Bullet Points: Excalibur
I was absolutely obsessed with the legend of King Arthur when I was young. I remember my parents taking me to the library (remember those) and I would run to the section that housed all of the old books on the mythic king which usually needed to be dusted off before reading. I can’t tell you when it was that I finally saw Excalibur for the first time, but I’m certain that it was an experience that would change the way I felt about the legendary character for the rest of my days. You may or may not feel the same way that I do about King Arthur and his legendary knights but I can guarantee that you’ll find a newfound love when you watch Excalibur for the first time.
The Gist: The legend of King Arthur becomes an epic 80’s masterpiece as we follow Arthur from birth to his death; hitting all of his greatest hits like a Motley Crue setlist. You’ll see him pull the sword from the stone, quest for the Holy Grail, grow a sweet beard, and catch his trifling wife with Lancelot’s stank all over her. Throughout all of these trials and tribulations, the sword of power, Excalibur, is sheathed at his side.
The Cast: These aren’t a bunch of models who grow a beard to play the roles, these look and act like real men. Sorry Clive Owen but your Knights of the Round Table look like a bunch of internet bloggers compared to the machismo of this lot. Nigel Terry plays the Excalibur-wielding King who would unite the Britons. It’s a task that seems a bit easier when you have the help of Patrick Stewart and Liam Neeson. Gabriel Byrne plays Arthur’s deadbeat dad who did the ultimate “I’m going home and I’m taking my ball with me” by shoving the magic sword into the stone. What a dick.
It feels much dirtier and somehow more realistic than most medieval films.
The Villain: That sexy minx Helen Mirren is pissed, for good reason, but even she pulls the same trick on Arthur when she uses her “rape magic” to steal his seed like some sort of “semen mosquito”. Merlin had it coming, no doubt, but the seductress Morgana gives birth to her half-brother’s child and raises him to be one creepy-ass kid. Merlin should have seen all this coming since he could see into the future but even an all-powerful magician’s focus can be clouded when an apple-bottomed dimepiece like Helen Mirren walks into the room.
That armor couldn’t get much gayer if it tried.
The Action: A seriously rad soundtrack highlights a series of brutal and awkward fights scenes that I would describe as “clangy as f*ck”. I don’t mean that in a bad way, however. It would appear to me that these battles are much truer to what would actually happen when a bunch of dudes strapped to the gills in steel armor are trying to stab each other; you end up just banging away at each other until you both wear out (no homo). It’s the action scenes, however short or tame by today’s standards, that take this movie into the stratosphere of awesome for me. I love the slow build of Arthur as the great king and eventual fall of his glorious kingdom. It all makes for a really well-balanced film.
This would be a killer image to put on the side of my box van!
Take it Home:
- LOTR: Director John Boorman was originally aiming at making an adaptation of the classic “Lord of the Rings” books but couldn’t get the rights.
- More LOTR: The trial by combat scene was actually filmed on a set that was meant to the be Elf city of Rivendell.
- Filming location: All of the forests filmed in the movie are within a couple of miles of John Boorman’s home in Ireland.
- Say what?: Gabriel Byrne’s Irish accent was so thick that many of the crew had a hard time figuring out what he was saying.
The Verdict: You’ve probably already guessed that I love this film so it might not be much of a stretch to tell you that I think it’s easily the best version of the King Arthur tale on screen. At one point Bryan Singer was slated to do a remake but we can all rest easy now that it has been canned. This film stands up and needs to be watched.