loved the scene with John, Richard, and Queen Eleanor as much as the next Robin Hood fan, but…it had nothing to do with the story - at least the book story - of Ivanhoe.  Grr.  Here are a few other examples:

* Ivanhoe himself was actually in the story most of the time  Since that clears up the title a little more than the book did, it's not really a bad thing, though.  Speaking of Ivanhoe (I will never call him Wilfred.  You cannot make me), let's talk about this portrayal of him, yes?

Steve Waddington did very well as Ivanhoe - that is, he would have done well, were he not struggling with the dreadful burden of That Hair.  What the heck was that?  Oh, and my brother made the helpful comment that he played in Dumb and Dumber, which I haven't seen, but I know enough of the story *ahem* that it made it difficult to take his serious scenes…well, seriously.  I now know that Steve Waddington did not actually play in that movie, but it's a little late now;)  Other than those issues…he was pretty good.  I liked him, overall.

* In the beginning, I liked Rowena more than Rebecca  NO.  No, no, and no again.  A movie adaptation must not make me like Rowena more than Rebecca!  

In the book, Rowena is nice, but she's basically ditzy.  You sort of get the impression that she's not exactly what one'd call a deep thinker, shall we say.  In this miniseries version, she's spunky, relatively brave, kind (usually), and she's just a stronger character.  The more I watched, however, the more I could pick up on her spoiled, headstrong side.  And then she annoyed me at the end (but let's be honest - we'd be jealous, too).  Victoria Smurfit (besides being absolutely gorgeous), played her part well.

Susan Lynch's Rebecca took a little while to grow on me.  I'm not quite sure why.  Maybe it was just that I thought, considering the length of time in the miniseries as a whole, that they rushed the relationship between Ivanhoe and Rebecca.  (Of course, it's rushed in the book, but everything's rushed in the book, so that's beside the point.)  That being said, Ms. Lynch brought out a real sweetness in Rebecca's character, which was…sweet:D  I suppose I would have liked - I guess a little something more in their exploration of Rebecca's character, seeing as how she was one of my favorite book characters.

*  Prince John was in the majority of the movie, and it almost seemed centered around him at times  I would provide a picture for you, but Google isn't providing one for me, just one that's really awful.  I liked John in this one well enough (no one will ever be as Prince John-ish as Toby Stephens, though), but he was frankly in it too often.  I enjoyed most of his scenes, but they were basically inaccurate and unnecessary:-/  

*  GURTH AND DE BRACY BOTH DIED  Oh, no they didn't.  I may have forgotten it, but I am pretty darn sure that neither died in the book.  Well, maybe de Bracy did…I can't remember…  And Gurth's scene almost made me cry.  Not that I'm peculiarly attached to Gurth, but when his dog was whimpering…and then when the dog lay down on his grave and Wamba came and sat with him…it got me.  

Moving on to the positives, though.  

In length and scope, I think the miniseries really did the book justice.  It was nice and long, and it was epic and grand, Star Wars-esque music included.  

Ciarán Hinds was also very good as Bois-Guilbert *sniffles and sobs*  

I wasn't sure about him at first, but by the second installment, he'd completely won me over.  Oh, and he actually looked like I pictured him in the book…unlike some other Bois-Guilbert's of whom I've seen pictures and heard ravings…*coughSamNeillcough*

~ "My heart…died."  (Never fear, so did the audience's.)
~  "I was not brave enough to die for King Richard.  But…for her…"  THE PAIN.  Okay, I'm done.  

His interplay with Rebecca was also great fun (and great feels, of course).


Wasn't their relationship preciousness?

De Bracy was also epic.  I loved this portrayal of him, and I ship he and Rowena so flipping hard now.

I could keep talking about quite a few other points in the movie, but I've got to give my eyes a break, hehe.  So, in one line, here was my opinion:  Great acting, not really accurate to the book, but overall good.

What did you think of 1997 Ivanhoe, if you've seen it?


  1. I love love love this version! It is my favorite of the cinematic Ivanhoes. I've read the book as well, but I had no problems with the deviations from the original in this... other than they killed my beloved de Bracy off, and I was SOOOOOOO mad at that. I love all the actors in this, but I watched it originally solely for Valentine Pelka, who plays de Bracy. (Mr. Pelka is one of my favorite actors.) I fell in love with the rest of the production as it went. :-D I also really like this one because Rowena is so much cooler than she is in other versions. I always want to like her and this is the only version that lets me.

    1. A couple days before I watched it, I read your review and really enjoyed it, heehee:D
      Overall, I did really like it. I keep thinking about it, so that's a good sign, I guess;)
      YES. DE BRACY. I sort of fell in love with him in this version. Why did they kill him off?!?! So wrong, on so many levels.
      I really did love Rowena in this one, too! She was just such a strong character, wasn't she?

  2. I've learned you just have to watch film adaptations in a way to view them as completely different creative expressions, really as different stories. There is so many different Cinderella adaptations or retellings, and it is easier for us to watch all of them, viewing them in separate compartments, enjoying them each for what they are. When we read a book and go to the films, we tend to have that need to see exactly what we read and loved, which almost never happens. But in all honesty, if we read the original Cinderella and went to all the film retellings, they would be so incredibly different as well! I have to force myself to watch film adaptations as if I am watching a completely new story, otherwise they almost always fall short! But....it is fun to see what they do with a much loved story...

    1. Thanks for your thoughts! I agree. Usually, I'm not that much of a book purist (partially because I rather often watch the movie before reading the book), but there were just certain tweaks they made that got under my skin a little;) But overall, yes, I think it's important to understand that this is someone else's impression of a story, not necessarily that story played out word for word.

  3. Hmm, I never even knew this version existed! I too have been DYING to watch the '82 one with Anthony Andrews for years now, but I still can't find it anywhere. (Why don't any libraries have it? It's basically been all but wiped off the face of the earth. Why, why, why.)

    I totally know how that is, when there are so many things about a movie that you don't like, but then there are really super awesome parts....*coughNorthandSouthcoughcough* It's so hard to come to any sane conclusions! Aahhhh!


    1. I know, right?! Isn't it soo annoying?! What does the world have against that version?:-/

      Ahem, yes...it's certainly difficult.

  4. I really want to see this, because, well, Ciaran Hinds! But I very much enjoy the Anthony Andrews version -- I hope you can find and see it soon!

    1. Yes, Ciaran Hinds was awesome in this one! All the feels… I really hope I can, too! It seems like a really neat version of the story:)

    2. Okay, I have FINALLY seen this version -- just finished it last night. And through the first like 3 hours or so, I was like, "Hmm, okay, I like this all right, but not loads." And then I got to the scene between Brian and Rebecca where he explains that his heart died and then and and and and and... I melted. From there out, it was amazing.

      Also, the scene with Richard and John and Eleanor was basically my favorite non-Ciaran scene and I just wanted a whole movie about the three of them, with Richard and John getting in fusses and Eleanor rolling her eyes and breaking them up.

      So, those are my non-cohesive thoughts.

  5. Hi Olivia! After receiving your comment on my blog I thought I'd come over and check yours out. What do you know! You just watched our version of Ivanhoe! We own that movie and it's kind of a special one in our family because we're not allowed to watch it until we turn fourteen. So it's the traditional movie that we all watch on our fourteenth birthday. I have mixed feelings about it myself. Sometimes I really like it and sometimes I don't. Ivanhoe gets a little annoying to me because he's kind of wishy-washy in regards to Rebecca and Rowena. I can never figure out which one he truly loves. As for Wamba! I'm totally with you on that one! He's the best! I love how he's the "fool" while actually being one of the smartest people in the entire film. :) I always feel sorry for De Bracy and Bois-Guilbert at the end. Too bad they couldn't have turned good. Then De Bracy could have married Rowena, and Bois-Guilbert could have married Rebecca. Oh, but then that would kind of leave Ivanhoe out of the picture, wouldn't it? (Oops.) I guess the story's good the way it is. :)

    1. Aww, thanks! I really appreciate it!:)

      That's such an awesome tradition! I know how you feel, I go back and forth on it as well. But overall, I do really love it:D

      Ivanhoe. Ahem. Yeah, he's a bit…irksome. Haha, I like how Bois-Guilbert pointed that out to Rebecca in this version--"Well, his grief didn't last very long, mine lasted twenty years!" Ivanhoe just seems…mehh.

      YES WAMBA!!!! He's absolutely a delightful character:)

      *sobs* Yes…the pain… Haha, exactly! Why does Ivanhoe have to mess everything up?!;) But yes, it's a good story anyway.

      Thank you sooo much for stopping by! Come again!:D

  6. Commenting on an old post again!

    Well, now that I've read the book, and as you know, *cough* not been the biggest fan, I'd like to try some movie options, as those may help me to appreciate the story better.

    Did you ever get a chance to watch the 1982 version? It's available in my library system, so I might just have to check it out.

    And this looks intriguing, if not fully what you'd wanted. So, now the dread question(;D)...is there anything skippable?

    1. Oh my goodness, Meredith, I'm so sorry I never replied to this!! I LOVE comments on old posts, as you know, so I'd never want to neglect one.

      Did you ever look into any of the movie versions? (No, I still haven't gotten to see the 1982 version. :-P)

      Hahaha ;) Ok, it's been so long since I've seen it, I'm concerned I'm forgetting something, but as far as I can remember it was fairly clean other than, y'know, violence, of course. And then there's some non-explicit talk about Bois-Guilbert's *ahem* history with forcing himself on women. And at one point one vharacter's shift is rather see-through so you can see some body parts. But I think other than that and the violence, that's it. :-P

      Again, I'm SO sorry this was so late; thanks ever so much for the comment! Hope you're doing well. <3

  7. When I'd watched this version for the first time I wrote a super long e-mail to the only friend I knew who'd read the book with most of the same points you made. :-) Have you read Knight's Castle by Edward Eager? De Bracy gets Rowena in that version, if I'm not mistaken.

    1. Amanda! I am so, so, SOOO sorry I never replied to this! *facepalm* I am mortified and distressed. :-P But thanks so much for the lovely comment; I love talking with people who've read/seen Ivanhoe, too! And really?! Haha, that's so neat that we had such similar reactions. :D Ooh, no, I have not read Knight's Castle, but I'm down for de Bracy getting Rowena. ;) What is it? Is it just a retelling of Ivanhoe, or . . . ?

      Thanks again SO much for your comment, Amanda -- I'm so sorry to be so late in replying!!


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