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A star-studded and deservedly panned historical epic that recouped a whopping 5% of its budget gets dug up on streaming

Aimed for prestige, only to take a pounding instead.

queen of the desert
Image via IFC Films

Each and every year without fail, a slew of prestige dramas emerge from the Hollywood woodwork with transparent eyes on awards season glory. You can set your watch to it and have been able to do so for decades, but Queen of the Desert couldn’t have fared much worse than it did.

Of course, it’s hard to say whether or not the historical epic inspired by an incredible true story was precision-engineered as awards bait, for the sole reason that the idiosyncratic and wildly eccentric Werner Herzong was at the helm, because he’s never exactly been one to conform to industry standards.

And yet, when you’ve got Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman playing the lead role of Gertrude Bell – who rejected life as a well-to-do socialite in favor of traveling to Tehran and enduring through a fiancee who committed suicide to become an archeologist, cartographer, explorer, and political aide amongst other things – it’s hard not to think otherwise.

queen of the desert
via IFC Films

That’s without even mentioning a stacked ensemble that also featured Robert Pattinson, James Franco, and Damian Lewis to name but three, although the glaring omission was that everyone involved seemingly completely forgot to make a movie that wasn’t terrible on every imaginable level.

Trounced by critics to the tune of an 18 percent Rotten Tomatoes approval rating – and buried almost as hard by audiences – Queen of the Desert also tanked spectacularly at the box office. Carrying a budget of $36 million, the elegiac period piece could only scrape together $2 million in ticket sales, which is nothing short of an utter embarrassment.

The plus side is that any self-respecting historical adventure will always find a new lease of life on streaming without fail, and we can now add the ignominious failure to the list after FlixPatrol outed Queen of the Desert as one of the most-watched titles on iTunes.

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Scott Campbell

News, reviews, interviews. To paraphrase Keanu Reeves; Words. Lots of words.