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DVD Review

DVD cover

Arthur & Merlin
Knights of Camelot


Starring: Richard Short, Richard Brake, Olivia Bernstone and Ronan Summers
Distributor: Signature Entertainment
Certificate: TBC
Release Date: 13 July 2020

The year 463 AD. England is a land divided. A land in need of a legend. King Arthur has been absent for five long years, fighting a war abroad that has stricken his knights, left his throne defenseless and his queen at the mercy of Mordred, his illegitimate son. He must return home fast, facing dark and dangerous threats from all sides. But as he fights to preserve Camelot and all that he holds dear, the toughest conflict will be with himself. Guided by the legendary wizard Merlin, Arthur must strive to become the king that his nation needs. It is the story of a legend, before the legend was told...

Of the hundreds of different films and TV iterations based on the legend of Camelot you'd be forgiven for pondering over whether the public needs yet another? But wait! Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot takes a fresh new spin on the Arthurian legend. For here we have very little plot and some truly awful "I've never been to film school" directorial decisions. I wasted just over an hour and a half of my time watching this movie.

Let's start with the positives. Firstly the film looks beautiful (if a little cliched). The lighting, costumes and set design are almost perfect. Okay, the props department could have done with a little more money, as the majority of interior shots appear to have been shot inside real historic buildings (i.e. crumbling castles) but the cast seemed to be lacking any real props to interact with. It was almost as though the film crew had turned up at the location and simply made do, prop wise, with only the really essential elements of the script being turned into props. These are amongst the wealthiest people in the land, yet they don't decorate their rooms at all... Well, unless the script calls for a table or a cheap bed. No pots or luxurious tapestries. Thankfully it appears that Guinevere was so fed up with her bland surroundings that she had started to make her own tapestry in her down time.

It was also amusing to see the crumbling interior walls (some with new sections repointing) and I spent a great deal of time looking for modern day renovations that should have been spotted by others in the production (that's how riveting the storyline was).

When you think "Knights of Camelot" you think of epic quests, mysterious powerful aretifacts. You don't think of Arthur's son, Mordred, trying to take Arthur's kingdom, and his wife, while Arthur slowly ambles back to Camelot to take back his crown. Well, you might, as a side story, but certainly not as the main plot.

Or maybe you do, if you've soaked up all the other Camelot tales. While this is titled Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot... Merlin hardly appears and the Knights personalities are so paper thin that other than Lancelot I've no idea who the others were or how they fitted into Arthur's most loyal soldiers. Were they members of the original group who sat around the Round Table? Did some of Arthur's original group join Mordred?

If you're new to the Arthurian legends then there's nothing here that will want to make you dig a little deeper or see any of the other productions as this is just so dull. This would have worked (maybe) as the first 10 minutes of a much better movie on the legends or (at best) as a pilot to a new TV series based on the exploits of King Arthur. But to waste an hour and a half seeing Arthur and his group slowly ambling towards Camelot, while his son awaits his arrival so he can kill him (I'm not joking. This is pretty much the entire plot) stretches the plot to breaking point... and then some.

Now lets look at the actual filmmaking. You could be forgiven for assuming that neither the director or editor went to film school (or at the very least followed the most basic of film rules for constructing a coherent movie). For starters I lost count of the number of time the line of action was crossed. This unwritten rule isn't there for the sake of it. It stops the audience becoming confused or disoriented. Let's assume, for a moment, that the director is a maverick. He deliberately ignored the line of action; threw out the rule book as an anarchic director in order to forward the process of film as art, in much the same way as Uwe Boll did (his films are unwatchable because of this as well).

There's also some bad blocking decisions. The main villainies (by the time she was introduced I missed who she was supposed to be - it could be Gwenhwyfach - because a lot of the dialogue is mumbled) and Mordred are framed together, but he towers over her so much that only the top of her is in frame, while Mordred's head is almost out of the top the screen. It looks like a giant is talking to a dwarf. Better framing, or at the very least a box for the poor actress to stand on, should have been employed here.

The final (SPOILER ALERT) siege of the castle and fight for the crown is so badly handled that I spent most of it laughing. Okay long, complicated, well choreographed sword fights are cliched and it's hard to come up with a new angle... unless... We just have our heroes charge at the enemy, tap them and watch them instantly die... Yeah, no one has done that before. Maybe because it's bloody ridiculous.

There may be some extras - I neither know nor care - as we were sent a basic screener to view the film these were not present.

There are literally hundreds of Arthurian legend films and shows. Do yourself a favour and don't watch this badly presented production. I'm giving it 2/10 because the photography and costumes look fantastic.


Nick Smithson

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