The real Robert the Bruce by forensic sculptor Christian Corbet
Those of you who know me know that I write a medieval mystery series set in late 14th century London. And though I am not a scholar or history professor, I do my darnedest to get the history right because people who read historical fiction really want the history to be right and often learn history--right or wrong--from fiction. So I'm always leary of the historical film that presents history, because they inevitably fall prey to the "story" rather than the actual history.
Do I even need to mention "Braveheart" the 1995 Mel Gibson fiasco, attempting to tell the story of William Wallace in 13th century Scotland, a contemporary of Robert the Bruce for which this new Netflix movie gets its premise? In "Braveheart" we had Scots wearing kilts and plaid (neither of which was happening in that century); we have the all important Battle of Sterling Bridge without a bridge, we have Wallace in a romantic entanglement with Edward II's wife implying Edward III was conceived by Wallace, even though Isabella was a child of twelve and didn't even come to England until after William Wallace was executed...and so much more, but those were only the highlights.
I allow for a certain level of creative license, but not THAT much.
Studies have shown that students tend to recall more of the movie when films are used in a classroom setting than the textbooks they are studying, even when specifically taught that the movie is less than accurate.
So what about "The Outlaw King", the latest from Netflix? Well, it's free with your Netflix subscription, so that's a good thing. The costumes were better, and the battle scene was a good portrayal of the chaos, the intimacy, the bloodiness of medieval encounters. The hair was a curiosity, especially the Prince of Wales, the soon-to-be Edward II. Someone in the hair department thought to give him a King Henry V look, something from the 15th century, so that bugged me, something so simple to research. And when something like that gets screwed up, you tend to look askance at the rest of it.
There were a few things here and there left out--understandable when you have to move the plot along. Not having thoroughly researched that era myself, I can't say for certain that Robert the Bruce would have forgone consummating his second marriage out of--what? deference for the memory of his first wife? Both marriages were alliances so I can't see him being sentimental over it. Someone will likely correct me on this if I'm wrong. I suppose it was to make him seem more relatable as a character?
Overall the movie wasn't blatantly anti-historical, it just wasn't very...interesting. Not very memorable. Even the promised "full frontal male" scene was...uninspiring. My take: If you want to see a realistic medieval battle scene, go for it. Other than that (and a shot of Chris Pine's butt), it gets a "meh" rating from me.