EXCALIBUR WS POSTER

Excalibur is a 1981 American fantasy epic movie. Directed by John Boorman, it is set in a medieval world and is based on the well-known mythology of the legendary King Arthur, played by Nigel Terry, and the Knights of the Round Table. The movie highlights Arthur’s origin, his transition to the helm in the land of Camelot upon lifting a magical enchanted sword out of a rock and his troubled kingship.

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It goes without saying that King Arthur is very much a fictional character that can be placed in the same category as the likes of Superman, Hercules or even James Bond; revered, respected and beloved amongst its esteemed fanatics. There have been many actors in recent times who have had the privilege of portraying King Arthur (most recently Charlie Hunnam) but before him there was Nigel Terry, a native of the English town of Bristol who sadly passed away 3 years ago. For a man whose filmography was filled with movies set in times way before the current, you’d figure King Arthur would of course be part of his resume, and it was.

The elements of charm and strength in leadership that is very much a staple of King Arthur’s demeanour doesn’t present itself in this version played by Nigel, at least not in the beginning. He comes off as very timid and annoyingly inquisitive especially in the scene in which he succeeds where the strong and abled of Camelot failed; lifting the sword dubbed Excalibur from the rock it was stabbed into. His rise to the throne is a bit unconventional but once he grows into his destined position, everything is pretty much okay from then on. I also liked the fight sequence between him and Lancelot (Nicholas Clay); the two formidable forces of nobility locked horns in an epic and awesome duel that did not incorporate a poorly done montage. I was both surprised and awed by this particular factor because many movies of its era and also of our time use horrible montages in instances plentiful when showing a hand-to-hand combat scene.

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Nicol Williamson, a talented actor who was quite respected and admired by many before his demise in 2011 is also in this as, you guessed it, Merlin. Being the millennial that I am, I have seen several portrayals of the magician/sorcerer and this one was definitely not my best, though elicited a chuckle or two from me nonetheless. He speaks funny, often raising the tone of his voice unnecessarily and conveniently appears out of nowhere particularly when King Arthur is in need of him; I am well aware of the fact that he uses magic and all but it reaches a point when I give up on caring about it. Patrick Stewart certainly needs no introduction and his performance as Leodegrance was fantastic as you would expect from him; though it was awkward watching that scene where he is trying to pull the sword of Excalibur and possibly become King. That poop face that he as well as other aspirants make is just stuff that comedy is made of. Hellen Mirren is pretty much Hellen Mirren on here as Morgan, the sister of Camelot’s king. Her character has an interesting and eerie arc in the film; she’s one of those “I hate my sibling who receives a lot of attention” type who forcibly steals Merlin mystical powers to turn the tables against his brother.

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The theme of betrayal and redemption is very much prevalent in this film and I liked it. Arthur is betrayed by Lancelot; his best and most trusted liaison in battle who has an affair with Guinevere (Cherie Lunghi), his wife. Clay’s character goes on to redeem himself by unexpectedly aiding Arthur as he fought during his final battle alongside the other knights. Guinevere also follows suit in the path of restitution; after going through that infamous and personally embarrassing affair, she becomes a nun of sorts and hands over Excalibur to Arthur when he needed it the most after he abandoned it.

Just like the Sherlock Holmes, I have always perceived King Arthur as a character that could have possibly existed in the real world and not in fiction; the plausible existence of the monarch has always been a talking point that historians have flirted with over the years. As far as the latter’s chronicles is concerned, this film does not do it any justice in a number of ways. First off, certain elements of the story were very unnecessary. King Arthur breaks his mighty sword in the penultimate stages of his battle with Lancelot and then the “Lady of the Lake” appears from out of nowhere and hands him an identical one. This, for me, should not have been in the movie and should have instead been edited out. It didn’t really affect the story, it had bad visual effects more so and I strongly felt that it downplayed the fantastic duel that had just ended.

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Secondly the accents were considerably unconvincing; apart from actors of English descent like Hellen Mirren, everyone else’s utterances didn’t even remotely resemble British medieval accents. The design of the famous Round Table for the Knights did not seem medieval to me; it was too flashy in my point of view but hey, I could be wrong. The time jumps that happen on here are basically inexcusable; Arthur transitions from a baby to a full-grown to an experienced swordsman and then a king almost immediately.  Finally, the film can get extremely weird to watch at certain times to a point where I thought I was experiencing a visual effects nightmare; I can’t quite explain the experience and thus you perhaps ought to see the movie if you haven’t already and know where I am coming from with this.

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The fantastic period clothing i.e. the Knights’ shining amours, the exceptional score, the occasionally riveting story-line, the above par production design for Camelot’s architecture and surroundings as well as the boons I mentioned were aspects that I loved about 1981’s Excalibur, but sadly I cannot place it in a ‘I must watch it again’ category. On the upside, at least I will be looking forward to watching other King Arthur movies that I haven’t watched already for purposes of reviewing of course; I have a feeling they’ll be better, right?

GRADE; B-

 

 

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27 comments

    1. It’s funny you mentioned the point about English actors. Well, my question to you is, did you find everyone’s accent in the movie on point?…
      I of course didn’t.

      Like

  1. This brings back memories! I was Nicol Williamson’s stand-in when Boorman was shooting in Ireland and at the time was very glad of the opportunity, paid cash after every day’s work. The movie wasn’t the best but dinner on two occasions with Williamson and Boorman was rewarding even if Boorman wasn’t as agreeable as he might have been.
    Thank you for this sharing.

    john

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow! You do have a deep connection with the movie don’t you? It must have been a great honour for you to be in the midst of such icons.
      In consideration of your history with the movie, you reading my review of it is equally a great honour. Be blessed.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I always thought Arthur was annoying in this movie. His voice and demeanor didn’t depict the King Arthur I saw in my mind. To be honest Nes Stark is more the Arthur-type in my opinion. This movie just got it wrong. Merlin was a creepy pedophile and gosh that sex scene in the beginning was so dumb.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, that sex scene was atrocious. 😁
      As for Merlin… That was just Nicol Williamson being Nicol Williamson; which was a shame since he didn’t do his best to portray a Merlin that people would wish to have seen.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good review. It’s been years since I’ve seen this film but I quite liked it. I’ll have to give it another look to see if it holds up. It’s eccentric to be sure of the Arthurian legend but one that I loved. Cheers!

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  4. Interesting deep analysis!! I liked this movie more than you did (of course, I watched it 14 years ago). I’ve seen a few versions on the legend of King Arthur; like the movie KING ARTHUR (2004) Average film Just OK, and a part of an episode from the mini-series, THE MISTS OF AVALON (2001), which seemed good, but I didn’t get to watch it properly, and that silly TV show, MERLIN (2008-2012), watched from here and there. So I definitely loved EXCALIBUR (1981) more. It’s the best, I can think of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great commentary Nuwan. Well, this Excalibur movie has elicited a lot of different reactions from the people who’ve seen it. I did not enjoy the fact that the film had to be that long alongside other flaws that I mentioned in the review but all the same, there are elements to it that I give a strong nod to.

      Liked by 1 person

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