Excalibur - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Excalibur Reviews

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½ May 20, 2017
As movies about King Arthur go, John Boorman's stylish adaptation of 'Le Morte D'Arthur' is nopareil. The mythology of Camelot is itself steeped in romantic tragedy but this passionate and enchanting film treatment weaves a spell from beginning to end. To some cynics this all may come off like a rather lavish excercise in early '80s soft-porn fantasy but what a fantasy it is!
May 11, 2017
Excalibur is a heady hit off of the Wagnerian bong of High Fantasy! Gorgeous visions of enchanted deeds are unleashed upon the mind by a world-weary, funnyman kingmaker, the fantastic Nicol Williamson as the Merlin for the ages. This is simply the best Arthurian movie off and for all time. There is a power to its Wagner and Orff infused imagery which is impossible, for me, to deny.
Super Reviewer
May 9, 2017
Excalibur is probably the King Arthur film that most ambitiously tackles the in-depth mythology and legend of the medieval warrior, which is both a good and bad thing.

Let's start with the good. This film is a fascinating dive into the ins and outs of Arthurian Legend, starting with the mystical sword, Excalibur. Sometimes the most interesting way to tell a story isn't through your characters but a representation of their strengths and weaknesses. Excalibur is just that for Arthur. He relies on the sword for strength and wisdom, which in turn is his weakness. The power the sword yields him is bigger than Arthur himself, which is where he can sometimes fall victim to the temptations of greed and self-value. At the same time, the sword is easily the films coolest asset.

For the first hour or so, it gets increasingly harder to root for Arthur as a character. Here's a guy who stumbles upon power and acts like he's worked his whole life to get it, and he's hardly humble about his circumstances. It isn't until we realize where the story is going and who the main antagonist is that our protagonist (being Arthur) really hits the right note. All of a sudden, a whiny and largely unworthy King, feels noble and brave through the faults of the villain. It is then that the film takes off to an exciting, but equally strange place.

This version of the King Arthur story isn't afraid of embracing the fantasy elements and downright weirdness of the source material. Not only do you have Merlin, the great wizard, manipulating certain situations in the background, but you have plenty of other mystical elements enhanced to fit the story that director John Boorman was trying to tell. With that said, when the film does tackle the mystical side of the story it doesn't always feel in place with the rest of the grounded war film that's in its place. So in that regard, I have mixed feelings on it.

However, in all, this is about as good as you can tell the proper Arthurian story. It has everything from a brilliant focus on the sword, Lancelot's jealousy and betrayal, a twisted backstory, Merlin pulling the strings, bloody battles, to an overall epic journey for the King. If there was a film that epitomizes all that is good (and strange) about the mythology, Excalibur is probably it.

+Crazy mythology embraced

+Epic

+Performances

+Even dives into the strangeness

-Which is where it sometimes takes the film off the rails

8.3/10
½ May 4, 2017
There have been some bad movies based on Arthurian legend. Add this one to the list. It may actually be the worst. At times it was so bad that I wondered if it was meant to be a parody. An outdated and terrible movie. (First and only viewing - 9/13/2016)
Super Reviewer
½ April 29, 2017
Set in the wilds of Ireland and with a pretty full cast of Irish actors, which set in motion the careers of both Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne, whilst also utilising some classic/cult British names for spice.

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 period text. This film is based around the tales from [i]Le Morte d'Arthur[/i] 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 [i]Clannad[/i] 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 visual aspect of 'Excalibur', possibly.

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 really give an authentic feel, an solid impression of old medieval England complete with excellent costumes. Of course this being the 80's the armour does look a bit fake, a bit plastic, flimsy and too shiny in places. There is also 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 and 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 when historical epics were all the rage, the battle sequences are small with some blood and minimal gore. You can easily tell they didn't have a big crew to make such 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 is original work here but the use of classical pieces slapped on top of key sequences didn't really work (for me at least). 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 a parody of sorts, something not too dissimilar from 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'.

The plot is straight forward and it doesn't become dull despite the heavy romance involved. The film is layered and rich, vivid imagery and beautiful design giving the whole production much flare and class. It all works pretty flawlessly because you know these were the days when everything was hand crafted.

The film is a cult classic with a bitchin' powerful poster that demands your attention (it draws you in). On a final note, the acting in general may be acceptable but Nicol Williamson's Merlin is also another good reason to see this film. A truly unique quirky take on the character spouting some glorious lines, 'oh that's grand'.
March 23, 2017
Myth, legend, warriors and magic. What's not to love? Boorman does a great job of mixing them all together. Usually I hate these types of movies. But this is one of my all time favorites.
½ February 4, 2017
If you want an enchanting, mystical, visually stunning and passionate take on the Arthurian legend, this is the only place to go!
½ November 28, 2016
87%
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.
August 19, 2016
one of my favorites of all time. it has legend, acting, great props and setting and direction is awesome. a great watch. no movie is perfect, but this one has so many highs they more than forgive a few lows, but that's up to you to decide. the words honor, just, loyalty, integrity are fading from society now, this brings me back to a time when those words meant something.
August 17, 2016
looks great but i dunno who's to blame for the acting? the actors or the script..
½ August 10, 2016
Visually stunning (sets, costumes, stunts), with a great cast, but there are some weaknesses in the directing, as everything looks overly acted and some scenes feel clumsy. For a 140 minutes-long movie, there are surprisingly few explanations and character development. Many of the supporting characters are barely named in passing. Transitions from different parts of the movie often occur with little to no context, which impairs the understanding of the storyline.
Super Reviewer
July 26, 2016
Another adaptation of Thomas Malory's book. Filmed in Ireland, the true birthplace of the Celtic legends that led to the tales of Arthur and his knights. Director/writer/producer John Boorman's film captures the gritty existence, magic of nature, celebratory victories, and shadowy mysteries of loss found in the ancient legends. Much content from Arthur's father Uther to the destruction of the round table is packed into the 2 hour and 20 minute run time. I loved the selection of interior and exterior scenery as well as the costumes including personalized armor for each knight. In the early 80s many in the cast were unknown to American audiences, but would soon become recognized names and faces. Some of the cast are still not familiar to me watching this in 2016, so the dramatic scenes unfold more organically than through star power. I especially enjoyed Nicol Williamson's portrayal of Merlin, who I had seen in a couple other films. This movie restores the epic mythical scale of the adventure that other movie versions have not been able to convey. The movie technically is a little dated to the 1980s, but it so often succeeds in carrying you back to a Britain with mainly Pagan beliefs, a place of developing individual heroes, a place where a dragon represented everywhere and everything, was immanent in the world. It is full of excitement and mystery!
July 5, 2016
Excalibur is one of my favourite films. Boorman's version is 'of a time,' but even today this version is still the definitive screen version of the story of King Arthur. The casting is prophetic. Nicol Williamson, starring as Merlin, was already known as one of the greatest actors of his time. We didn't know it yet, but cast members Gabriel Byrne, Helen Mirren, Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart were destined for greatness. Ireland provided the surreal environment, becoming a character itself. Boorman's dream-like imagery challenged and redefined how people now see Arthurian legend.

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.
½ July 4, 2016
Epic fantasy that holds up as one of the best, particularly in how to do it for adults. The cast is superb and a who's who of future stars, from Patrick Stewart to Ciaran Hinds. The scene stealer is NIcol Williamson as Merlin, whose mischievous & wise depiction is probably the best ever put of the character on screen. The real star is director John Boorman, who manages to cover the entire Arthurian legend from Uther to Mordred in just over two hours without skimping on anything. The battles are brilliantly choreographed & brutal (it's surprising this film was originally rated PG), and Boorman doesn't shy from the darker aspects of the legend, from Guinevere's affair with Lancelot to Arthur's incest with his sister, Morgana. In many ways, this film shows how ancient fantasy actually predates the themes now popular in "Game of Thrones". While some aspects are a bit dated (some of the acting is a bit over-the-top, along with some of the visual effects), this is one of the finest fantasy films ever produced, along with being the best film version of the King Arthur legend to date.
½ May 29, 2016
A fairly epic bore with a strange cast. Patrick Stewart surprised me as he seemed to be quite the rugged warrior. I was also very surprised by the use of a real south west England village idiot to play the part of King Arthur.
April 16, 2016
Good visual effects for it's day.

Adventures of a King in a time of turmoil.
½ January 26, 2016
Excalibur is a fairly faithful if heavily abbreviated, retelling of Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur. The visuals are directly from Victorian romanticized depictions of Arthurian myth, and the Wagnerian soundtrack fits that perfectly. The visuals are certainly the strongest part of this film. The whole things is beautifully lit, and the costumes and sets are gorgeous. The one thing that is not romanticized is the violence, which is quite graphic in places, so this is probably not one for young children. While the film is studded with excellent actors, it has come in for criticism for thin characterization and bad dialogue. It's true that the characters are more broad archetypes than believable human beings, but, as with Wagnerian opera, that is really just in the nature of this type of story. Likewise the high-flown dialogue is rather to be expected from this sort of thing, even if it does feel a bit leaden at times. Those weaker aspects of the film not withstanding, Excalibur is a visual feast and certainly one of the better attempts to commit the legend of King Arthur to the big screen.
January 14, 2016
One of the worst films I have ever seen. Very poor, forced acting and cheap special effects. Will never watch again.
December 30, 2015
Visually the movie is very impressive but the awful dialogue and poor storytelling hurt it badly. This never felt like one movie but parts of a movie, it clearly needed at least an hour more to completely tell its story. At times the movie felt like a mix of Italian soap opera and soft porn.
½ December 24, 2015
One of my favorites!!!
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