What's new
  • Announcing New Ownership at Home Theater Forum. Learn More

Best King Arthur film? (1 Viewer)

BrandonT

Auditioning
Joined
Jun 11, 2003
Messages
12
I've been told that Excalibur is considered the most accurate/faithful film according to Arthurian legend, and I watched it last weekend for the first time in years - and all I can say that it has not aged well at all. It was laughably bad, imo.
 

Chad R

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Jul 14, 1999
Messages
2,183
Real Name
Chad Rouch


Because it's never had a definitive telling in literature. It was a myth handed down, and several authors have tried their hands at it. For everyone that thinks T.H. White's is definitive, there's large supporters for Tennyson, and equally large numbers eager to stand up for Mallory. (Personally I suggest reading all three).

Whichever one you prefer, I think all will agree yanking the magic out of the story is a bad idea *cough*Bruckheimer*cough*.
 

Citizen87645

Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
May 9, 2002
Messages
12,899
Real Name
Cameron Yee
Not exactly the intent of this thread, but here are my impressions of various Arthurian media:

My first exposure to the Camelot musical was my high school's production of it, which featured some of my closest friends at the time. When I watched the film version many years later I was disappointed. I think my having listened to the soundtrack with Julie Andrews set me up for that. This happened with My Fair Lady also, but to a lesser degree. No one can beat Andrews in my book!

As far as Arthur/Merlin novels, I'm surprised no one has mentioned Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and the Last Enchantment). Stewart's goal was similar to Bruckheimer's upcoming film, though fortunately she did not entirely strip the legend of its mystical elements but instead humanizes the characters and puts the story in context with the beliefs of the time.

The approach to the legend and mythology is best represented by her presentation of the main character Merlin. He is basically a genius, educated in math, science, and the healing arts but also burdened by uncontrollable episodes of clairvoyance. In the context of that time, it's therefore reasonable for him to be considered a "wizard." If you have not read these books I highly recommend them.

I've tried to get into The Once and Future King but have really struggled with the initial chapters and the "Disneyesque" quality. I imagine it gets better, but I have not had the patience to get through it yet.

I enjoyed First Knight when I first saw it, but then I was a punk kid and didn't have any taste :) I think it's pretty blah now, akin to Costner's Robin Hood.

I saw Excalibur many many years ago and will have to revisit it again. Haven't seen either the Merlin miniseries or Mists of Avalon.
 

Alan-C

Auditioning
Joined
May 3, 2004
Messages
7
Well the new King Arthur movie comes out in a month or so doesn't it? I love that type of movie, but right off one thing I have noticed is their armor looks more Roman than medieval. Not sure whats up with that...
 

Rob Gardiner

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Feb 15, 2002
Messages
2,950
David,


I appreciate all the discussion and recommendations of the various literary and stage adaptations. My only frames of reference so far are the Camelot film, the Disney cartoon, and Brian Bolland's comic book. :b
 

Richard_D_Ramirez

Second Unit
Joined
May 21, 2001
Messages
439
Excalibur, most definitely. As for written works, I'd have to go against the T.H. White fans here and place a vote for Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur.
 

Andy Sheets

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2000
Messages
2,377

The concept of the movie is that it takes place during the time that the Romans were occupying Britain; many have speculated that if Arthur was based on a real guy, he would have probably been from around this time. Of course, I could be wrong, but I think the armor that's shown in the movie is out of date from what the Romans were wearing by then...and Lancelot probably shouldn't be in the movie at all since he was a very late addition to the mythology...
 

Dana Fillhart

Supporting Actor
Joined
Feb 8, 1999
Messages
977
Ouch, Scott -- I'm presuming you're referring to the new Bruckheimer flick. I had mixed reservations about seeing it -- it's Bruckheimer, but it's Arthur. If that's what you're referring to, I think I'll have to pass ... but I'll probably pick up the DVD when it comes out (so I can, um, see Knightley's Round Table :))

On a related note, I was actually kind-of pissed when I saw there was a movie coming out about the Arthur legend, because I'm right in the middle of writing a fantasy novel trilogy, and the second book of the trilogy takes place in that setting. Argh, what timing I have! But that brings up what I wanted to ask:

Has anybody read Stephen Lawhead's The Pendragon Cycle? I read Taleisin a long time ago, and started to read Merlin but got bogged down about a third of the way through it and never picked it up again (though I'm considering reading it again when I have the chance -- after my own novels are done of course :)). I remember Taleisin being VERY good -- I always thought the combination of the Atlantis and Arthurian legends would make for a GREAT film.

Some adventurous filmmaker adept at putting fantasy material on the big screen (*cough*PeterJackson*coughcough*) should give this serious consideration.
 

Mark Oates

Supporting Actor
Joined
Mar 12, 2004
Messages
874
There was a fine old tv series called "Arthur of the Britons" (TVTome reference) starring Oliver Tobias and made in the early 1970s. That had class.

Oh, and Tommy G - The Goodies are on a regionfree disc, so if you can handle a PAL signal, you're laughing.
 

michael_mo

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Jul 29, 2003
Messages
81



I agree 1000%
Excalibre, of all the epics, has aged the worst.
The casting seems laughable. The battle scenes are a joke and the FX seem elementary. But, I say this 20 years after the film was made, and after 20 years of film-making technology.
I still appreciate Excalibre for what it is... a very good epic film, for its time. Compare it to LOTR or Gladiator, and it looks horrible. But that isnt fair to do.
Non-epics age so much better. I watched the Maltese Falcon the other month, and enjoyed it tremendously. But, movies without action scenes that are basically character profiles can age well.
The only element of Excalibre that doesnt seem 'dated' is the Richard Wagner overture that they cue in about 19 times in the movie.... but that music has gone strong for 100 years.
 

Darrell Bratz

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 22, 2001
Messages
125


Umm...nope. Couldn't disagree more. I think it's a fantastic idea, and historically reasonable depictions of Arthur (at a twilight of Roman influence) have been the basis for what I think is the very best Arthurian literature of the last 20-30 years (Firelord, Sword at Sunset...especially Firelord). I may find I don't like the Arthur film, but it won't be for whacking down the silly magic and for putting it in something like a historically feasible context for a change. Much better than the thoroughly bizarre notion of having characters who appeared by at least the sixth century traipsing along in armor from half a millenia later.
 

Ernest Rister

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Oct 26, 2001
Messages
4,148
I think Excalibur more than holds its own against modern fare.

The casting seems laughable? Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Nicol Williamson, Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart?

It looks horrible against Gladiator? Against LOTR? How exactly did those films make Excalibur look "horrible"?

And there is no Wagner overture in the film, certainly not one that is repeated "about 19 times". You're thinking of "O Fortuna!" from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, which is heard exactly twice in the film.
 

Ernest Rister

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Oct 26, 2001
Messages
4,148
"Much better than the thoroughly bizarre notion of having characters who appeared by at least the sixth century traipsing along in armor from half a millenia later."

Print the legend. If you're going to make a King Arthur movie, make a King Arthur movie. The audience is going to walk in expecting the Lady in the Lake, the sword in the stone, the shining city of Camelot, the magician Merlin who lives backwards through time, Morgana and Modred...if you give them "King Arthur the Barbarian" instead, you run the risk of disappointing everyone who is expecting a traditional Arthurian movie. Sort of like Greystoke back in the early 80's -- a hyper-realistic and faithful re-telling of Tarzan, with none of the standard screen heroics people had come to expect.
 

Andrew Priest

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 1, 2004
Messages
79

The director of Excalibur envisioned the setting not as historical England at all, but as a mythological land. Sort of a fairy tale land, though obviously a very dark one. It's one reason that location is never mentioned in the movie at all. As such the armor is no longer anachronistic just as the occasional weapon isn't.

I'm not a big fan of the realistic trend. My thought is that Arthur is a myth, and that's what makes it interesting. Removed and all you have left is a bit of historical fiction. So why not just create your own characters for your historical fiction instead of borrowing the Arthurian figures?

Just as I wouldn't want a version of The Odyssey sans the Greek gods and related myths, or a version of Der Ring der Nibelungen without any of the fantastic elements, I'm just not that interested in the Arthurian myth without the myth. The myth is the spice.

And besides, it's critical to the understanding of the story. The myths reflected the people who over the centuries created the Arthurian myth in the first place. To remove that is to remove their contribution. It's to strip away the meaning and replace it with a modern rational sensibility. I'll keep the irrational myth, thank you very much.
 

Darrell Bratz

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 22, 2001
Messages
125


Actually, I'd say "modern sensibilities" are the things that have moved it further away from the original stories anyway. After some six hundred years, Chretien de Troyes invented Lancelot in the 12th century and made a popular version about courtly love as much as anything (reflecting the 12th century nobility he worked for). That was a "modern sensibility" laid over the existing stories, legends, actual historical bases. Malory, Tennyson, White..they've all added "modern sensibilities" that can all be appreciated, but should not be mistaked for one base "meaning"...they're all rather different from each other anyway.

We've had countless Arthur films that are based around logical impossibilities. It's been demonstrated in literature that quite compelling stories can be created using the things we know quite certainly about the time and place, and presenting a leader who is capable of having inspired all these tall tales that have been embellished and built upon all the centuries since. I have nothing against all these Arthur films from the last century (other than that most of them aren't very good). How about one film that actually tries something different, but equally or more valid? Again, the Bruckheimer involvement bodes ill for yet another Arthur film, but the basic instinct to explore a rich historical period that fundamentally changed the British Isles is worth one film.
 

Ernest Rister

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Oct 26, 2001
Messages
4,148
That's a good point -- but I doubt such serious rigor went into the Bruckheimer King Arthur. Of what worth is historical authenticity in settings and production design when you have action scenes such as those seen in the trailer -- one man bashing an ice sheet with his sword, causing all of the ice in the lake to shatter? That's right out of your typical Hollywood action cartoon. Such a thing would be right at home in a "fantasy film" treatment of King Arthur (the magical sword Excalibur unleashing its power on a frozen lake). But in a "historically accurate" version, it is laughable - no?

"The basic instinct to explore a rich historical period that fundamentally changed the British Isles is worth one film."

Absolutely, but I don't think this is that film.
 

Andrew Priest

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 1, 2004
Messages
79
I didn't say "modern sensibilities." I'd have been a little daft since of course any movie no matter how true to any version of the myth will have modern sensibilities. It's a movie after all, and it's made in modern times. Even Shakespeare adaptations have modern sensibilities.

Now, Arthur may or may not have existed. He may or may not have been a war leader and had the title of dux bellorum, or not. If he existed, he would have fought the English and perhaps the Picts. As the historian Michael Wood put it "Yet, reluctantly we must conclude that there is no definite evidence that Arthur ever existed."

So we are really talking about a work of historical fiction about the Britons of the 5th and 6th centuries here. That's cool, and I'd love to see a movie about the period. Even the name Arthur is fine. So long as that's all you are talking about. A historical epic about a man with a Roman derived name that fights some good fights.

But this has nothing to do with the Arthurian legend. That Arthur does not and never has existed. Even if there was a historical Arthur, that's not the Arthur of the Arthurian legend. Even the setting for the Arthurian legend has never existed. They are a mythology.

Of course the legend is really the product of the middle ages. As such it's not really about some possible historical figure from the dark ages. It's actually about the culture that produced it. Later incarnations no doubt also draw from their own culture to create a mixture of the old and new. A new movie would mingle our own modern culture into the stew as well. It's one of interesting things about such legends.

But if you take out - in the name of realism of all things - those less rational elements you aren't really telling the myth any longer. Instead you've created a new Arthurian myth without any of the real humanity in it. That's what I don't care for. Not a historical fiction about the late 400's and early 500's. I'm fine with that as long as it admits what it is. I don't like mangling the Arthurian legend itself in the name of realism.

Lastly I'm not saying there is a definitive Arthur or something. It's been a living myth for a long time and has many versions. I just don't care for the modern rational versions of the story. I feel that if you are going to tell the myth, than tell the myth, mysticism and all. Borrowing the names to make your own “realistic” story is bait and switch.
 

Blu

Screenwriter
Joined
Oct 6, 2001
Messages
1,360
I would vote for Knights of the round table. I enjoy that movie every time I see it, Excalibur hasn't aged well at all. It is sort of like Miami Vice. Was cool at the time but 20 years later...ugh.
 

Darrell Bratz

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Mar 22, 2001
Messages
125
We probably don't wildly disagree here Andrew. My point being that we've had a cartload of familiar Arthur films and as this thread shows, none are wholeheatedly endorsed (I'm fairly fond of Excalibur however). Many are dreck. This one might be too. However, it will have the virtue of trying something different, but not something wholly alien to the literary history of Arthur (surely at least Geoffrey of Monmouth counts), or the actual history of the time and place. Even from the trailer, it looks a good deal less bizarre and childish than "First Knight". And I'm absolutely thrilled to see the post-roman stuff - if you're going to set it at that time, you pretty much have to go that way.

Wood's right, we can't currently prove or disprove Arthur. Those brits who carried on after the romans left just don't seem to have left much surviving documentation - the odd mentions of Arthur and Ambrosius by Gildas are about as close as I'm aware of - and yet from those who did document, the Saxons, the last "Roman" british generation - we can certainly tell something happened at that time.

Certainly some of things are more credibly explored in a historical or deconstructionist based Arthur story than others. Lancelot is so very much a later creation that it's straining to include him. But things like the Grail legend - well that doesn't spring purely from middle ages poetry, but gets its juice from old British rumors that Joseph or Arimathea moved to Britain. That's what's sold the Grail stuff for centuries of storytellers - the historical possiblility. Actually most of it has a basis you can credibly play with.

I'll push Parke Godwin's "Firelord" novel yet again - I think it just nailed this with more power than any middle-ages influenced version I've read. As he wrote in his forward "It could have happened like this, it should have, and perhaps it did."
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Forum Sponsors

Latest Articles

Forum statistics

Threads
353,152
Messages
5,009,418
Members
143,408
Latest member
augustosv
Recent bookmarks
0
Top