After Merlin the magician brings up Arthur to be king, forces conspire to tear Camelot apart.
John Boorman’s retelling of the King Arthur tale is debatably the definitive version to date. It’s an advantageous production which benefits from a dreamlike quality with stylized lighting, effects and sweeping cinema photography. It’s violent, sexually overt, yet, intentional or not the blood is comic-like with bright reds and crimson. Based on Thomas Malory’s book with a handful of writers involved in the screenplay it commendably covers a lot of ground cramming in all the main segments you’d expect from the legend.
The performances are theatrical which makes the dialogue more palatable. Arthur Pendragon’s (Nigel Terry) journey from country bumpkin to King is a joy and the famous affair, love, loss and betrayal themes are handled terrifically. Nicholas Clay as Sir Lancelot is perfect and has a short character arch. The quotable lines come thick and fast, Nicol Williamson’s over the top quirky, witty Merlin is a delight to watch and a young Helen Mirren as Morgana lifts the ensemble. While Cherie Lunghi may not be everyone’s idea of the perfectly cast Guinevere there’s still a star studded cast which includes the likes of Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart to name a few.
Some of the effects may have dated but it oozes atmosphere and spirit benefiting from an on location feel, coupled with the lavish set design It is a visual treat, yes it’s exaggerated reality but that’s part of Excalibur’s allure. Recommended.