Excalibur Review


Excalibur, the 1981 epic fantasy drama directed
by John Boorman resurrects the ancient Arthurian legend as a beautifully written and visualized
fantasy classic. I’m sure that most of you are familiar with
the story of king Arthur and the knights of the round table but for the uninitiated there
may or may not have been a British king in the 5th and 6th centuries who was a total
bad-ass named Arthur, the legend goes that with the help of a wizard
named Merlin he wielded a magic sword named Excalibur entrusted by a magical lady of the
lake and formed a kingdom called Camelot. The story has been told countless times in
every form of media, and sometimes some pretty heavy liberties are taken with the source
material; like when the knights were piece of materia in final fantasy or when king Arthur
teamed up with Disney’s gargoyles or the time the stargate crew found out Merlin
was an alien all along or the time King Arthur somehow managed to get himself trapped in
a cave of glass so Merlin summoned an entire football team from modern times to spring
him out. There are quite a few more examples but you
get the idea. “Strange women lying in ponds distributing
swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate
from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.” As far as I can tell without a masters degree
in English literature this film is only moderately accurate to the original stories they are
based on. Making a few changes here and there and combining
certain elements from several different source materials it is indeed a unique retelling
of the legend but at least in comparison to the above examples this film stands out as
an authentic experience following the entire lifespan of king Arthur from the circumstances
surrounding his conception to his eventual death. This film deviates from the traditional three
act structure and as a result can seem a bit convoluted, so let’s go over some of the main
talking points of the plot, spoilers for centuries old mythology ahead.. Our story begins with Uther Pendragon, Arthur’s
father who is at war for power against a local duke. With the help of Merlin Uther wields the legendary
sword Excalibur which allows him to win the dukes loyalty becoming king of the land. Immediately deciding that isn’t good enough
Uther throws away the alliance by lusting after the dukes bride
Igrayne. After failing to break the dukes defenses
Uther turns to Merlin seeking to fulfill his lust for Igrayne, Merlin agrees to help, but for a steep price. Awakening the dragon and summoning the dragons
breath, Merlin disguises Uther as the duke so he can get rapey with Igrayne in front
of her daughter Morgana as the duke is impaled attempting to counterattack Uther’s forces. Igrayne marries Uther and gives birth to Arthur,
whom Merlin takes away as part of the agreement. Uther immediately regrets his deal with the
necromancer and gives chase, getting ambushed and killed but not before lodging the legendary
blade Excalibur into a stone. We jump ahead a few years to find a young
Arthur being raised by a lord named Sir Ector during a jousting tournament, fate quickly
brings Arthur to draw Excalibur from the stone being declared king much to the dismay of
many local knights. Arthur pursues Merlin into the forest to discus
his past while disagreements regarding his legitimacy as king turn into war among the
local knights. Through his bravery Arthur is able to win
the loyalty of those questioning his legitimacy, unites the land and forms Camelot as well
as the round table. Arthur marries Guinevere as his sister Morgana
confronts Merlin about the past and that she also has the talent of necromancy. At first Merlin teaches Morgana the ways of
the necromancer, but begins to suspect that she is plotting against Arthur and attempts
to bind her as Arthur uncovers a secret affair between Guinevere and one of his trusted knights Lancelot. In a rage Arthur casts Excalibur into the
ground giving Morgana the upper hand against Merlin, reversing the binding ritual. Morgana then disguises herself as Guinevere
and gets rapey with Arthur, birthing a child named Mordred Cursed by Morgana; Arthur is drained of his
vitality, and the land along with him. He sends out his knights in search of the
holy grail, all but one are met by gruesome fates. The final knight Percival is able to obtain
the holy grail and restore Arthur who recovers Excalibur and revives Merlin just in time
for the epic final confrontation with Morgana and Mordred And that’s just a very basic plot outline,
and I’m skipping over a ton of details, this film is absolutely massive and it’s influence
on many filmmakers to this very day is undeniable. Hopefully at this point it’s no surprise that
I absolutely love this film, not only is it my favorite adaptation of Arthurian lore,
it’s one of the most epic and visually masterful fantasy films of all time. The cinematography is simply stunning, every
shot in this film is epic and the attention to detail is amazing. For example; every shot with a magical element
is lit with an eerie greenblue light emanating from the source of the magic, or that this
shot of a crow eating an eye took days because they actually had to wait for the actual crow
to eat an actual eye, it’s only in the film for a few seconds but that’s the kind of detail
that makes this film so special. It’s one of those films you can watch again
and again and still find entire layers of new elements each time. So if you’ve never had time to see this classic
I highly suggest giving it a watch, or two, or three. It’s an iconic fantasy film that stands the
test of time. So those are my thoughts on Excalibur, what
are yours? Let me know in the comments below. Once again this was Fade Dragontear, thanks
for watching, peaceout.

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