For whatever reason, Roland Emmerich has decided to jettison his traditional style of destroying the world on film by way of pre-destined end-times or global warming or goo-covered aliens and has taken his cinematic endeavors in an entirely new direction. This time around, Emmerich doesn’t want to blow up the world – he wants to blow up literary history (and, by doing so, also blow up the minds, hearts, and souls of English lit majors everywhere).
In Anonymous, Emmerich riffs on the theory that William Shakespeare didn’t actually write all of his works, and that the entire literary world has been at the mercy of the widespread lie that he did. At its heart, Anonymous is a conspiracy flick. About Shakespeare. It’s a Shakespeare-icy flick (you’re welcome). Somehow, Emmerich’s bizarre left-hand turn into historical whodunit gathered a solid cast that includes Edward Hogg, David Thewlis, Vanessa Redgrave, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, and Rafe Spall. I don’t know if they’re in on the joke or not, but Anonymous still looks like the cheap punchline of a terrible joke that doesn’t quite make sense. Even the jokes about this film seem too strange to be real:
The sets and the costumes for Anonymous do look good enough to pass the film off as a regular ol’ period piece, but all the gratuitous shots of flames and swordplay, coupled with some wildly unnecessary and overdone overhead shots of innocent British villages signal that this is indeed an Emmerich affair. The only thing that will truly surprise about Anonymous is if Emmerich doesn’t take his revisionist history to the next degree and blow up the Globe Theatre mid-performance by way of some sort of massive fireball that shoots out dinosaurs and naked women while the theatre-going citizens run around ablaze, shocked and dismayed that they will never see what happens at the end of Hamlet (hint, theatre-goers, it’s a tragedy, they all die, learn your Shakespeare). God save the Queen.