Spectacular, but falls short
C. S. Junker | Burien, WA USA | 12/14/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This new version of the ancient story of Jason's quest for the golden fleece appears to have everything going for it: spectacular production design, gorgeous set decoration and costumes, and a cast of first rate actors, including Frank Langella, Adrian Lester, Derek Jacobi, Dennis Hopper, and many others.Unfortunately, Jason London is cast in the title role, and appears to have absolutely no acting ability whatsoever. He delivers his lines in a lifeless monotone, and his closet approximation to real emotion could be charitably called "looking Concerned." True, he is hampered by a tepid script, but it's interesting to note how almost every other performer manages to inject some note of drama into his/her performance, whereas Our Hero wanders about like a zombie in a daze. You wonder why anyone would get on a boat with this guy, and when he does perform a heroic feat, it's hard to believe that he would be capable of such acts of valor. Ultimately, in spite of impressive visuals and some very enjoyable performances by the supporting players, London's listless, zombie-like trance drags the production down, and this rather long movie (close to 3 hours) is flat and uninvolving. (I got through the first two hours; long enough to see the Golden Fleece recovered. I decided to pass on the voyage home --- another 45 minutes.)"
A Voyage Worth Taking...
Robert Law | Indiana | 08/21/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This made-for-television film based on the Greek tale never quite seems to know where it?s headed. It is visually exciting, however, and it seems almost certain that this is exactly what the filmmakers were looking for that they might be able to hide the film?s flaws behind a morass of half-naked Amazon women, computer-generated dragons, harpies, and gorgon bulls. The story revolves around the vengeance-seeking young man named Jason (played in a very cardboard manner by Jason London) who finds himself setting sail on a ship called the Argo (with the hand-picked crew known as Argonauts, of course) to fetch the Golden Fleece. Along the way, of course, in the tradition of such tales, there are many adventures and encounters with gods, men, and unnatural beasties. There is a love story of sorts hidden in there somewhere as well, but it?s quite unsympathetic. ... The acting in Jason and the Argonauts ranges from shoddy to pretty good. Even the respectable actors acquired for the film sometimes manage to turn in pretty unstable performances. Dennis Hopper plays the villain of the piece (not surprisingly), the arch-enemy of Jason, and he seems to have a thing for embracing people and then stabbing them in the back. Frankly, it is a silly role, and played just so. There are other characters even more absurd - one who has the keenest eyes in the land and shouts ?I see it!? every five seconds which is both annoying and laughable. But on the other side of the coin, there are characters that manage to keep Jason and the Argonauts interesting, such as Hercules (a very non-Kevin Sorbo performance that is pretty fun), the minstrel, and the bodyguard of Jason?s father who seeks redemption. Anguss McFadyen (who played Robert the Bruce so beautifully in Braveheart) also stars briefly as King of the Gods, Zeus. It is nice to see Anguss again. Jason and the Argonauts fails in many ways, but usually compensates in others to round out the experience somewhat. After all, a movie based on a Greek myth such as this does not have to be believable all the time, nor does it require the best actors ever assembled. This is a good thing, since the acting and the writing is so hit-and-miss. Fortunately, the adventure elements of any Greek tale such as this are here, and with them in tact there is entertainment to be had. I for one enjoy watching and waiting just to see what the Argonauts will stumble upon next - will it be a god or a monster, or a feud with men over the Golden Fleece? The battles and creature effects may not be cutting-edge, but they have impressive moments. The dragon who guards the Fleece is the creature highlight, and at times looks strikingly real, and the battle against Hopper?s troops at the end is climactic enough. All in all, Jason and the Argonauts is an enjoyable, if sometimes silly, fantasy with fairly high production values for a film of its type - complete with a wide range of adventures that any adaptation of a Greek myth should have. It?s not as good as the earlier production of The Odyssey, but it?s a voyage to consider."
More fidelity to the classical myth but no sense of epic
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 06/24/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"As someone who teaches Classical Greek & Roman Mythology it is impossible for me to sit through something like the 2000 mini-series "Jason and the Argonauts" without constantly thinking about its fidelity to the myths of antiquity. Certainly this new version works in more members of the Argos crew than the 1963 film version with its Ray Harryhausen stop motion animation that is one of the beloved films of our youth. This time around there we have not only the mighty Hercules (Brian Thompson) aboard, but also Orpheus (Adrian Lester), Atalanta (Olga Sosnovska), Castor (Omid Djalili) and Pollux (John Sharian). We also have Jason (Jason London) and the Argo visiting the land of the Amazons and other details from the epic poem written by the third-century poet Apollonius of Rhodes, as well as the relationship between Jason and Pelias (Dennis Hopper) taken from Pindar. There is also a hint of the Medea (Jolene Blalock) that Jason will get to meet in the tragedy by Euripides. The only complaint is that unless you know the background on most of these characters you have no way of appreciating who is sailing with Jason. A prime example is when Orpheus mentions losing Eurydice but does not tell of how he almost won her back from Hades. Meanwhile, Atalanta seems to be interested in Jason (what would Artemis say?).
But while Matthew Faulk and Mark Skeet get credit for working the ancient sources into this telling of the tale, the problem is that the end result misses the magic of the Harryhausen version. The problem is twofold. First, the tenor of the story has contradictory impulses. On the one hand we have the active participation of the gods, with Hera (Olivia Williams) and Zeus (Angus MacFadyen) aiding and hindering Jason in his quest as they work out one of their frequent marital spats. But on the other hand there is an effort to make the story more realistic, in terms of the politics and relationships, which works against the idea of being the playthings of the gods. None of the actors strike heroic poses or speak in grand phrases and even Dennis Hopper is remarkable restrained in his performance. "Jason and the Argonauts" tries to reconcile these two by having the gods work behind the scenes for the most part, but then Poseidon stands up and that idea is quickly dispatched.
Second, Jason London as the title character looks too young. I know the actor was 28 when he made this mini-series but he seems like a youth. One of the problems with the story was while the greatest heroes in Greece would come to sail with Jason, a callow youth, which Apollonius solved by having Hera make them all want to go. Instead Faulk and Skeet have Jason make up have the crew with undesirables, some of whom provide comic relief, helped because of the aid of the guard who saved him from death as a youth. In other words, Jason leads the Argonauts because that is what was written in the script. Granted, this is consistent with the tone of the mini-series, but you cannot help but think that when Jason meets Medea that she is going to eat him alive (of course, she does much worse, but that is another tragedy). The end result is a production of "Jason and the Argonauts" that lacks the sense of heroic adventure that the tale personifies in classical mythology. It was okay and it should have been fantastic."
Quite good, actually.
werecat99 | 09/19/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Having read R.Graves' great book "Hercules, my shipmate", everything around the Argonauts has to be compared with it. This video passed the test.When I first got it, I was expecting something like the "Xena"and "Hercules" TV shows. During the first moments, I was pleasantly surprised. The costumes and background fits with what the ancient Greeks were supposed to be like, judging from urns and other relics and artifacts. The storyline goes closely to the ancient myths and the special effects are decent. Some inaccuracies are present; i.e. Hercules in Hera's service, but it's expected in similar movies.The actors: Derek Jacobi, Dennis Hopper, Frank Langella need no introduction, there are magnificent. The actress who plays Medea is very good as well, enchanting and mysterious. However, the leading actor in Jason's role is not good. However, for those of us who consider the ancient Jason a useless stud who happened to be in the right place at the right time, he fits in perfectly. And a brilliant casting decision: Brian Tompson as Hercules. I loved every scene he was in.Overall, it's a very entertaining film, but if you want a deeper and equally enjoyable work on the Argonauts, read R.Graves' great book "Hercules, my shipmate"."