Hey Creeps, have you recovered from that full year’s supply of cheese I served up last time? Good! For this installment, I’m going to keep it a bit classier as we examine John Boorman’s seminal examination of Arthurian Legend, Excalibur!
Released in 1981, Boorman’s rich adaptation of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur offered viewers a stunning vision of both shocking brutality and glorious fantasy. Magic and religious allegory stood side by side with scenes of epic gore and mythological resonance. While the story follows the traditional beats of the King Arthur story: a young Arthur pulls the sword Excalibur from the stone, he becomes the king of England under the tutelage of the wizard Merlin, he weds Guenevere (who eventually has an affair with Arthur’s trusted friend the knight Lancelot), establishes the Kingdom of Camelot, sends his knights on a quest for the Holy Grail and is finally murdered on the field of battle by his evil son Mordred (conceived when Arthur’s half-sister Morgana takes the form of Guenevere through sorcery…dammit Ator, you’ve started a really nasty trend in these articles) whom the King kills before expiring, the presentation is unlike any other telling of the tale. Magic and religious allegory stood side by side with scenes of epic gore and mythological resonance, filmed with a startling color palette that makes everything seem idyllic regardless of what is transpiring on screen. No attempts are made at strict historical representation (the armor does not match that found during The Dark Ages in which the film is set, magic is excepted as a reality etc.), yet everything seems “right” to the viewer, as if we are imagining the legend brought to life through a filter of fairy tale reality.
While Boorman’s direction is amazing, the acting talent on display is remarkable as well, as the cast includes many famous faces such as Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne and Helen Mirren. Perhaps the most impressive element of the film itself is that the cost of the film was a mere 11 million dollars…miniscule for this kind of elaborate costumed fantasy.
O.K., next time I promise to blow your minds with a fantasy film unlike any other (especially since you can’t see 90% of it)!
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