Arthur’s jaded return home from battle, with a handful of knights and hope of still having a kingdom when he gets there. Poor adaptation of a great story.
You can guess from the title what Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot is about, and you’d be partly right. The story largely follows the legendary King Arthur and his men traveling back home from battle near Rome, attempting to reach Camelot before it is taken over by his upstart son, Mordred. Sure, there is some angst about the knights’ loyalty to Camelot, but it is barely about the knights, and it is certainly not about Merlin, who has two short scenes and acts like a Jiminy Cricket conscience more than a wizard or figurehead.
When you select a film about or adjacent to the legend of Arthur – and there are about thirty to choose from, never mind the parodies, animated films or TV shows – you might expect some romance, some fighting, maybe some magic (sword in the stone, or a “watery bint”), some politics, a Holy Grail, and at least a bit of excitement. Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot did not deliver. Instead of romance, there was some rather sloppy womanizing, an attempted wife-stealing, and a casual elopement with no chemistry. Sure, there was fighting (with some gruesome sound effects to throats being cut), but mostly we saw sneak attacks rather than battles; and the battles we did see had nowhere near enough men fighting. There was a tiny bit of magic, demonstrated with some cheap special effects. No Holy Grail. No excitement. By way of politics, the film gave us lots of arguing, whining, and panicking, with a substantial side order of betrayal.
And I’m afraid Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot was boring.
Richard Short played a miserable Arthur, Stella Stocker played a frankly snotty Guinevere, and Joel Phillimore the amateur monarch Mordred. They were all dull and way too sincere. Merlin was played by possibly the biggest name, Richard Brake, but he seemed as bored as me! None of this was helped by the painfully wooden dialogue.
Giles Alderson has been actor, producer, and writer in many films, and has now directed this, his second feature. His last film, The Dare (written also with Jonny Grant), may have shown potential, but I wish Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot had not been made. Excalibur, Camelot, and First Knight already exist (yes, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail), so if you’re really going to make another film about a part of this enormous legend, the standard has been set high, and it needs to be done well. Maybe Alderson could have made this well (he produced A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life, after all), but I’m afraid the direction was uninspired. Even the music was forgettable, unfortunately.
On the plus side, I liked all the trees and some of the dresses.
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Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.