I watched First Knight, for the first time since the mid’ 90’s. One of my brother’s and I used to watch it like once a month, for a stretch. Medieval stuff, I mean come on man. I loved all of that stuff.
First Knight is a take on the tale of Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere. It manages to carve its own identity in that the movie is completely missing any of the magic often associated with Arthur tales. Not even a mention that his sword is called Excalibur. Which actually works fine and could have been even better, if the movie had better direction and grounded more in the characters.
While watchable, its a bit of a miss, overall. Parts of it are effective. But the directing has peaks and valleys. and the script lacks character. Also, there is basically zero messing around with side characters. Aside from Lancelot, Guinevere, Arthur, and Maligant; virtually every other character is set dressing or an occasional word for setting and/or flavor. As for the main 4 characters: They have all the emotions in the bag and pull one out when the scene asks. But there’s rarely a feel that anyone here exists between scenes. A shame, because the cast is good. Ben Cross, in particular, was well cast as Maligant and its too bad the script wasn’t a little bit better. He may have been one of the memorable bad guys of movies.
But there are some things here which work. I only remembered bits and pieces. That there was some fighting, details about Lancelot’s childhood, the main badguy’s sword is awesome, and I remembered the holding cell in Maligant’s stronghold (he’s the main bad guy). His sword is still awesome and the other parts of his place are also awesome. Really a very cool set. Aside from that, the beginning third of the movie is pretty breezy and gets right to some fighting, like 3 times. and Gere is pretty good as a boyish fun guy wandering sword man, for the front half. The back half of the movie, his character feels missplaced as things get more serious. Sean Connery probably has the most lines and delivers them with enough gravitas. But he doesn’t do much except walk and talk or stand and talk. So I’m split on his role. He does at one point, cry out to god a really excellent “WHYYYYyyyyyy!!!”
Its also a bright film with some sunshine and pretty good colors. Costumes are just good enough and sets/settings are all pretty excellent. Lots of time in a ferny forest. Bad guy’s lair is cool. Round table room is cool. some decent matte paintings, etc. And along with that sunshine, is a pretty positive attitude. Which is nice, after all the grim darkness of the past 20 years. A nice uplifting main theme for the score. It also shows positively, all the signs of being shot on film. And with pretty excellent depth to the image in many scenes.
It is pretty amazing how much deeper something like Lord of The Rings could dig a few years later, for large scale sword fighting. I’m sure something else probably did better before then, but I rewatched that recently so its fresh in my mind. The director here had no idea what he was doing. Its serviceable, at best.
Also there is a moment early on, where a wooden bell tower is burning and falls over. For some reason, the editor decided to slow-mo the first frames just as it starts to tip, but then tips at full speed. It looks exactly like a video game dropping frames to catch up, as physics are kicking in.
Twice, the movie reminded me of Team ICO games. ICO, when lancelot is rescuing Guinevere from her holding cell in Maligant’s Lair. SoTC, during some horse riding through ferny forest.