Arthur & Merlin

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Arthur & Merlin Movie Poster Image
Slow-paced Arthurian tale has some fantasy violence.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The only way to reach your potential is by rising to the challenges life throws at you, not by waiting until you think you're ready. The battle between light and dark is eternal.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Arthfael (Arthur) places a high value on life and fights for what's right. He's loyal to his king and his friends, and of course brave in the face of danger. Myrrdin (Merlin) at first doesn't think one king and a few small villages are worth exerting himself for because they won't amount to much in the scheme of human history. But when he learns how his inactions have hurt people he decides to take action, help Arthfael defeat evil, and use his own powers for good. Love interest Olwen isn't involved in any action, but she takes steps to help the king, and is clever and resourceful.

Violence

Battles with axes, swords, staffs, bows and arrows, and magic show the weapons being used without blood or gore. Many bodies are shown lying on the battlefield afterward, and one man pierced with several arrows is shown but no blood or gore are seen. A woman is killed by magical attack and black cracks begin to form on her face. One stab with a sword includes a squishy sound, and another shows a bloody sword being pulled out of the victim. A dying man has blood running out of his mouth, and a few bloodied faces are shown after battles. An important character has a gentle death scene. Mysterious sounds, strange voices, darkness, and fog in a scary forest where trees attack. A magical fog pulls people underground. A doomsday fantasy creature is portrayed as rising up a dark tunnel surrounded by fire.

Sex

A couple of brief kisses.

Language

"Bastard" used several times to refer to Arthfael as an illegitimate son.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Young men talk about getting drunk to take their minds off their problems and say they can't get a kid drunk. Adults drink mead; one says he doesn't trust a man who doesn't drink mead. Myrrdin doesn't drink and Arthfael makes up an excuse that it makes Myrrdin lose control.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Arthur & Merlin is an alternative beginning to the familiar legend of the king of Camelot. Expect plenty of swords and sorcery in battle scenes and confrontations with fantasy embodiments of evil. No gore is shown, although some blood is briefly shown toward the end, and there are some spooky magical locations. An important character dies. "Bastard" is used several times to refer to Arthfael as an illegitimate son. There are a couple of brief kisses. Arthfael (Arthur) is a good role model for bravery, loyalty, and fighting for justice. Myrrdin (Merlin) eventually comes around to finding a reason to help people. Suitable for tweens and up interested in exploring all things Arthurian.

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What's the story?

ARTHUR & MERLIN first meet as children, when young Arthfael saves Myrrdin's life from the clutches of the king's evil advisor, the druid priest Aberthol. Fifteen years later, King Vortigern's memory and strength are failing him. Arthfael (Kirk Barker) suspects Aberthol may be using dark magic against the king when Vortigern banishes Arthfael even after he saved the king's life. Arthfael knows he can't stop Aberthol on his own, so he instead of returning home in banishment he sets out to find Myrrdin, now a man with mysterious powers who may be the kingdom's only hope. But Myrrdin's not ready to face the forces of darkness. Can Arthfael enlist Myrrdin's help, save the king, and fulfill his own destiny?

Is it any good?

This is more of a loving but amateurish tribute to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy than something true lovers of Arthurian legend can sink their teeth into. Arthur & Merlin shares many camera shots, and even plot points, with Jackson's fantasy masterpiece (aerial shots of running across windswept landscapes, a king falling into the fog of dementia at an evil sorcerer's hands, etc.). But the made-for-TV look, script that tries way too hard, and over-use of explaining things in slow, ponderous voices make for a pale comparison.

Still, not every moment is terrible, and diehard Arthurian or sword-and-sorcery fans may find just enough to enjoy it as a "lite" version of a classic story, and may be intrigued by the alternative beginning to the legend offered here. Just don't expect to be swept up in any grand emotions more traditionally associated with the legend of King Arthur.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Arthur & Merlin compares to other Arthur stories you've seen or read. How is it different? Which is your favorite?

  • Do you agree with Arthur that you can only reach your potential by rising to unexpected challenges, or is Merlin wiser for wanting to be sure he's ready for what lies ahead? Why?

  • What are some unexpected challenges you've faced, and how did you handle them?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love fantasy

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