20th Century Fox has gone live with a rather well put together website for Vincent Ward's historical drama River Queen at www.riverqueenthemovie.com. It's a beautiful site though IT will take a while to load at its highest quality setting over dial-up. It even took a minute per section over my Woosh connection.

Of interest is Ward's blurb about the making of the film in which he goes to seemingly great lenghts to explain how he was a responsible and safety-conscious film maker. There's little talk of the series of disasters which struck the production and eventually saw Ward removed as director. Instead he talks about standing alone in the Thames with a camera shooting pick up shots during post production and bludging free special effects services off charitable film makers who believed in the story.

There's enough drama in the story behind the making of River Queen to fill a Lost in La Mancha style documentary. I just hope someone was standing around with a DV camera when the shit really hit the fan. I understand that Ward's partner, who is also a film maker, is preparing a documentary about the making of River Queen. It could be a cracker if they make it a warts-and-all look at what really went on though I doubt anyone concerned will want to rake through those coals.

As for the movie, I have a bad feeling about it. Some Film Commission development staff told me the script by Ward and Toa Fraser was one of the best they'd ever read. Whether it has translated well to the screen is another story. I was a bit perturbed by Ward's comments in the Sunday Star Times a few weeks ago that US critics who'd been less than flattering of the movie so far didn't really get New Zealand history. They shouldn't have to. The story should be able to carry itself in the same way that Michael Mann's Last of the Mohicans doesn't need a prerequisite history lesson in North American colonial history to be understood.

The movie's trailers have come along. The one I saw a few months back was flat and lifeless. The one on the website is much better. Still, the movie seems a bit melodramatic and over wrought for my liking.

The harshest of the reviews that came from River Queen's showings at the Toronto Film Festival was undoubtably the one penned by Variety reviewer Scott Foundas:

"This longtime dream project for the acclaimed Kiwi helmer -- and his first pic since 'What Dreams May Come' in 1998 -- finally reaches the screen as a waterlogged would-be epic, lacking the emotion, narrative invention and visual brilliance that mark Ward's best films (including 'The Navigator' and 'Map of the Human Heart'). Having driven most of its Toronto industry screening audience into a deep slumber or early exit, 'River' looks to be cast out to sea by most theatrical buyers.

Here's hoping he nodded off and missed the best parts. Soon we'll all be able to pass judgement ourselves. River Queen has its premiere on the 24th of January in Wanganui with a nationwide release following on the 26th.

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