Film Review: Barbarian Queen II – The Empress Strikes Back
Barbarian Queen II is, basically, a somewhat nihilistic gender-swapped version of the Robin Hood story – princess is heir to throne, king has gone off to war and is presumed killed in the field, with the King’s evil brother planning to usurp the throne, princess flees to forest and builds a band of bandits to fight back against Not-Prince-John.
Now, the concept is interesting, but the execution falls pretty flat. Part of this issue comes from the film’s best location – Not-Prince-John’s castle. It looks like that they found a real medieval European castle where they shot the film in Mexico, and it looks absolutely great on film. However, it feels like the filmmakers went, “We’ve got this great set, we’ve got to get as much out of this set as possible.” Consequently, the film just keeps coming back to the castle. Robin keeps getting captured and tortured in the castle, nearly escaping before getting recaptured and tortured again, basically to give the filmmakers more reasons to shoot in the castle. Similarly the film spends a lot of time with Man Marion and his arranged marriage with Prince John’s creepy murderous daughter, and Marion’s ever building dissatisfaction with the way John runs things.
The problem is because they spend so much time in the castle, with the people in the castle and developing the villains, everyone in Not-Sherwood Forest is horrifically underdeveloped. It was made even worse for my friends and I once we noticed that they were cribbing from Robin Hood, because, well, the Robin Hood story has interesting characters that we wanted to see the distaff counterparts for those characters – who is our Wilhelmina Scarlett? Who is Sister Tuck? Etc.
To put the cherry on top of this mess of a film, is the film’s ending falls flat. It’s like someone who has never seen the film The Aristocrats or heard any version of the joke told, and assumed that if you stick “The Aristocrats” at the end of a story, that would make it funny. It’s anticlimactic, there’s nothing satisfying with the ending, and while the film acts like there’s closure, it’s not satisfying.