Excalibur (1981)

Article 3212 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-4-2010
Posting Date: 5-31-2010
Directed by John Boorman
Featuring Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nicholas Clay
Country: USA/UK
What it is: Retelling of the King Arthur legend.

The story of the birth, rise, and reign of King Arthur is recounted.

When I first saw this movie many years ago, I considered it an exercise in scenery-chewing. Watching it now, I’ve learned to appreciate that in this movie at least, the scenery was built to be chewed. Or, to put it another way, I remember one review of this movie saying that it made other movies look “puny” by comparison, and that is true. It’s big, busy, loud and aggressive, sometimes too much so; there are moments where it’s more exhausting than exhilirating. Nevertheless, the story is focused and extremely well told. I’m so glad they decided to tell the story of the legend instead of trying to capture what must have happened in real life; I want my Merlin to be a wizard, not merely a trusted adviser and/or a comic buffoon, and that’s what this movie gives us. Special kudos to Nicol Williamson as Merlin here; though he’s one of the biggest scenery-chewers, his Merlin is the most fascinating character in the story, and you’ll be quite sad when circumstances cause him to depart the story for a lengthy period of time. This may be the finest straight movie about King Arthur made, and please notice that I left myself a little out for when the Monty Python version rolls around.

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