As religion is a touchy and controversial subject, it's difficult for cinema to cover the subject without being offensive, preachy, or downright sloppy. The Mexican film "The Other Conquest" may focus on some interesting religious issues, but sadly the film's potential is never fully realized.
The story centers around the Spanish army of Hernando Cortes which has invaded Mexico and slaughtered the Aztecs. One Aztec did survive (Topiltzin), but his survival is not a blessing as he is captured by the Spanish and is forced to change his life and religion.
"The Other Conquest" may have a provoking and fascinating premise, but director Salvador Carrasco isn't a strong enough writer or director to make the material come to life. The acting is amateurish and often lifeless, the script contains laughable dialogue like "Stupid Friar, you'll never convert them!" or "Sun God why have you forsaken meeeee?", the direction is flat and pretentious (lots of slow-motion and quiet gazes at a Virgin Mary statue), and the sets look like leftovers from a soap opera.
It's a shame the material was squandered since the central story is so strong. I find it intriguing that even though the Spanish were portrayed as the villains by forcing Aztecs to convert to Christianity, the Aztecs were equally as extreme with their religious beliefs as they often sacrificed women. The film tends to look favorably upon the Aztecs as Topiltzin tries to refrain from converting and stand by his culture. That's not to say that I think what the Spanish did was right. On the contrary, the Aztec had the right to survive and didn't deserve to be inhumanely destroyed and controlled. Additionally, I also felt that Topiltzin's story was both brave and inspiring. However, I think it would have been wiser to see a more unbiased and neutral look at the dangers and complications of each religious belief.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen picture looks about as good as some of the one dollar DVDs you find at Target. The entire film appears fuzzy and blurry. However, since the film is clearly a low budget production, I'll be generous and award the video quality 2 stars.
The Dolby Surround 5.1 track isn't exactly on par with say the "Transformers" audio track, but the dialogue always comes through clear enough (although the tone seems a bit too low at times).
* 3 trailers for "The Other Conquest" and previews for "Macbeth" and "Beowulf And Grendel."
* 15 deleted (and extended) scenes (running nearly 31 minutes). There are more scenes with the Aztecs, the Friar, and the Virgin Mary. While some of the scenes add more depth to the characters, virtually all of this deleted footage are filled with overlong takes that would have hurt the already poor pacing and made the film even more overlong than it already is.
* An all too brief 6 minute "Making Of The Other Conquest" that gives us behind the scenes footage of sets, location shooting, and interviews with the cast and director.
* A commentary track by director Salvador Carrasco. I'm not sure if Salvador had a transcript of a previous commentary track he did, but I found it unintentionally funny that he was clearly reading from a script. Even with the silly reading, Salvador provides some insight into the themes, symbolism, character motivations, underlying meanings of "The Other Conquest."
In a time when clashes over religious beliefs continue to occur, "The Other Conquest's" message is more timely than ever. Unfortunately, writer/director Salvador Carrasco's lack of skills prevent him from creating a powerful film focusing on these important issues. Skip it.
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.