A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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?
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