Declaring 1492 the victor of 1992’s dueling Christopher Columbus bio-pics may sound like the ultimate backhanded compliment, but there is much else to savor in Scott’s uneven but ambitious, psychologically complex rendering of the Italian explorer (played by Gérard Depardieu) supported by Spain’s Queen Isabella I (Sigourney Weaver) in his quixotic quest to circumnavigate the earth. As intrigued by what happened after Columbus discovered the “New World” as before, Scott and screenwriter Roselyne Bosch follow the character through the turn of the 16th century, his ill-fated stint as Viceroy and Governor of the new lands, and his ultimate return to Spain–in chains. Throughout, the film views Columbus as neither conquering hero nor genocidal imperialist, but rather a flawed yet fascinating man of his times, at once exploiter and exploited. With stunning, magic-hour cinematography by Adrian Biddle and music by Vangelis.
“Ridley Scott's 1492: Conquest of Paradise sees Christopher Columbus as more complex and humane than in the other screen treatments of the character. His Columbus is an enlightened revision of the traditional figure, treating Indians the same as Spanish noblemen and seeming content with the notion that nature, not the Catholic God, is their deity.”
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times