While it wasn’t a big hit at the time, 17 years later there is still a soft spot in my heart for The Road to El Dorado. The story follows two Spanish con-men, Miguel (Kenneth Branagh) and Tulio (Kevin Kline) as they accidentally stow away on the ship of Hernan Cortes on his way to conquer whatever empires of the New World he may come across, and end up discovering the legendary city of gold, El Dorado, where they are mistaken for gods.
(I wrote about one of the film’s songs here)
Miguel and Tulio are initially content with their plan to amass as much gold as possible and then sailing away to “ascend to the heavens” in a boat they’re having the residents of El Dorado build for them, but complications quickly begin to emerge. For one, Miguel is quickly becoming enamored of life in the hidden city. And, as he points out to Tulio, leaving to live like a “king” somewhere else would be a step-down from “god.”
For another, the high priest, Tzekel-Kan, is suspicious of the pair as they do not behave as the gods are supposed to (nor are they supposed to bleed as Miguel does after cheating to win a ball game) and is determined to expose the two as frauds. There’s also the looming threat of Hernan Cortes, who will surely destroy El Dorado and enslave the populace if he can find it.
And yes, I admit, the music has something to do with why I like this film as much as I do. With the orchestral score composed by Hans Zimmer, the music is a blend of Spanish sounds (heard mostly in the beginning of the film) and a “New World” sound that takes over once Miguel and Tulio discover El Dorado. I was delighted to discover a full length behind the scenes look at creating the score for this movie, with thoughts from Hans Zimmer, Elton John (who worked with Tim Rice on the songs) and also Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh, the voices of Miguel and Tulio.
If you haven’t given The Road to El Dorado a try, I sincerely hope that you give the movie a chance. It has terrific animation and, as I’ve said, a wonderful musical score.
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The Road to El Dorado “It’s Tough to Be a God” (2000)
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