King Arthur:  The Movies

King Arthur.  The phrase conjures images of fair maidens, brave knights, chivalry, and twelfth century armaments.  The fact is that everyone’s favorite British king lived in the fifth century.  He probably had hand-me-down armor, sword, and shield.  He may not have spoken Latin, but he knew enough about the past to respect Rome.  His life was hard, consisting of poor hygiene, bad diet, and battles as a part of everyday life.  

I say all this by way of an introduction.  In our era of realism, where every period from the Trojan War up to the present day is portrayed with accurate weapons, tactics, and technology, the Arthurian period is still waiting on something resembling the real article.  Till then, I’ll keep you occupied with a list of Arthurian period movies and some of their more irritating traits.

King Arthur is probably the most accurate we are likely to get for the period.  I read someplace that the horse paraphernalia is inaccurate.  I can live with that.  If I wanted to be difficult I would mention the contemporaneity of Pelagius and Arthur, 

No, let’s stick with the bad stuff.  Arthur is a Latin name, yet he is called a Sarmatians.  The Sarmatians were Germanic and had faded from history by 400?  Arthur is sent to guard Britain for a predetermined number of years by the Romans?  But Roman mercenaries settled their entire tribes in the areas they protected.   It makes no sense to even connect Arthur with the Romans; he was most likely born long after the Romans left Britain.

Tristan and Isolde is technically not an Arthurian film.  The story itself is mythological and involves a dragon.  Still, the movie is set in the ancient world, and of course Tristan, Isolde, and Mark – or rather Drust, Iseult, and March, are considered Arthurian characters.  Though the storyline strays badly from the legend itself, the movie has the gritty, bloody feel of the period much like King Arthur.

The big problem with it is the fortress which is Mark’s stronghold.  The castles of the period were hill-forts, nothing more than a hill that took advantage of natural rock formations to construct a wall.  Within it there was normally a hall that could seat all dozen to a hundred warriors, a granary, perhaps a smithy and several huts and merchant buildings.  Everything was made of wood.  The multiple levels of the movie’s fort could not have existed at any time before the tenth century.

The movie is too civilized as well.  A meeting of all the major kings?  A contest between them?  The period’s kings were more like gangsters in how they dealt with each other and their subjects than any royalty we would be familiar with.  To see them acting like modern statesmen is painful – and insulting.

First Knight.  Where to start.  The machine which brings Lancelot to Arthur’s attention?  The twelfth century armaments?  The plot twist that Meleagant was once a member of the Round Table?  That stupid theme about the man with no fear (no warrior worth his weapon is afraid to die, but fear is what keeps a person sharp on the battlefield)?  It isn’t even a good adaptation of the famous poem “Le Chevalier de la Charrette” on which it was based with the absence of the intriguing character Bademagus and the minimization of Kay.

A good Arthur movie has a great deal of potential, whether one based on the literature or the history.  There is the obvious love triangle of Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot and the lesser one of Mark/Isolde/Tristan.  There is the obnoxious knight who made the butt of other knights’ valor.  In Palamedes there is the bad knight made good, in Perceval there is the great fool made wise.  Such a plethora of good stories are there to be told from a literary standpoint, and the best we can manage are bad interpretations or insulting historical adaptations.!/entry/is-warner-bros-prepping-not-one-not-two-not-five,52e6cca3e56d0bb8534c6429

About Cian Beirdd

I live with my kitty, and encourage his tuna and catnip addictions. I have a website as well;
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14 Responses to King Arthur:  The Movies

  1. I have not seen Tristan and Isolde, but I loathed First Knight. Given the cast and the subject matter, I expected, at the least, to find it entertaining. Instead, it was awful. Even Garry who is better than I am at ignoring historical stupidity, hated it. We walked out before it was halfway finished. I’ve managed to avoid seeing it on cable and if I’m careful, I may avoid it forever. I sure hope so 🙂

  2. Cian Beirdd says:

    A novel, not a script. It should be adaptable but I certainly don’t have the experience to do it. I suppose all it really has going for it is that it is honest and the characters real.

    • THAT is a LOT. I was doing a lot of book reviewing for a while. I was appalled — horrified — at how many really truly terrible books get published. I don’t get it. Who did they have to sleep with? I haven’t been reading at all since my surgery — but I’m hoping this isn’t permanent. I’ve been listening to audiobooks because my eyes don’t seem to want to stay focused on a page. I’m assuming it’s temporary because there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t available in audio. I’d love to read your book, assuming I actually am able to read again. Soon.

  3. Cian Beirdd says:

    Just let me know. And I know terrible. I have been reviewing quite a bit lately and I want to give up reading altogether.

    • Who do they know? Were they blackmailing the publisher? I couldn’t even get a READING, much less a publisher and while it isn’t deathless literature, it’s a hell of a lot better than the crap that the publishers are pushing. I DID give up reviewing. I couldn’t push my way through another awful book.

      I did get a couple of gems that became best sellers — on their second books … but I could tell from the first read of their first books they had that something that makes a book sell.

      Still, I think more good books never see print than not because publishers are terrified of risk. They don’t like books they can’t fit into a specific slot in their catalog. If you can’t describe it in 100 words, you can’t get anyone to read it.

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        What I gave them was simple and easily slotted. The interesting stuff is latent, but easily touched upon in a second, third, or fourth novel. I don’t know if I have a best seller, but the characters and environment are interesting, and the plot is not mind numbing nor does it end in a fizzle.

      • I would love it, I’m sure. If you have it on any format that goes on Kindle, I’d be very happy to give it a try. Maybe it will get me reading again. If you can’t do it, probably no one can 🙂

      • Cian Beirdd says:

        That is high praise. PDF or purchase from an online store?

      • Online, if it isn’t insanely expensive. I can’t read on the computer. I need my little Kindle 🙂 My Paperwhite feels like a real book but it’s lighter and I don’t need a lamp.

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