When it comes to Western mythology and legends, there is one name that looms large, King Arthur. Just mention this British monarch to anyone in the Western world and you are likely to hear about swords in stones, love triangles and a wizard named Merlin. Because the stories are so well known, you would think people would be tired of revisiting them. But it didn’t stop director John Boorman from bringing his own take to the screen right before the Barbarian Age of fantasy films kicked in.
Some of this may be familiar to you. Merlin (Nicol Williamson) is trying to get some order going around these Dark Ages, so he helps out Uther Pendragon (Gabriel Byrne) by giving him the sword of power: Excalibur. Unfortunately Uther is a lustful hothead that destroys all of Merlin’s plans. Merlin is able to smuggle baby Arthur away from all the bloody insanity to be brought up by a good knight. Many years later Arthur (Nigel Terry) pulls a sword from a stone, starts a civil war and battles alongside Captain Picard… I mean Leodegrance (Patrick Stewart) much to the delight of Guinevere (Cherie Lunghi). Arthur forges the Table Round, builds Camelot and marries his queen.
But things start going downhill once Lancelot (Nicholas Clay) shows up. He is a master knight, but falls for the Queen. Prodded by the plotting, scheming Morgana (Helen Mirren), Sir Gawaine (Liam Neeson) challenges Lancelot to a mighty duel. But Lancelot proves his innocence in a contest of arms. That doesn’t mean too much, because eventually Arthur finds his wife and best friend naked in the forest. The King is unable to slay them, and leaves Excalibur behind, plunging the land into famine and despair. The only hope for The Knights of the Round Table is to find the Holy Grail. Sir Perceval (Paul Geoffrey) nearly achieves the quest, but discovers that Morgana and her unholy son Mordred (Robert Addie) are preparing to wrest the kingdom from the ailing Arthur. Can Perceval obtain the grail and return it to the King? And even if he manages that, does Arthur have any hope against the deadly Mordred without Excalibur at his side?
- Very impressive visual style that creates a mythic feel
- Admirable job condensing all the key events of the legend into 140 minutes
- The use of classical music works wonders in many key scenes
- The film is not subtle at all, some of the acting and visuals are over the top
- Some of the actors are miscast
- Tries to cram in so many elements that you never get a lot of depth to the characters
This is Arthurian legend presented as mythic saga, not afraid of the blood or sex that saturate the narrative. Boorman uses impressive location shooting, eye-popping color and visual storytelling to bring the stories to life. The side effect is that diving into all the passions of the Arthurian saga leads to some over the top dialogue, acting and settings. It gives the movie the feel of the dream at times. For all its enthusiasm the film manages to be entertaining and powerful. I feel this is still the definitive film version of the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
Scores(out of 5)
In Depth Review
|King, Queen and Champion stand before God at the Table Round.|
|Merlin is about to get this party started!|
|Uther does not understand the power of a king, and wastes Excalibur.|
|All the knights in these early scene are wearing black or grey armor.|
|A young King Arthur is about to meet his match... and his Champion.|
|The stark contrast between the fallen King and the noble shimmering Champion.|
|The wedding sequence is awash in silver for the knights, and green for|
the natural world. "The Land and the King are one."
|The quest isn't going so well.|
|Mordred doubts the veracity of your claim.|
|The final ride from Camelot|
|You would think Percival would wipe some of Mordred's blood off of|
Excalibur before he returned it to the Lady of the Lake.
|You wold think that if anyone could pull the sword from the stone,|
it would be the captain of the Enterprise.
|Boorman said that Mirren and Williamson disliked each other, but|
it added to the rivalry between Morgana and Merlin.
|The Quest for the Holy Grail begins as the land is plunged into|
uncertainty. "The King without a sword, the land without a king!"
|The moment where Arthur forges the knighthood, and the Round Table.|
|Arthur knew the Lady of the Lake was around, because of 70s synths.|
|Neeson embraces the boorish nature of Sir Gawain.|
|"Look lady, I've seen the future. I know what you do with your brother.|
See a therapist. I hear Sir Bors is a good listener."
|Did I mention that Mirren vamps it up a little bit... just a touch.|
|Would you trust this guy to find anything, much less the HOLY GRAIL!?|
|Young Arthur ignoring the spirited advice from Merlin about love.|
|"Come father. Let us embrace at last."|
|Guinevere tries to chat up Lancelot, but he is "sworn to the quest".|
I doesn't last long.
|Husband and wife, King and Queen, meet one last time.|
|The Round Table is revealed to Percival and the audience from an upper|
|Percival's armor probably smells as bad as it looks by this point.|
|"How spicy do you want your Hot Wings?"|
|I double checked, and that is not the Grail shaped beacon. It is the real thing!|
|The once and future king is taken to Avalon.|