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How the hell could Malcolm McDowell make a boring Arthur? What on earth was Candice Bergen thinking? Grails: The Grail becomes important in the last two minutes of the film, when an Astral Projection of Merlin tells Lancelot to ditch Guinevere and go on a Holy Quest to atone for his repeated adultery. Round Tables: Lancelot and Guinevere fall in love at first sight…but only after Arthur refuses to allow her to be co-ruler, and also sends Lancelot to rescue her from Evil Pict Liam Neeson rather than doing it himself.
Guinevere initiates the affair, which, according to Lancelot, brings about the fall of Camelot. Excaliburs: As far as knightly action goes, I have attended Renaissance Festival Living Chess Games that were better staged and fought than the action in this film. Later, Lancelot is able to wield Excalibur to defeat the dragon puppet Morgana unleashes through her magic. Merlin and Niniane are trapped beneath Stonehenge for a thousand years until Dyan Cannon suggests they might be able to escape through the power of LOVE.
His magical sword Excalibur grants him superpowers to defeat his evil uncle, Jude Law. And in case any of this imagery is too metaphorical: Jude Law is building an enormous tower. As he grows more powerful, the tower grow ever higher. Lots of magic instead. In fact, pretty much the opposite of romance, even if Arthur clearly has a crush on his mage pal. The politics are all family oriented, with Jude Law causing tyrant problems and killing people to gain fancy magical powers. And the knights have a very Merry-Men-in-Sherwood-Forest vibe.
Action is the sole reason for its existence. Unfortunately a huge portion of that action is devoted to abusing and murdering the majority of the female characters present in the film. Oh, and Arthur runs a brothel? Oh, and in case you were wondering? Excalibur is so huge, you need two hands to wield it.
And once you use two hands? Your dead dad might just tell you the magic was inside you all along.
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There is a lot of magic, of course, most of it bound up in tropes from other fantasy narratives that the world knows quite well, from Lord of the Rings to Narnia. That person is not Richard Gere. Grails : What grail?
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This story has very little interest in mythology. Mostly it just borrows the names from Arthurian stories. On the way to Camelot, she meets Lancelot Gere, 16 years older than Julia Ormond , who is immediately far more into her than she is into him. None of the romance is very convincing, particularly given that upon their first meeting, Lancelot pretends he wants to rape Guinevere as a tactic to get her away from a kidnapper and later insists he knows when a woman wants him.
Go away, Lancelot. Also everyone in Camelot wears blue, which, in this era of color-coded dystopias, is rather disconcerting. Excaliburs : There is nothing magical about this movie. As Malagant burns an empty encampment, Arthur and his knights ride out from the woods.
Which makes sense, if you think about it. Lancelot also has a nifty swordfighting scene or two—nothing flashy, just a touch of deft choreography. A gritty attempt to update Arthurian legend by adding a dose of realism i.
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Grails: Grails do not exist in gritty real-world legends. How dare you suggest such a thing. Round Tables: There is some romance. Arthur Clive Owen and Guinevere like each other a whole lot, and he frees her pagan Celtic person from Catholic immurement, which is awfully nice. They get married at the end of the movie. There is a faint suggestion that maybe Guinevere and Lancelot Ioan Gruffudd could like each other, but the film leaves off the whole love triangle plot.
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We have Mads Mikkelsen as Tristan, but there is no Isolde because real-world legends only have room for one romance , dammit. This eventually leads Arthur to make friends with the Woads so that they can beat back the Saxon threat, and a bunch of his knights die in the process. All of the faux-historical leanings in this retelling are there to prop up a metric ton of action. Guinevere herself has been restyled to better resemble Queen Medb or Boudica more than the Guinevere of Arthurian legend. Grails: Not much to be said about the Grail in this one. Round Tables: Politics is thin on the ground in this particularly story, although it does begin with Arthur scolding his knights for getting too comfortable and not being more active in their knight-ness.
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There is a fair bit of romance, though; Gawain falls for a mysterious lady, who keeps gifting him magical stuff that keeps him out of trouble—a ring that transports him, a cloth that prevents the Green Knight from being able to cut off his head. Excaliburs: So much action and magic.
Every action and magic. The whole story starts because of the Green Knight can we talk about the fact that the world is convinced that Sean Connery belongs in Arthurian legend? Trick is, he can reattach his head, and Gawain obviously cannot. Instead he ends up fighting lots of people and getting magicked around. He does defeat the Green Knight in the end, with a little help from his fancy magical lady friend, who gives him that unbreakable kerchief to protect his head.
But she has secrets of her own, and ends her role in the story by turning into a dove and flying back to Lyonesse. Tough break, Gawain. Arthur under his wing and teaches him how to be a good king by transfiguring him into a bunch of animals, all in preparation for Arthur eventually retrieving Excalibur. In fact, the only significant vessel is an animated sugar cup. Nor does Guinevere come into play, though there is a messed-up scene in which Wart, transfigured by Merlin into a squirrel, attracts the attention of a flirty lady squirrel.
Because lady squirrels mate for life, and now she has no mate, and why exactly was this cruel interlude necessary to the story? With the building closed, he reaches for the closest substitute: the mysterious sword in the stone in the middle of the town square. I saw Excalibur for the first time a few years ago, at the Met, which might be the best way to watch it, as it is very long and at times slow, and the distractions of the modern era are many. Williams is the latter.
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Memory, Sorrow, Thorn. This series has made pretty much all the other fantasy lists. It's a good series that many people don't have the patience to read. And that's a right shame. If you stick with the story, a rich fantastical tale will unfold. Tad Williams has recently completed another epic fantasy, Shadowmarch. My feeling is that while Shadowmarch has a lot more action and fantastical elements fairies, gods, half gods, strange magic , Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is a deeper fantasy tale with a lot more under the hood than Shadowmarch.
That's not to say that Shadowmarch is not a great epic fantasy series -- it is -- but I like Memory Sorrow, Thorn better. Still, if you find Memory, Sorrow, Thorn too slow, look then to Shadowmarch -- you'll like it better.
Another epic fantasy series that should be read.