Tag Archives: King Arthur

From Nothing Comes A King

On Saturday evening I sat down with my better half and son number three to watch the most recent offering from director Guy Ritchie (“Snatch”, “Sherlock Holmes”), “King Arthur : Legend Of The Sword”.

Rob Knighton

Now I must admit that I wasn’t too sure what to expect, as the movie didn’t fare terribly well at the box office and reviews weren’t great either – particularly for football celebrity David Beckham’s brief cameo appearance, but we’ll get to that in time…

Poppy Delevingne & Eric Bana

The film opens with the legendary Camelot under attack from a warlock, Mordred (Rob Knighton – “Anti-Social”, “Riot On Redchurch Street”), who aims to ensure that the mages dominate mankind. He comes up against the King of the Britons, Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana – “Munich”, “Deliver Us From Evil”) who defeats the warlock and his forces.

Jude Law

Unbeknownst to Uther, his brother Vortigern (Jude Law – “Dom Hemingway”, “Sleuth”) wants the throne for himself and has made a pact in which he will sacrifice his wife Elsa (Katie McGrath – “Jurassic World”, “Merlin”) in order to get Uther and his wife Igraine (Poppy Delevingne – “The Boat That Rocked”, “Absolutely Fabulous : The Movie”) out of the way.

Katie McGrath

The sole survivor of Uther’s family is his infant son who is put onto a small boat and drifts off, finally arriving in Londinium (that’s London in today’s lingo) where he is picked up and cared for by a group of prostitutes. Not sure where that would put Camelot, but a fair number of theories over the years have suggested Wales as a location, from where I don’t see a small boat drifting to London somehow…

Charlie Hunnam

We then fast forward through the boy’s childhood as he grows up and learns the way of the streets as well as gaining skills from training with an oriental fighter named George (Tom Wu – “Kick-Ass 2”, “Skyfall”). By adulthood Arthur (Charlie Hunnam – “Sons Of Anarchy”, “Deadfall”) is running a crew of his own.

Jude Law

Meanwhile the waters around now-King Vortigern’s castle have lowered, revealing a sword stuck fast in a stone. The King is forcing all men of around Arthur’s age to attempt to pull the sword from said stone.

Charlie Hunnam, David Beckham & Guy Ritchie

It is when Arthur himself has his turn to try to remove the sword that the aforementioned Beckham has his cameo. Beckham had a smaller cameo in Ritchie’s previous movie “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” which was fine and was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of thing. This time around Beckham plays Trigger, a Blackleg commander, and has some lines to deliver. Even now, some days later, I can’t decide if the problem – because there is one – is in Beckham’s delivery (he doesn’t have the most commanding voice for the role in question) or is simply, as my wife said, the fact that you’re thinking “oh, there’s David Beckham” and the scene would be fine with a “proper” actor rather than a celebrity?

Kingsley Ben-Adir, Djimon Hounsou, Poppy Delevingne & Annabelle Wallis

Regardless, it is at this point that Arthur becomes aware of his true origins and the destiny which awaits him. It is, however, a destiny which he is stubbornly determined to resist despite everyone around him – his old crew, including Tristan AKA Wet Stick (Kingsley Ben-Adir – “Trespass Against Us”, “Vera”) and Back Lack (Neil Maskell – “Dog House”, “Kill List”) – doing their level best to get him to do so.

Astrid Bergès-Frisbey & Charlie Hunnam

Also involved in this are Uther’s former knight Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou – “Fast & Furious 7”, “The Legend Of Tarzan”), Sir William AKA Goosefat Bill (Aiden Gillen – “Wake Wood”, “The Lovers”), Vortigern’s maid Maggie (Annabelle Wallis – “Come And Find Me”, “Mine”) and a mysterious unnamed mage (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey – “Pirates Of The Caribbean : On Stranger Tides”, “I Origins”).

Camelot Under Siege From Giant Elephants

Apart from the unsuccessful cameo from Beckham, my only real gripe was that a few of the action / fight scenes, particularly towards the end of the film, looked too much like they’d been taken from a video game, such was the level of slow-mo and CGI on display. Oh, and the giant elephants are the beginning?!. That said, the scenes with huge crowds etc. are really well done.

Jude Law, Guy Ritchie & Charlie Hunnam

All that aside we found the movie to be enormously entertaining. Sure it may not be historically accurate – but then how can one be with so many different stories and theories surrounding Arthurian legend – and one might argue that some of Ritchie’s usual approaches (such as the story within a story where as Arthur relays what he predicts is going to happen we see other characters doing exactly that etc.) and the modern language and haircuts don’t fit with the time period in question. However, taken for what it is – a fun and visually impressive retelling of the King Arthur story for today’s audiences (or maybe for those of us who still enjoy revisiting “Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch” nearly twenty years down the line?) – it’s pretty damn good. Where this all leaves the remaining five films of the originally planned six part series is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, however, this is a well-recommended two hours of cinematic entertainment…

The Deal, The Danger, The Deaths

“The Deal

Tom Thorne is a detective again, but there’s a price to pay. Stuart Nicklin, the most dangerous psychopath he has ever put behind bars, promises to reveal the whereabouts of a body he buried twenty-five years before. But only if Thorne agrees to escort him.

The Danger

Unable to refuse, Thorne gathers a team and travels to a remote Welsh island, at the mercy of the weather and cut off from the mainland. Thorne is determined to get the job done and return home before Nicklin can outwit them.

The Deaths

But Nicklin knows this island well and has had time to plan ahead. Soon, new bodies are added to the old, and Thorne finds himself facing the toughest decision he has ever had to make…”

1699x2600sr

“The Bones Beneath” is the thirteenth book that I have read by English author Mark Billingham, and the twelfth to feature his police detective character Tom Thorne.

The majority of the book takes place during the journey to, and time spent on, Bardsey Island, a small island off the west Wales coast that is reputed to be the burial place of twenty thousand saints and also sometimes claimed to be the last resting places of both King Arthur and Merlin.

There are some flashback chapters to events on the island some twenty-five years previously and others that cover events happening elsewhere whilst Thorne and his party are on the island which give hints as to what’s going on but the truth isn’t revealed until the end as usual.

Thorne’s significant others, by which I mean recurring characters that he works with – such as pathologist Phil Hendricks and detective colleagues Dave Holland and Yvonne Kitson – have fairly minor roles to play here too, with most of the action, as it were, being between Thorne and Nicklin.

I have to be honest and say that, whilst I most certainly enjoyed this novel I felt that it was a little weak in comparison to the Thorne tales that have preceded it. There is very little in the way of police investigation of detective work going on in this story, with most of the revelations coming about as and when the bad guy decides to disclose them, which I think accounts for the relative lack of overall excitement with this one.

Hopefully things will pick up with the next book in the series “Time Of Death”…bones beneath

Forged By A God. Foretold By A Wizard. Found By A King.

Had a trip back in time today, in two ways. I watched a movie that was released in 1981 and was set in Albion during the late fifth / early sixth century and concerns the legends surrounding King Arthur.

Excalibur-movie-poster

Sir Thomas Malory - Le Morte d'Arthur
Sir Thomas Malory – Le Morte d’Arthur

The film, “Excalibur”, was directed by John Boorman (“Deliverance”, “Point Blank”) and is best described as a fantasy drama. Filmed entirely in Ireland, it is based on the various stories contained in a collection of stories written and compiled by Sir Thomas Malory entitled “La Mort d’Arthur” which was originally published in 1485.

Nicol Williamson & Gabriel Byrne
Nicol Williamson & Gabriel Byrne

The sorcerer Merlin (Nicol Williamson – “Black Widow”) takes the legendary sword Excalibur from the Lady In The Lake and gives it to Uther Pendragon (Gabriel Byrne – “The Usual Suspects”, “Ghost Ship”) who uses it to secure a peace pact with the Duke Of Cornwall (Corin Redgrave – “Persuasion”).

Katrine Borman
Katrine Borman

That peace is shattered by Pendragon’s lust for Cornwall’s wife Igrayne (Katrine Boorman – “Hope And Glory”). Whilst Cornwall is away from his castle chasing Pendragon’s men, Merlin is persuaded to temporarily transform Pendragon to look like Cornwall so that he can seduce Igrayne, on the condition that Merlin can keep whatever results from Pendragon’s lust. Igrayne is impregnated during the subsequent encounter, even as Cornwall is dying in battle – something sensed by his and Igrayne’s daughter Morgana.

Katrine Boorman, Gabriel Byrne & Nicol Williamson
Katrine Boorman, Gabriel Byrne & Nicol Williamson

Nine months later Merlin returns to claim the new-born son of Igrayne and Pendragon, who he names Arthur. In pursuit, Pendragon is killed but thrusts Excalibur into a stone as he is dying. Merlin then declares that whoever will be able to withdraw the sword from the stone shall be King.

Nigel Terry
Nigel Terry

The film then shoots forward in time some years where we witness Arthur (Nigel Terry – “The Last Of England”) attend a jousting tournament and remove the sword from the stone when all others, including Sir Leondegrance (Patrick Stewart – “X-Men”), have failed. Arthur later meets Leondegrance’s daughter, Guenevere (Cherie Lunghi – “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”) and falls in love with her.

Nicholas Clay
Nicholas Clay

A further jump forward sees the meeting of Arthur and Lancelot (Nicholas Clay – “Sleeping Beauty”), the foundation of the Round Table and Camelot, Lancelot also falling in love with Arthur’s new bride Guenevere, and the reappearance of Morgana (Helen Mirren – “Brighton Rock, “The Debt”) who wants to become Merlin’s apprentice.

Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson

Later, Morgana uses her powers to influence Sir Gawain (Liam Neeson – “Taken”, “Darkman”) to accuse Guenevere of driving Lancelot away with her desires, so forcing Lancelot to defend Guenevere’s honour in a duel. Arthur then discovers the lovers in the forest together and thrusts Excalibur into the ground between their sleeping bodies.

Helen Mirren
Helen Mirren

Merlin is subsequently enchanted by Morgana, who in turn disguises herself as Guenevere in order to get Arthur to impregnate her. The result is a child, Mordred (Robert Addie – “Robin Of Sherwood”), and a curse upon the land causing famine and sickness. In an attempt to end the curse, Arthur sends his knights out in search of the Holy Grail.

Paul Geoffrey
Paul Geoffrey

Years later most of the knights are dead at the hands of Morgana and Mordred. However, Perceval (Paul Geoffrey – “Greystoke – The Legend Of Tarzan”) manages to unlock the mystery and bring the grail to Arthur who is revitalised – as is the land.

Cherie Lunghi
Cherie Lunghi

Arthur is reconnected with Guenevere, who has kept Excalibur safe, whilst Merlin wakes from his enchanted state and is able to trick Morgana into using up her powers, leading to her death. Arthur and his remaining knights fight the Battle Of Camlann against Mordred’s larger army, and are boosted by the return of Lancelot. Finally, Excalibur is returned to the Lady Of The Lake by Perceval as Arthur is taken off to the island of Avalon.

Helen Mirren Robert Addie
Helen Mirren & Robert Addie

I missed this movie when it was first out, as I was too young to watch it at the time and, sadly, did not have a great interest in history once I was old enough! Those days are way behind me, though, and I do now enjoy a good movie about this country’s history.

Nicol Williamson
Nicol Williamson

As well as huge portions of the Arthurian legends, the film also has hints of the conflict between paganism and Christianity in that era and the Druid origins of Merlin as his many gods are usurped by the one god of Christianity.

This is a long film at two hours and twenty minutes and still contains quite a few jumps in time, as I have noted. The timespan covered is essentially the whole of Arthur’s life (starting even before his conception) so there is a lot of ground to cover. This means that from time to time the movie feels a little disjointed and you could lose track of what’s going on if you don’t pay close enough attention.

That said, the production values are really strong and I think that the film holds up really well thirty four years after it first appeared. The acting is really very good and the staging, costumes and cinematography are excellent, transforming the beautiful Irish landscape into the mainland of the Dark Ages.

A hugely enjoyable slice of our mythical history…

Excalibur-1981-affiche-poster