What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this retelling of the Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot love triangle has action, romance, and scads of bloody battle sequences, death, maiming, and other assorted medieval savagery. Still, its more quantity than "quality" -- expect lots of red swords and red-drenched clothing, but no gory displays of visible entrails, decapitations, or amputation.
What's the story?
Lancelot (Richard Gere) is first seen to be a sword-shark of sorts -- challenging contenders to duels and living as footloose rambler -- until he sets his gaze on the breathtaking Guinevere (Julia Ormond) who is to be wed to King Arthur (Sean Connery). After gallantly saving her from an ambush, Lancelot follows Guinevere to Camelot where he impresses Arthur with his skill and dexterity. Then Lancelot proves himself once again when he saves Guinevere after she's kidnapped by Arthur's nemesis Malagant. He is knighted by Arthur, only to be charged with treason shortly after when he catches his wife and Lancelot in a heavy lip-lock. This makes putting kingdom first more difficult for Arthur and Lancelot when Malagant's army storms the village and surrounds Arthur.
Is it any good?
Sticklers for any semblance of historical accuracy will be exasperated by this Fantasy Island version of the Arthurian legend. Fans of credible acting will likewise be irked at the box-office minded casting and sub-par performances. FIRST KNIGHT appears to be a vanity project in which Sean Connery is striving for some regal gravitas and Gere is stretching his matinee idol wings by delving -- rather lamely -- into period drama. He's got half an English accent going, and even his scripted lines are utterly anachronistic. (To be fair, his Lancelot is aptly smug.) The age difference between Arthur and Guinevere -- and their lack of chemistry and apparent love -- dilutes the thorniness and anguish of Guinevere and Lancelot's betrayal.
But while the film offers nothing but cardboard characterizations and awful dialog, the action sequences rouse even the most cynical viewer. Gere's Lancelot is the Jackie Chan of medieval action figures, fighting an army of swordsmen single-handedly with dazzling dagger tricks and nonstop awesome wallopings. There's also a satisfying amount of horse chase scenes, waterfall leaping, and longing glances. But with the feast of cinematic alternatives in the genre of Camelot action flicks, why chose this corny afterthought?
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the enduring legend of King Arthur. Was he a historic or mythical figure -- or perhaps a king whose life was embellished for literary purposes? Which version of his story do you like best? The one from books such as The Once and Future King? The movies like this one with flashy stars? The cartoons like The Sword in the Stone? Or even the comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail?