Director: John Boorman
Cast: Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nicolas Clay
Spoilers Within: No
Originally posted 25th May 2016 on Letterboxd.
Let it be known that John Boorman’s Excalibur is the hammiest, campest film that I have ever seen: one whose entire essence is based on the theatrical background of its cast, and the well-known playfulness of the story’s history.
The cross-decadal classic fantasy starts with a questionable rape scene, picks back up with the impressionable pre-King-squire Arthur, then follows all the motions in the story, from the ‘sword in the stone’ moment through to the quest for the holy grail. It packs in the entire mythology at such breakneck speed that it’s easy to get bogged down in all the names and places. Imagine the basics of Game of Thrones condensed into a 2-hour movie, and you basically have the pacing of Excalibur.
It’s ridiculous – perhaps knowingly so – but it’s no less vexing when there’s a decade-long time-jump or a battle that’s glazed over due to obvious budgetary constraints. The approach to casting renowned theatre actors (Patrick Stewart, Nicol Williamson etc) impeded any possibility of latching on to specific characters during this rapid pacing, most notably when they were literally yelling lines that gave the opposite effect (laughter instead of plot development) to what they were hoping for. Very little of the film felt cinematic, and whilst that’s not a problem in and of cinema itself, it is hugely distracting when it seems that even the majority of the cast were unaware of the difference.
Excalibur is, by all accounts, a pretty bad film, but there was a part of me that enjoyed the ride for as long as it lasted. This could be due to enjoyment by association (I took one of my best friends to see it at the cinema as it’s his favourite film) but it’s assuredly not a film I care to watch again, nor one that I would recommend to those who don’t already have a vested interest in the mythology of King Arthur.