1492 -- Conquest of Paradise (1992)



Director:     Ridley Scott

Starring:     Gerard Depardieu (Columbus), Sigourney Weaver (Queen Isabella), Armand Assante (Sanchez), Frank Langella (Santangel), Loren Dean (Older Fernando), Angela Molina (Beatrix), Fernando Rey (Marchena), Michael Wincott (Adrian de Moxica), Tchekyo Karyo (Pinzon). 

Country:    US-British-French-Spanish film

Columbus discovers the New World.  




Spoiler Warning:  below is the summary of the entire movie. 

Good movie.  Columbus learns that he will be given a hearing on his theories about the earth and sailing to China at the University of Salamanca.  He talks about Marco Polo and his hope of opening a new route to Asia.  When Columbus journeys to the University of Salamanca in 1491 he arrives at a time that they are burning heretics in the square.  He is met with a great deal of skepticism and the statement that the ocean cannot be crossed. 

Columbus is very discouraged.  He bemoans the fact that he has waited seven years already.    Then he is given a ray of hope when Alonzo, a shipowner, comes to him and tells him that he knows a banker, Santangel, who the Queen owes money to.

January 2, 1942.  The fall of Granada.  The Christians take down the symbols of Moorish power. 

Columbus meets Sanchez, who vouches for him to the Queen.  The 39 year old Columbus meets the Queen.  Columbus is very ambitious.  He wants to be knighted and be called "Don."  He also wants to become the Great Admiral of the Seas and governor of the lands he discovers,  He also wants one-tenth of all the wealth acquired under his jurisdiction. 

The Queen says yes.

Port of Palos, August 3, 1492.  The voyage of the three ships begins.  The sailors become discouraged and one of them, Pinzon, says that the voyage is cursed.  But Columbus continues on.

Land is spotted.  Guanahani Island, October 12, 1942.  Columbus meets the natives.  He starts to build a settlement he calls San Salvador.  On every island he is welcomed with great generosity, but little gold is found. 

Columbus leaves 39 men behind to build a fort while he returns to Spain.  He greets the Queen again.  He introduces tobacco to the court.  He presents to the court the Indians that traveled with him to Spain. 

On Columbus's second expedition he asks for 17 ships and 1,500 men.  He also lets it be known that he wants to be Governor of the area.  Along with him, go his two brothers. 

November 28, 1493.  West Indies.  When Columbus and his party arrives he is not greeted by the men he left behind.  Instead he finds their skulls and the fort burned.  But Columbus vows that there will be no revenge.  He has built a church and a huge bell is mounted in the tower.  He declares this the first city of the new world.  The Spanish put the Indians to work digging for gold. 

The sadistic Spaniard Adrian de Moxica cuts off the hand of an Indian worker who he accuses of hiding gold from the Europeans.  All the tribes band against the Spanish who then have to fight off the Indians.  Columbus says that Moxica will be sent back to Spain to be punished, but Moxica leads a revolt of some of the Spaniards and Indians against Columbus.  Columbus corners Moxica and the rebel throws himself off the cliff to his death. 

Reports back home say that Columbus is a bad administrator and that Columbus must be replaced. 

Port of Isabel, September 15, 1500.  Bobadilla will be the new Governor to replace Columbus.  He arrives and tells Columbus that he is now the Viceroy of the Indies.  He also tells the discoverer that the mainland was discovered weeks ago, by Amerigo Vespucci.  

Columbus has to return home. 

Castile Prison, January 1501.  Columbus is imprisoned for making the nobles work as virtual slaves and for treating both the heathens and the Christians the same. 

Columbus wants to go on a third trip of exploration.  The Queen agrees as long as he does not take his brothers along with him (too much nepotism) and that he does not return to the colonies themselves.  About the New World, the Queen says to him: "The new one is a disaster," and Columbus responds "And the old one is an achievement?"  

Columbus is released from prison.  While at home, his son Fernando takes notes from his father for a book on his explorations:  "Father, tell me everything you remember."

1502  --  on his last voyage, Columbus went with Fernando to Panama.  The Indians told him about an ocean on the other side of the mountains (the Pacific Ocean). 

Fernando's book helped restore Columbus's name to its proper place in history (vis--vis Amerigo Vespucci).  

A little better than the other 1992 movie on Columbus, but not by much.  Depardieu probably was not the best casting they could have come up with.


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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