After the onslaught of media coverage about the live-action Mulan film released by Disney, from marketing material to the controversy over the film itself, it is not entirely surprising that this female warrior was my first thought upon watching The Legend of Tomiris. While nowhere near as well-covered as the criticisms of Mulan have been, several nations have taken issue with the content in The Legend of Tomiris as well. However, while the issues of Mulan have much more to do with production and the politics of cast members, the issues with The Legend of Tomiris have more to do with the actual content of the narrative. And this would make sense, as this film is based on an actual historical figure, while Hua Mulan has long thought to have been a fictional character.
Queen Tomiris (Almira Tursyn) was an actual historical figure from 6th Century BCE, in a region now known as Iran (which is part of the film’s controversy, as it is a Kazakhstani film), who united the nomad people of the Scythian tribes to fight against an oppressive Persian army. After surviving a slaughter that kills her family, Tomiris grows to become a tough female warrior, leading an army of Amazonian soldiers. Even when Tomiris eventually finds a husband deserving of her support, she is never portrayed as anything other than a strong leader. It is refreshing to see a film depicting a strong female without the need to show her emasculating the men in her life (even when it is deserving), and the result is a character fitting the title of Queen.
The Legend of Tomiris is epic in scope, following Tomiris from her troubled childhood until the military conflict she is best known for. There may be some debate over the accuracy of the film’s events, but there is no denying the effectiveness of the film’s feminist themes in the depiction of a strong historical figure. And though there may be issue with Kazakhstan taking ownership of a figure which may have been closer to Iran, the strength of the filmmaking alone should warrant praise to the country of origin. This is especially true when considering the battle sequences, which can be rather large in scale. Only a few sequences of poor CGI is a reminder of the shortcoming of the national cinema, and thankfully these moments are reserved for animals and dream sequences rather than the actual battles.
The Legend of Tomiris may not be a perfect film. I certainly don’t know enough about the actual history to take issue with any one factual error but believe others when they criticize with these mistakes. On the other hand, were it not for this film, I may not have been aware of Tomiris to begin with. Audiences are welcome to research the historical accuracy of the events after the film, but there is no denying the power of a film’s ability to make audience members aware of a topic in need of researching in the first place. It is also never a bad thing to have increased representation, both containing a strong female character and a rare Kazakhstani export in the international film world.
Though the Blu-ray release of The Legend of Tomiris doesn’t contain much in terms of special features on the disc itself, there is a DVD copy included. With that being said, the Blu-ray is the preferred format to view the film. As mentioned, the scope of the film is impressive. This paired with solid cinematography makes this a spectacle best enjoyed in high definition.
Entertainment Value: 6.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 7/10
Special Features: 3/10