It’s almost pointless to debate the film’s inaccuracies when it comes to plot and character relationships because there are so many different versions of the original story. But “Tristan and Isolde” does leave out some vital elements of the love affair, including its connection to the Arthurian legend, a potion binding the lovers in enduring love through life and death, Tristan’s marriage to another woman, the public accusation of lechery, the subsequent trial and Isolde’s sentence to life as a prostitute in a leper colony.(link to review of Tristan and Isolde in The Michigan Daily)
There’s so much more to the story than is depicted — years of suffering and betrayal, longing and desperation. The film wraps it all into a nice, two-hour-long MTV rendering where all of the honorable characters have the svelte bodies and glowing skin of runway models, and the bad guys look more like Grima Wormtongue. It’s entertaining, sure — but the reshaping of the story makes it tragically insubstantial.
The tale’s real power is in the epic quality of the love story. The film has been stripped of its historical significance, mystery and all the qualities that have made the legend so enduring in our culture. By catering to adolescent girls’ infatuation with stories of forbidden love, “Tristan and Isolde” loses its potential to become anything more than a sexier version of “A Knight’s Tale,” and settles for an easy spot in the middle of the bell curve.
The New York Times noted the PG-13 rating was due "to some fairly bloodless fighting and some very chaste lovemaking."