Cleopatra is a wild ride. Just looking at the cover and reading the synopsis will not prepare you even for a fraction of what happens in this movie and while overall it’s drawn out mess there’s enough crazy in this to warrant a watch.
First things first, when it comes to story Cleopatra is a rather dull, stretched out, vaguely historical retelling of Cleopatra’s life that mixes historical accounts with some legends and its own original scenes. For some reason this is all wrapped in the premise of people way far in the future going to the past cause they overheard aliens talking about a plan
that has Cleopatra’s name in it.
Either way none of this would be worth talking about as something bad after all there’s nothing inherently wrong with alternative history plots that stray from historical facts for drama. What breaks the story elements of this movie apart is that it can’t find balance between comedy, surreal and arty segments and the drama. When it wants to be funny it is actually hilarious at times and when it goes for the surreal a lot of the time it is beautiful and captivating but when it goes for drama there’s a sharp contrast. Cleopatra most of the time speeds over the moments that would humanize the characters or make you really care or sympathize with them so when it comes to tragedy or joy it’s hard to get those emotions out of the movie, so more likely response is just “so what, when’s this scene gonna end”. The movie lasts just sightly under 2 hours but thanks to all the serious segments it feels like all 3.
Luckily there’s a lot more to this than drama that makes this movie easy to recommend to anyone with passing interest. First of all the comedy is really good a lot of the time. With old shows and movies there’s sometimes a concern about how it aged. What was hilarious 40 or 50 years ago might be puzzling now but Cleopatra is not an example of that. The humor is surprisingly really damn inventive and even if something falls flat the movie never lingers on it and instead offers something different at a steady rate. I couldn’t expect a movie made in 1970 to feel so fresh.
The second and probably bigger attribute of enjoyment is how wild this movie gets with its visuals. That is evident right from the start because for some reason the movie opens up on live action footage with 2D faces drawn over actors and one of first visuals in Egypt you get is a psychedelic montage of romans massacring people in a way that’s simultaneously gruesome and cartoony way. Somewhere closer to the middle there’s a parade in Rome which consists out of pretty damn detailed animations that parody some famous paintings from many different styles. It’s just wild and even though it doesn’t persist throughout the entire movie there’s still a lot here to entertain the eye.
Just in case the hentai tag concerns you, don’t worry, it’s really hard to characterize this movie as erotic despite the story having a lot to do with seduction and sex. Yes there’s boobs, yes there’s sex on the screen but it’s so cartoony and sometimes surreal that it makes Titanic seem like hardcore german porn in comparison.
In short, the story is poorly written and not engaging but the comedy and visuals make up for it. It’s not great but definitely a unique watch.