Written by: Adam Vaughn | September 7th, 2022
Medieval (Petr Jákl, 2022) 2 out of 4 stars.
Longtime actor and producer Petr Jákl (Ghoul) returns for his third stint in the director’s chair to unleash some knights in not-so-shining armor in Medieval. Set in fifteenth-century Czech lands, Jákl’s period piece tells the story of famous warrior Jan Zizka (Ben Foster, Hustle) as he battles Teutonic and Roman soldiers alike, defying the rule of King Sigismund (Matthew Goode, Silent Night) and his ruthless right hand, Torak (Roland Møller, Blood Red Sky), while lobbying for the rise of Wenceslas IV (Karel Roden, A Prominent Patient). When Zizka and his cunning companions kidnap Katherine (Sophie Lowe, Blow the Man Down), the daughter of favored Lord Rosenberg (Til Schweiger, Hot Dog), all-out war erupts between Zizka and the king’s warriors. As blood is shed, the two battalions struggle to keep Katherine in their possession and win the battle for the throne.
For the most part, Medieval has adequate production design, utilizing costumes, sets, and cinematography to capture a legitimate and convincing period visualization. Various sequences of intense and brutal battles between warriors make the film an instant source of entertainment, with much thanks to the frenetic pacing and well-choreographed blocking. While few of them are memorable, Medieval has a wide ensemble cast of fighting folks, including a satisfying supporting role by Michael Caine (Tenet).
Sadly, beyond this, most of what Jákl has to offer is otherwise generic. While Caine is memorable, many of the other characters come from cookie-cutter performances, and the lackluster writing of the film does the story little credit. The single main female character, while given a strong turn by Lowe, spends most of her time playing damsel in distress, with only small spurts of moments of empowerment. The biggest peeve I have with Medieval is its determination to continually make the Catholic Church a purely antagonist presence, pushing an anti-Christian narrative.
While Medieval may not necessarily provide any ridiculous or unprovoked story points, the overall arc of its narrative leads to no surprises, ending with a been-there-done-that level of satisfaction. I have the utmost respect for Jákl in bringing to the screen a narrative about a famous Czech hero, but tragically Medieval doesn’t have much to say about the historical context from which it’s inspired. I do not see this epic withstanding the test of time, but simply serving as entertainment for viewers looking to get their fill of bloody battles and uninspired chaos.