Last week I was all excited for upcoming historical films. This week though, I learned about Outlaw King…
Maybe I’m still hurting from Braveheart. Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive to depictions of periods I’ve studied in depth. Or maybe, just maybe, this is lining up to be something awful.
What are the danger signs?
First, they’re referring to one of the most famous stories in British history as “untold”. Robert the Bruce’s war against the English is one of the most famous incidents in British history. He’s Scotland’s biggest national hero. The only way your version of this story is “untold” is if you’re making it up instead of trying to tell the truth.
Then there’s the version of Bruce they seem to be going for – the struggling hero. Bruce was many things – successful soldier, political manipulator, a man who freed Scotland so that he could rule it. If we want to tell a real story of nationhood and liberation then we should acknowledge that it often happens for selfish ends. Accuracy means not idolising a man who murdered his rival in a church.
That more nuanced story would be more interesting as well as more accurate. We’ve seen plenty of un-nuanced stories of historical heroism. Let’s having something more sophisticated. Let’s trust readers to follow a flawed man achieving great things.
Of course, I’m prejudging. This film could turn out to be fantastic.
But it won’t.
And worst of all, because I love this period of history, I’ll still end up watching it.