Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Review: First Knight

Movies like this are ungodly annoying because they throw the word of "Love" around like bread crumbs at the birds. All, willy, and yes, nilly, too. Which is offensive to the word and anyone who's had intimate relations with it. Movie or not, this material takes itself very seriously. So I will, in turn, do the same.

There is no foundation, weight, or  responsibility to the meanings, or the tutelage and right of passage to get the heart in meaning of the word. The movie only gives us a nebulous definition and I don't feel anyone feels it's true meaning. Only that it means a great deal. And having known this word myself, and been to the ends of the earth and beyond in it, I can say First Knight knows no true love. But only the idea of it.

I speak of that first, because foremost, it is the thing the movie revolves around. The love of Arthur and Lancelot by Guinevere. Love of Camelot, of brotherhood and one's people. And the latter aspects were convincing, but the from a woman to a man in this. No sir. 

When you invest so much of the story to depend on the sell of this as legitimate, and I see it as fraudulent, I become upset, and even a little offended. So turn back now, this isn't going to be pretty. Slightly bitchy versus professional film insight and analyses, or criticism. An in which I hate associating myself with because it's easy to call something out, and much harder to pick apart why and how you liked it and why it worked so well to you deep inside. But maybe this one of the rare occasions I actually become a critic.

Here goes nothin'. . .

Julia Ormond's Guinevere lives in Leonesse, her father having died she is now the ruler of her land. And she loves her people and uses her heart to guide her choices and her brain to due what is necessary. More on that later. But Malagant (I nick-named malignant) an ex-knight of the round table is on the rage to conquer land much to Arthur's (Connery) chagrin. Lancelot (Gere), a traveling swordsman who lives and breaths by his own will. Selling his sword and performing town spectacles with his skills. Before long, all three of these characters converge on the same path due to Malagant's incessant (or malignant) killing and inability to die. Looking as if he'll kill all before suffering the same fate. His wanting to be king of the world is a conquest he doesn't seem to be loosing. Which ultimately forces Arthur's hand.

When we first meet King Arthur, it's under the moon with his knights lined up like Marines with their rifles and white gloves And then as he walked down his hallway of soldiers, I spotted Connery's belly pushing down his belt-line as he moved carefully as a king should. Watching him through the movie, using his age, presence and trusting nature as a confidant man who knows no lies and speaks form his gut and heart, I bought him as King Arthur. Connery as King Arthur? Of course. And even battle commander Arthur. But not, lover Arthur, or in-pain-over-love, Arthur. (Watch the church scream, and then get back to me) And Lover/Love Pain Arthur is stressed very much in the movie's poorly conceived script.  Now on to his "lover." (And the bitching continues)

Without saying she isn't worth it, because I believe she truly is, I suppose there is an unfortunate reason we don't see much of Julia Ormond these days. Short of some sparse bits here and there on her name alone with no career defining role(s). And this movie is all the proof I need to see why. Coupled with the backlash from Sabrina being remade  (Harrison Ford or not) and her taking the historical role made whole and real by Audrey "I Do No Wrong" Hepburn.

Whether or not Sean Connery believes Arthur loves Guinevere, and he sold it to me he does adding authenticity to a poorly constructed script about love, Julia Ormond's Guinevere did not love him, or Lancelot for that matter. The only thing she had me convinced of was that the idea of loving either man, made her extremely uncomfortable the entire film, and she'd rather be kicking that damn ball we see her with in the beginning.

There are a few lovely moments she shares with Gere in a forest during a rainshower and one in her home of Leonesse, and one gentle embrace with Connery where I almost bought it. But then the next scenes of her hard/soft /love/confused "I'm an obvious over-actor" character portrayal took me right out of it.

I bought it with Gere sincerely as Lancelot. A dashing, grinning, long-haired and ultimately loving and altruistic man. I guess that's not a hard sell alone, and seeing as the script packed the most care into making it's Lancelot, I believed it. Gere, who's savvy in just about anything he does, shows us a playful Lancelot who knows no fear and cares for nothing. He eventually forgoes that skin in light of his respect for Camelot, Arthur as a brother-in-arms, and of course for Guinevere. Guinevere, who gives him very little reasons to fall in love with her, beyond her beauty. Which is a starting point he states. So maybe back then that was enough? Gere has the playful weight of, well, himself actually. And injects that well into his Lancelot.

Gere and Connery (to a lesser degree dealing with his script sometimes) seemed to be genuine with his feelings, motivations and the faces we saw in character. I believed and rather enjoyed watching him impress me as a dashing swordsman with high skill and zero fear of death. Who woulda thought Gere could gives us Dashing Swordsman and Honorable Knight and do it well?

He tells Arthur he has nothing to live for, so what's he really risking. He adds the authenticity of a man who knows his body and soul, and takes the trust from it to show us what he's really feeling. Honesty is not something I got with Ormond. More like, she had a kidney stone, or diarrhea that would flare up at the sight and thought of love with either Arthur or Lancelot. It was an unnerving choice for an actress to display in deed. But the again, between the source material she was handed and director Jerry Zucker (Ghost), who knows what she was really guided to do.

The script gave us almost zero real attempts to build from the ground up with characters who have time to fall in love, instead of just skipping all of it, and saying they are. That was my problem, there was a beginning with the word, skipping the middle, and just getting to the end, "I love him." "I love her." "I love you." "Kiss me I am asking." Blah blah fuck! Not to mention a good back n forth between Malagant and Arthur over the politics of their battles and heartfelt church scene in Leonesse.

I don't want to keep repeating myself, but, I think you get the point. Guinevere goes from seeing Arthur as a reason for protecting her kingdom and a sound husband on paper and still feeling uncomfortable about it, to loving him implicitly at the drop of a hat. Literally within the same scene. Even when he gives her an excuse to get out of the engagement. Telling her Leonesse will always be protected by Camelot. Then we see the only seemingly legit feelings she ever experiences flash across her face, as if her brain is telling herself, "You win! Now run bitch run!" And then the script takes a nasty turn and forces her character to say, no, I really do love you, let's do this. her face and eyes betray her words though. Pity.

It's as if the triangle of Guinevere "loving" Lancelot and Arthur was written by Stephanie Meyer on her day off.

There are some great set pieces and wonderful costumes made to show off the Medieval period of history. With rolling hills, mountains and deep forests, and white horses, shinning armor, thrones, town squares and English accents.

As a technical display of making a sound Medieval picture with knights and swords, honor, pretty dresses, and one or two badly staged battles, here ya go. But if you want the real thing, there's always Braveheart or Game of Thrones.

I'm giving this 2 outa 4 on the Banana scale. But, I dunno. . . 

Munki out.

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