Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Wicker Tree (2011): Review

The Wicker Tree is a 2011 film intended as a companion piece to The Wicker Man(1973) and is adapted from the 2006 novel Cowboys for Christ . Helmed by original director Robin Hardy  the film stars Graham McTavish (Rambo, Colombiana), Brittania Nicol and Henry Garrett. As with the original the film was set and filmed on location in Scotland.

 The film follows the couple of former raunchy pop star Beth Boothby (Nicol) and simple cowboy Steve (Garrett) as they are sent to the heathen Scottish countryside to convert the locals to their born-again christian beliefs. There they are greeted by Sir Lachlan Morrisson (McTavish) and the rest of the locals who are fascinated by the exotic missionaries and are only happy to hear them preach the good word of Jesus. However things soon turn sour as Steve is seduced by local Jezebel Lolly and the ulterior motives of the villagers come to the fore in the form of their pagan mayday celebrations.

The fact that this "sequel" has taken 38 years to be made tells you everything you need to know about this film, it's unnecessary. The Wicker Man is a seminal work with a pretty final ending, which begs the question why has Robin Hardy decided to make a sequel after all these years? Although the film doesn't follow on from the orginal in a direct way, it's certainly set in the same universe and deals with a lot of the same themes which for me made the film feel like a fairly pointless retread of a classic. The film offers nothing new to explain the mythos behind the pagan cults and the events play out in a relatively identical manner (with one major exception),  the only glaring difference is the budget with this incarnation looking a lot prettier than the made-for-tv looking original. It also saddens me that the legendary (and visibly ailing) Christopher Lee was wheeled out for an utterly pointless cameo to link this film with the original, his dialogue is unintelligible and his appearance is purely to get a name star associated with the project.

All that being said, if you asses the film completely independently of it's famous "companion piece" it's actually not a terrible film, and if you compare it to the 2005 remake of The Wicker Man, it's a bloody fantastic film! It's quite fun to see these fanatical Americans dropped into the pagan Scottish countryside and the clash of cultures is something that works well within the original story. The acting and script are fine if not a little bizarre but that's certainly in keeping with the tone of the original whose eccentricity still has viewers scratching their heads. A very important aspect which has also been retained from the original is the rural setting which is as much of a presence as any of the actors in the film, this ties in well to the themes of the story and the reasons for the eventual actions of the Scottish pagans.

If you've never seen The Wicker Man then you may get some enjoyment out of this but the people who are most likely to understand the film are those that are more than familiar with the original. It is ironic then that this movie offers absolutely nothing to those people who, in all honesty, would never have wanted a sequel to The Wicker Man. That film was a self contained story due to it's strangeness and inaccessibility and did not require any kind of sequel or follow-up.

2 Stars **

What did you think of The Wicker Tree? Was it a worthwhile sequel?


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