[Film Review] Excalibur (1981)

Title: Excalibur
Year: 1981
Country: USA, UK
Language: English
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Director: John Boorman
Writers:
Rospo Pallenberg
Thomas Malory
John Boorman
Music: Trevor Jones
Cinematography: Alex Thomson
Cast:
Nigel Terry
Helen Mirren
Nicol Williamson
Nicholas Clay
Cherie Lunghi
Paul Geoffrey
Liam Neeson
Patrick Stewart
Gabriel Byrne
Robert Addie
Katrine Boorman
Ciarán Hinds
Niall O’Brien
Keith Buckley
Clive Swift
Corin Redgrave
Charley Boorman
Rating: 7.2/10

England-born, Ireland-residing director John Boorman’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS wannabe in the 80s has an epic contour and piquant visual stunts, fusing the legend of THE SWORD IN THE STONE (1963) and KING ARTHUR (2004), together shaping a thorough and staggering chronicle recount on the mythology with an intoxicating ancient Greek tragedy pathos.

The film has its mark of its time since the CGI scenes are revealing its real age, but the overall ramifications (after a 144 minutes running time) are not laughable at all, Boorman’s kitschy yet strenuously made settings (a golden and silver Camelot could never be more shining using the aluminum materials and lightning enhancement) and many superimposed special effects are effectually utilized, plus the right-place-right-moment playing of Carl Orff’s CARMINA BURANA also insists in honing up the tragic atmosphere into the extremity.

The actors are much better and more confident in delivering lines than in overshooting their clumsy battlefield slashes, from a fiery beginning combat until the final foggy father-son slaughter, all the action scenes are designed to not be taken seriously, however miraculously it doesn’t nullify a sacred seriousness running in the pulse of the film, and what makes the film more than bearable is the uppermost devotion from the cast, an indeed fluctuating assemblage, Nigel Terry is steadily embodying himself with the true kingship as King Arthur, a late bloomer in the film since it looks like he is a tad gauche in playing a young Arthur. Helen Mirren’s adult Morgana is viperous, phenomenal and Shakespearean while Nicol Williamson’s Merlin has a fervent surge of passion and allure in enchanting his audience (both in and out of the film). By comparison, Nicolas Clay’s Lancelot, Cherie Lunghi’s Guenevere and Paul Geoffrey’s Perceval are just too perfect in their molding as the straightforward good people, their struggles mostly fall flat.

Also this is the film debut of Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson, Ciarán Hinds and Cherie Lunghi, it could be another reason for cinephiles to revisit this cult version of the dark age. For Boorman, my only preceding experience with his work is THE TAILOR OF PANAMA (2001), then arguably EXCALIBUR might be the summit of his career, a 7.2 out of 10 may do some justice to him.

One thought on “[Film Review] Excalibur (1981)

  1. Pingback: [Film Review] Point Blank (1967) – Cinema Omnivore

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