Actor Spotlight: Excalibur

I remember my first joust. It looks far worse than it feels!

When it comes to viewing (and reviewing) older movies, one has to realize how the industry is so much different nowadays. For example it’s been 30 years since Excalibur was made and while visually it was ahead of its time in some aspects, it is far from what Hollywood puts on the silver screen currently. So basically, you have to watch it on a curve so to speak.

The visual aspect of the movie was one of my favorite features of the film. As the beginning credits finished we are taken straight to a battle field at night where director John Boorman shot beautifully. He was able to capture the violence of the battle, the facial expressions of the actors, and the background as well as the foreground without taking away from anything. Looking back I would have to say this was probably the best shot scene in the movie.

While thus far I have been praising the film, unfortunately I can’t do much more of that minus a couple of performances. While I enjoyed looking at the film, it’s the little practical things such as the armor that bothered me. The armor back in the day was heavy and the characters wore it like a tee-shirt at times. Never were they weighed down or limited in any movements in anything they were doing including during a love scene. Plus the common flaw of the meeting of two characters during battle while everything is chaotic around them happens time and time again.

The plot itself can be confusing at times. I’ve seen a few variations of the knights of the round table and King Arthur storyline including my childhood favorite 1963’s Disney’s Sword in the Stone and 2004’s King Arthur starring Clive Owen amongst others. The story here while complicated at times dwells a bit in Arthur’s family. We start out seeing his father first weld the sword Excalibur and how power and greed corrupted him & set forth the events in the film that include Arthur’s mother, half-sister Morgana, Merlin the magician, Guenevere, Lancelot, and eventually his son Mordred.

When it came to the characters in this film, that’s where Boorman really didn’t do well. From Arthur’s father Uther (Gabriel Bryne) in the beginning we see such erratic behavior and it continues throughout. Nigel Terry plays the lead here as Arthur and he starts out as a helpless nobody and instantly becomes a somebody with no real development at all. Even some of the actions of Lancelot and Guenevere have you scratching your head at times. Liam Neeson has a small part in the film as the knight Gawain and it’s just puzzling watching a great actor struggle in a role. Patrick Stewart did so much better in his minor role than most of the cast. We see him on-screen only a couple of times but he brings much-needed flair to the film. While at times Nicol Williamson as Merlin does things I don’t understand, it’s his role especially opposite of Helen Mirren’s Morgana that make this film. The two of them play so well off each other that it’s a shame that Morgana isn’t introduced sooner into the film. Mirren finally makes her appearance almost half way into the film. In my opinion Boorman should have cut out a few meaningless scenes in the first half to get her quicker into the film. Not only is she is radiant, she delivers her lines with ease and plays a perfect villain.

As much as I enjoyed Mirren, Williamson, Stewart and the visual aspects of this film, I can personally say it was hard to sit through such a mess of a film.


Posted on August 12, 2011, in Actor Spotlight, Helen Mirren and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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