Aggressively mediocre is how I would describe Antony Smith’s 2017 filmic travesty concerning the Arthurian legend. It is one of those films which, like a B-rated horror flick, you watch simply to ridicule; needless to say, it is also one of those films which must be described not in nuanced and even-handed rhetoric but rather in “well, this part of the movie wasn’t that bad…” spirit.
Plot-wise, King Arthur: Excalibur Rising is as bland as mayonnaise. Arthur son, Owain, hidden from his court and raised by a kindly woman, must navigate his destiny, claim Excalibur, and confront Mordred, freeing the land from his and Morgana’s tyranny. Basic fare. Narratively, though it is a bit refreshing to take a break from big-budget productions rife with over-the-top action scenes, the quaint nature of the film only does so much. The pacing is slow and nonsensical, with odd characters and sub-plots being shoehorned in even during the final act; meanwhile, the cartoonish representation of Mordred as a satanic parasite leeching off his mother and Morgan Le Fay as a witch of PURE EVIL is just boring.
Excalibur Rising feels like a rehash of better ideas, its Fair Unknown centricity justifying its low-budget while the rehash attempts to add some flair to an otherwise banal affair. The sudden focus on the three Pillar of Light artefacts—Excalibur, the God Stone, and the Holy Grail—is just a poor man’s copy of the Deathly Hallows from the Harry Potter movies. Owain, the titular lead, is an uninspired riff on Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings films. Throw in a cruel despot and an ignorant farm-boy finding his footing in a vicious world, and you a film like countless others before it.
Obviously, everything about the film other than the plot is insipid. The acting is hammy taken to an extreme as the third-tier actors struggle to make their characters seem believable. What little CGI and special effects there is to be held, is cringe-inducing and wouldn’t feel out of place in the mid-nineties. The music simply exists to fill a void. The cinematography is forgettable while the mildly nationalistic overtones of the film are underscored by the mildly homophobic and weirdly incestuous insinuations of the pair of villain. Overall, just a jarring affair not to be taken seriously.
I honestly cannot say much more than this. Excalibur Rising is simply film fodder. It exists for no other reason than to reap a quick buck off Arthuriana while the director and actors use it as something to put on their resumes. There was never any artistic intent in this film; sure, probing the reams of “what if” scenarios after King Arthur’s death is a seldom trodden territory, but when it is done so blasé with a focus on black and white morality systems, you can’t say anything else than to recommend something of more substance. I didn’t despise watching Excalibur Rising as I got a few decent chuckles out of the terribleness, but in terms of genuine endearment, this is a desert of Arthurian proportions.