Movies

The Best and Worst of The Princess Bride

Intro

I love this movie. I was first introduced to The Princess Bride as a child, and watched it again as a college student, and then a third time as a graduate student. It’s hilarious from beginning to end, with a few serious parts spliced in for dramatic effect.

Just as a warning, there are spoilers below!

Background

The Princess Bride (1987) is a fantasy comedy film based on the novel of the same name written by William Goldman.

It can currently be watched on Disney Plus.

The Best and Worst of The Princess Bride

An Expertly Done Frame Story

The Best:

The frame narrative of the ailing grandson becoming increasingly interested in his grandfather’s enchanting book is heartwarming. The interruptions to return to this frame story are well placed and add to both the suspense and the character of the film. I do not usually like frame stories, but I felt that this one is well done and adds rather than detracts from the story.

I love the way that the grandfather brings the book as a wrapped present for his grandson. It reminds me of when the library at my college wrapped books so that people could take them home and get a surprise. I chose one myself and was delightfully surprised with a story that I never would have picked out myself but that I enjoyed more than expected.

The kid’s response is priceless. He is not excited by a musty old book. (I definitely would have been even as a child.)

The Worst:

That the sick grandson is disinterested in his cheek-pinching grandfather and more apt to play video games than read is stereotypical of the way kids are portrayed in the media. That is not all that surprising, especially since it is often true of children that they are not especially likely to listen to the wisdom of their elders over the clever banter of a television or mobile device. It’s an old movie though, so ideas like this that are now overused were much newer and less worn out than they are now.

The Details:

Did you notice the assortment of Christmas themed craft projects in the room? When the camera shifts and you get a glimpse of the entirety of each figure, you see the creepiness that only the vaguely humanoid creations of children can impart. Or maybe it’s because I have always thought Santa was creepy. I mean, supposedly he sees you when you’re sleeping, like some sort of Twilight vampire.

Also, the kid has Garfield in the background of his room, which I can appreciate. Garfield is just plain funny. (Yeah, I like old stuff…)

Plus, am I the only one grossed out when people lick a finger before turning a page? When is that ever necessary? I have read hundreds, possibly even a couple thousand unique books, and I have never felt that the pages were so hard to turn that only my saliva would do the trick.

“As You Wish”

The Best: Now I don’t love romance, but I think it’s pretty sweet that Westley says “as you wish” to mean “I love you.” The fact that she convinces him to do things such as fetch a pitcher that’s hanging inches from her head in order to spend more time with him is kind of cute too.

Inconceivable

The Best: Vizzini keeps using this phrase as Westley is chasing him, adding humor to the dark scene of them kidnapping and planning to kill Buttercup.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Inigo Montoya

Fight Scene: Inigo vs. Westley

The Best:

Inigo Montoya’s fight with Westley is priceless. It begins with Inigo impatient with how long it is taking Westley to scale the cliffs, so in a display of foolish yet goodhearted sportsmanship, he throws him a rope. The level of trust becomes ridiculous when Inigo hands his sword over to Westley to inspect. Yet this is not poorly done, it is merely the revelation of a well-developed character who will have his own fascinating character arc. Including left-handed fighting for characters who are right-handed was clever too.

The Worst: The weapons are very strange choices, being long and thin rapier-style blades. At least Westley as a pirate is unlikely to have such a blade. Unlike real rapiers, they wobble at their tips considerably. The fight, with its spins and flips at times, is far from realistic, but I find myself not minding much because it’s a comedy.

Predicting the Future

Fezzik: Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?

Westley: Oh no. It’s just they’re terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.

The Best: Westley successfully predicted the future! Everyone is wearing masks these days!

The Worst: Westley lied to us. They are not terribly comfortable, and for people who wear glasses like me, they tend to fog up glasses and impede sight, at least in winter.

The Details: Westley’s mask covers the top half of his face rather than the bottom half, so maybe it is more comfortable for him? I kind of doubt it.

The Battle of Wits

The Best: Vizzini, unlike Fezzik or Inigo, is no expert when it comes to physical prowess. He engages in a mental game with Westley, but it turns out to be a no-win situation for Vizzini. Cleverly, Westley puts poison in both drinks and convinces Vizzini that he must pick the one that is not poisoned and they will both drink at the same time. Only, Westley has built up an immunity to the poison and thus does not feel its effects. Vizzini’s intellect is at least not as immense as he believes that Australians are all criminals and thus do not trust each other and somehow connects that to the challenge at hand. It’s all very funny.

Westley being difficult

The Worst: Westley treating Buttercup like she’s unfaithful is terrible. She thought he was dead for five years. She should be permitted to move on! Instead he says the promise of a woman means nothing, and that she is incapable of love. It is like Odysseus questioning Penelope’s loyalty after being gone so long, after she had been nothing but loyal to him.

Westley’s Death

The Worst: Something about the whole death scene bugs me. You know from the beginning Westley cannot die in a comedy, since he is the hero. “Mostly” dead is funny, but not convincing.

Fight Scene: Inigo vs. Count Rugen

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

The Best: We finally get to see Inigo avenge his father. I hate the point where Inigo is seriously wounded with a knife because I remember that was when I thought he might fail, forgetting that this movie is a comedy. This is probably the most serious part in the whole movie. Rugen is a complete coward, initially running away, throwing a knife from afar. This is not the honorable fight that we saw in Inigo vs. Westley. Inigo echoes the wounds Rugen gave him, including the facial scars, before killing him.

A Fight to the Pain

The Best: Westley challenges Humperdinck to a “fight to the pain,” which is basically a way to leave someone alive but barely after a fight, but the way he speaks of it is frightening and scares Humperdinck into surrendering, even though it is a bluff. It’s creative the way he chooses how to cause the most pain.

Conclusion

The Princess Bride is a classic that you won’t want to miss if you haven’t already watched it.

Recommended Links

  • A great Youtube video breakdown of the Inigo vs. Westley fight by Jill Bearup
  • A great Youtube video breakdown of Inigo vs. Rugen fight by Jill Bearup

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