Watched this on 28/11/16
Who would have guessed that the Arthurian tale was so sorroful and tragic? This is by far the most intriguing take on the legend that I have ever seen. It benefits from terrific visuals, cinematography, infuriating music and much more.Though it has a lot of Irish actors who would become famous in the years that followed, the acting department is generally week barring Nicol Williamson as Merlin. There is enough magic, dread and heart in this tale to make it memorable. The sword could be seen as the real hero here or more accurately it's writer director John Boorman himself as the film neither tries to focus too much on any of its characters nor does it try and glorify.
Some reports are that Boorman had actually intended to shoot Lord of the Rings, but Ralph Bakshi secured the rights instead (and later released his animated version.) So Boorman simply repurposed the design and pre-production intended for Tolkien. I think it's interesting that in Excalibur we may also be getting a glimmer into an alternate universe how Boorman's Lord of the Rings might have looked.
Adventures of a King in a time of turmoil.
Like Robin Hood there are many stories of the legendary King Arthur and his Knights of the round table but this film is probably the most accurate in terms of an adaptation from original writings. This film is based around the tales from 'Le Morte d'Arthur' and seems to follow each 'segment' quite closely (haven't read it so I'm not sure).
The overall essence of this film is like a fairytale of sorts, a kind of slightly cheesy shiny armoured fantasy with glittery sets, soft colours, strong religious/iconic imagery and a 'Clannad' vibe running through it. The film reminded me of the classic British TV series 'Robin of Sherwood' which also starred the dastardly Robert Addie and the classic British fantasy film 'Krull', I think the latter took inspiration from the look of 'Excalibur'.
The design and look of this film is really very good, its clearly rather dated but it still has a high polish to it and looks quite epic. The locations are really well used and do give an impression of old medieval England and the costumes all make the sale. Of course this being the 80's the armour does look a bit fake, plastic and too shiny in places, there is a kind of music video feel to the proceedings in places, some sets look a bit too sparkly, some characters have some dubious haircuts and to be utterly honest the acting/dialog is pretty hilarious in places but you can't deny the effort and scope of this historical fantasy.
This being in the days before CGI and when historical epics were all the rage the battle sequences here are small with some blood and minimal gore. You can easily tell they didn't have allot of people to make grand battles so clever editing is used with lots of darkness and fog, luckily Old England was a foggy place...or so I've been led to believe. The other slightly amusing thing was the soundtrack, there was original work here but the use of classical pieces slapped on top of key moments didn't really work. The combination of certain scenes and certain pieces of music felt very rickety and really did seem crowbarred in badly, you can see what the director was going for but it comes off more like something out of 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'.
The plot is straight forward and it doesn't get dull despite the heavy romance of the tales, the film is rich and vivid in design and imagery giving the whole production much flare and class which works brilliantly because you know these were the days when everything was hand crafted. The film is a cult classic with a powerful poster that demands your attention, oh and Nicol Williamson as Merlin is also another good reason to view with his unique quirky take on the character spouting some glorious moments, 'oh that's grand'.
Well, since then, I no longer enjoy the movie as much due to the fact that it's just kind of silly, and of course Capt. Picard is in it. LOL... it was an interesting watch though when I first saw it.