46 thoughts on “MCM: King Arthur

    1. Nicol Williamson was a wonderful Merlin in “Excalibur.” It’s always bothered me that the pretty decent young-adult version of “The Crystal Cave” (the first book in Mary Stewart’s Merlin trilogy) can only be found on YouTube in terrible video; the books are very fine, and the series should be remade.

  1. I gotta say, Sean Connery is my favorite. I really, really love First Knight. I would have chosen Arthur in a heartbeat, since I don’t see the appeal of Richard Gere at all. :P

    1. That’s true of many of the Arthurian adaptations I’ve seen…I’ve often found Arthur more attractive than Lancelot. I’d have taken Sean Connery over Richard Gere even if he WAS old enough to be my grandfather at that point, and Nigel Terry in Excalibur is just gorgeous!

    1. It struck me just today that FIRST KNIGHT’s love triangle might have worked far better had Mr Gere played King Arthur and Sir Sean played Lancelot.

  2. King Arthur: Legend of The Sword is a bad movie on so many levels it’s almost tragicomic. It’s poorly directed (we do not need narration over fightscenes, we can see what’s happening onscreen), the costumes are awful (I don’t even remember what that one character was supposed be but in our family, we started calling him “Dressman King”) and overall the movie seemed to think it was the “coolest thing ever”, while being mediocre at best and downright awful at worst.

    1. What bugged me is that the creators seemed to have absolutely no interest in the actual Arthurian mythos beyond a few famous details (like the sword in the stone). At the end of the movie (spoilers?) a bunch of characters are revealed as famous Arthurian knights, but they’ve spent the entire movie bearing absolutely no resemblance to those characters in personality, role, or relationships. It’s basically randomly slapping labels on completely unconnected characters.

      It’s not that I’m against creative retellings, especially for material that’s been adapted so many times, but those retellings still need to have their roots in the source material. Then we can appreciate the clever and creative ways that a new teller might choose to reimagine the story. But if it’s just totally divorced from the original material I wonder why they bothered to adapt it at all when it feels like there’s no love or respect for the original legends.

      1. I remember the comment from the director Guy Ritchie that he wanted Arthur to be “street-smart” – huh? What streets?

        1. I think that has a lot to do with Guy Ritchie quietly knowing his limitations and style as a director. He’s a one-trick pony. He does good British gangster movies about wheeler-dealers, and when he makes a movie outside of that genre, he has to bend it slightly to be something he’s more comfortable with.

          When he makes movies completely outside of his genre, he makes irredeemable dogshit – Swept Away (2002). When he goes slightly outside of genre, like Sherlock Holmes, he had to mold into a bare-knuckle boxing, wise-cracking gangster flick. (Yes, Sherlock Holmes could fight, but he did so very rarely and only in self-defense.) That was his approach to Aladdin. He said, “My stories are really about street hustlers. That’s what I know how to do.”

          So that was his approach to King Arthur. Because when I think King Arthur, I think Cockney banter, amirite? But that’s all Guy Ritchie understands.

          Should’ve made a Robin Hood instead.

      2. This is the majority of modern Arthurania! Very Arthur positive and Arthur focused, which means other characters fall by the wayside and the tragedy of Arthur loses it’s power because writers don’t want to admit the Perfect King is a myth.

        I just looked up the Black Knight, how depressing that this is the biggest post medieval appearance of the noble Saracen knight Palamedes…

    2. I just think it’s so ridiculous that they tried to shoehorn Arthurian legend into dime-a-dozen action movie tropes. (MARTIAL ARTS. In a KING ARTHUR movie.) They did the same with that Robin Hood movie that came out a year or two later. When are we going to get a King Arthur or Robin Hood movie that’s at least somewhat faithful to the legends while also being fun and colorful?

  3. Looking over the list of Arthurian monarchs, it’s a little sad how often The Wart has been a supporting player (even a nonentity) in so many of his appearances: while this is perfectly reflective of his role in so many of the sources, it’s a pity that adaptations have tended to plump for a Nice Old King, rather than show Arthur as someone who burned bright but all too briefly.

    It’s also a little sad to see how very many Twain adaptations there have been, since it’s rather like an audience getting their best look at the Heroic Fantasy genre through the pages of DISCWORLD…

    A few further thoughts:-

    Mr Malcolm McDowell looks ASTONISHINGLY like a Lost Targaryen Prince (He’d have made an excellent Daemon Targaryen, back in the day).
    Ms. Julia Ormonde made a most perfect Guinevere, no matter how imperfect the film: Force of character, common sense, intelligence and still not able to conquer the unreasonable demands of her own heart.

    She really deserves to wear the crown in some new costume drama: perhaps she could take another shot at playing Catherine the Great of Russia?
    It’s a real pity that Mr Michael Sheen has never been cast as King Arthur (and at this point probably never will be: we’ll just have to hope someone casts him as Merlin in a future adaptation).
    While we’re hoping for that, I really want to see Mr Peter Capaldi play Merlin: I’d absolutely love to see him play the role in that upcoming THE SWORD IN THE STONE adaptation, but so long as he gets a shot at the pointy hat I’d be delighted to see him in any adaptation.
    The mighty Eva Green as Morgan le Fey Vs Mr Joseph Fiennes as Merlin are the best possible reasons to see CAMELOT: alas that we never got to see their rivalry play out in full.
    It’s quite impressive how funny MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL remains, even after being thoroughly spoilered by Pop culture osmosis.
    I actually quite liked LEGEND OF THE SWORD (If nothing else Mr Hunnam’s Arthur is NEVER boring and has an actual personality), but one gets the feeling Mr Guy Ritchie would suit Robin Hood far more elegantly than King Arthur: I’d especially
    love to see him tackle the old NOTTINGHAM script that Sir Ridley Scott was hired to film, but mostly ignored.

    You know, the one where the Sheriff and not Robin Hood is the actual protagonist.
    Looking back, the Clive Owen KING ARTHUR benefitted from a wealth of Dead Sound casting calls (Mr Stephen Dillane as Merlin was quite a surprise when I watched the film with the benefit of hindsight): you may imagine my glee when Mr Joel Edgerton showed up in THE GREEN KNIGHT.
    Which reminds me, Mr Dev Patel should absolutely play Kibg Arthur at some point: I kept looking at Sir Gawain and seeing The Wart (Especially when they put him in the full royals later in the film).
    Whatever the faults of the film, Mr Patrick Bergin absolutely looks the part of King Arthur (Hmmm … playing both King Arthur AND Count Dracula is an unusual double, if nothing else: he’s also played Robin Hood to boot!).

  4. I’m amazed nobody has ever tried to bring Mary Stewart’s ‘The Crystal Cave’ to the screen; that’s a really terrific novel. It would have to be pared down massively, even as a TV or streamed series, but it has huge potential.

    1. It was – Merlin of the Crystal Cave (1991). Though it might not count because next to no one has seen it, haha? But apparently it’s a faithful rendering.

      I’d personally rather see Thomas Berger’s Arthur Rex, to my mind the best modern retelling. It captures the Medieval voice so well, better than any other modern author. Plus it incorporates all the best parts of the legends ingeniously.

    2. Damn–I should have read through all the comments before posting mine above. I completely agree with you, Aleko.

  5. My main takeaway is Brian Aherne looks strikingly like Timothy Omundson (or vice versa). I do have a soft spot for Bradley James as Arthur though – I like that you got to see the progression of him from young, hot-headed prince to a proper leader and king, which is something a lot of adaptations don’t do.

  6. I love the 1931 “A Connecticut Yanky” with Will Rogers. It’s such a period piece of a period piece.
    I can imagine why you hate Boorman’s “Excalibur” but it’s one I like. It’s like a comic book. I like the early Uther section and the Christian mysticism section not often included in Arthur films. Bob Ringwood is a designer I like. The sorta British version of Danilo Donati.
    Anyway, it’s the only one of these films to treat the Christian thing as mystical mythology and I like that part of it.
    Anyway I can still see why it might drive you nuts.

  7. Excalibur is fondly remembered, viewed in a large theater with lots of cannabis to add atmosphere. Just saying.

  8. There’s an interesting making of documentary about Excalibur out there – definitely worth watching, even if you don’t like the film!

  9. Well, I’m looking forward to your snarking of Excalibar, I enjoyed it but am up for it being taken apart!

  10. You did miss the King Arthur from Perceval le Gallois, a film by Rohmer. It’s a very strange film, but I enjoy it! King Arthur is played by Marc Eyraud.

  11. I’ll also add the recommendation of Rohmer’s Perceval le Gallois (1978). It is, bar none and no comparison, the most authentic and faithful to its source material depiction of any Arthurian Legend. It is at times literally word-for-word the verse it is based on. There’s even an action scene that cuts off in the climax of the action to mimic the manuscript being unfinished in that part! Visually, it’s made to look like a manuscript come to life.

    But because of this faithfulness, it’s probably quite alien to most viewers. A film that actually captures the Medieval voice (instead of just pretending to) would indeed feel very alien. So people’s appreciation of it really boils down to how well you deal with arthouse films.

    The only concession to modernity is that it’s in Modern French, not the original Old French. But until a filmmaker comes along and makes a word-for-word adaption of an Arthurian legend while using a dead language, Perceval le Gallois cannot be matched for faithfulness.

    1. Glad to hear some Perceval love. I was introduced to it by a Medieval scholar who said what you did – most authentic Arthurian film possible. I had read Chretien de Troyes when I was a teenager and loved seeing it come to life. I also love the music!

    2. Thank you so much for this rec!! Definitely gonna check this out. Chretien’s Story of the Grail is actually a huge favorite of mine so I hope they did it justice.

  12. I absolutely live the Clive Owen King Arthur!!! How can you not like that one?! It’s the best! 😀

    1. oh, maybe the leather string bikini, the 16th century armor, the false Scythian/Sarmatian woo-woo aren’t enough?
      we can add Keira’s lamentable attempts at acting, Clive’s wooden posturing (honestly, he had the same 3 expressions in Close My Eyes) and the poorly executed “battle” choreography…

      1. On the plus side there’s some serious man candy on view! If you can manage to shut out everything but that…..
        I can never look at that knotted leather crushing Kiera’s boobs without wincing. That’s gotta hurt!

  13. I remember taping Arthur the King off the tv when it aired, trying to pause it to cut the commercials. I watched it SO MANY TIMES (I was 9 when it finally aired). I still have the tape, somewhere…

    I loved this movie. I know it’s awful, the costuming is meh, but the cast is amazing! Malcolm McDowell, Candace Bergen, Edward Woodward, Dyan Cannon, Lucy Gutteridge, a very young Rupert Everett, and Liam Neeson (playing a barbarian who literally speaks gibberish).

    OMG I JUST CHECKED AND IT’S AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE!!!!! (as Merlin and the Sword).

    I know what I’m watching tonight!

  14. Excalibur is a movie I love to hate. I get wine-drunk whenever I have to watch it.

    Sean Harris was excellent as King Arthur in ‘The Green Knight.’ That man knows his craft and I am always sad that he’s not better known.

  15. Seeing him together with Ms. Amanda Donohoe as his Guinevere (They are quite unspeakably gorgeous together) reminds me to add – Mr Michael York as King Arthur?

    H*** YES!

  16. This puts me in mind of something Christi Esterle (aka Diva) said in her Musical Hell review of the film version of Camelot: it seems the first thing filmmakers do when they want audience to take their King Arthur adaptation seriously is to remove all the magic/fantasy elements. That’s even true of said Camelot adaptation…nearly all of the fantasy elements of T.H. White’s novel or the original stage play are cut. King Pellinore is no longer looking for the Questing Beast, Merlin merely hypnotized the young Arthur into believing he was various animals, Merlin himself wasn’t kidnapped by Nimue but is still sort of just hanging around in the forest, and Morgan le Fay was cut (although her scene in the first version of the musical is rather twee and incongruous, and the scene between Arthur and Mordred so much more of an improvement that it was added to future revivals to the show’s credit).

    And you know, Christi’s right. It seems that too many filmmakers are too focused on making King Arthur adaptations not just non-magical, but gritty and grimy to boot. As I said in a reply to an above post, when are we going to see an Arthurian adaptation that’s colorful and fun (well, at least before the story starts getting really dramatic) and has some elements of fantasy and magic again?

    If Disney, in its zeal for live-action remakes, ever re-does The Sword In The Stone, I’d like them to be more book-faithful…and to do the appropriate amount of groveling to the Lerner and Loewe estates to get back the rights to the rest of The Once And Future King so they can do a trilogy adapting the whole novel. (I say “trilogy” instead of “tetralogy” because not all that much actually happens in The Queen of Air and Darkness…its main points, the setting up of the Round Table and Mordred’s conception, were taken care of in a couple of short scenes in Camelot.) That way, we could have all the fantasy, magic, and wonder in the early parts, getting darker and more dramatic as it goes on, but still not overlooking the potential for some gorgeous medieval pageantry even in later parts of the story.

Feel the love

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: