Goodness, where do I begin with this one? I will give it this: in terms of B-rated Arthurian films, it is better than King Arthur: Excalibur Rising. That is not saying much, mind you, but it is an important detail to keep in mind while watching this hilarious train wreck of a feature.
Mark L. Lester’s The Dragons of Camelot (2003), then, reminds me of fan-fiction. With the story taking place after the death of Arthur and Morgan Le Fay hatching a coup to steal power (with the help of dragons), we see a narrative haphazardly rebounding from point to point at breakneck speed; Lancelot is a drunk, Morgan a dragon summoner, and Gawain a traitor to the roundtable. By the end of the film, we see Galahad—Arthur’s illegitimate son by Lancelot—reign as King once Morgan is defeated (spoiler alert?). It is a superbly odd tale.
As I said, it feels like fan-fiction. Normally, this being the Arthurian Legend, this would not be a problem. After all, Arthuriana is literally nothing but one person writing fan-fiction on someone else’s writing; I will fight you on this point and allows us to frame Geoffrey of Monmouth in an entirely new light. But that is not the problem; rather, it is problematic because it feels like a Star Wars fanfiction dressed in Arthurian garb.
Yup, you’ve heard me right—Star Wars. Let me explain so you do not dismiss me as a loon (there will be plenty of time for that later; consider checking out my essays on this site to accelerate the process).
What is Star Wars? It is the story of a farm boy destined for greatness mentored by a once great warrior ultimately rising above his meager condition to overthrow an evil empire with the help of daring rebels. In other words, this is The Dragons of Camelot: Galahad is the farm boy (the quintessential fair unknown), his destined greatness is one day becoming king, his mentor is Lancelot, the down and out former knight turned drunkard, while the evil empire is Morgan Le Fay’s despotic rule; meaning, the plucky rebels could be no one other than the Arthurian knights. Particularly, Lancelot feels heavily reminiscent of Han Solo (if Solo was a disenfranchised alcoholic) as Dindrane is Princess Leia (here, the frosting on the cake is that by the end of the film, Dindrane becomes queen, thus cementing the parallel). And, just for good measure, the periodic dragon attacks could be Tie Fighters strafing our courageous heroes. All the pieces fit, and it is more than a bit off-putting to realize.
It is off-putting because Arthuriana and Science-Fiction are very difficult to meld without the product feels like a fish-out-of-water or a clown without make-up. Sure, some texts, like Camelot 3000, can effectively transport the Arthurian legend into Sci-Fi territory, but this is the exception, not the rule. The Dragons of Camelot, by contrast, feels a lot like a sub-par version of Final Fantasy XII which, much like this film, copied Star Wars in the plot, but did so far better (in fact, it is slightly insulting to really compare the two, so I just want to point out how both feel weird but this film is far weirder). Ultimately, sure, this is simply genre trouble and is perhaps just waiting for the next creative genius to make the two fields mesh, but, in the meantime, it is enough to say that the attempt to copy George Lucas’s epic makes Dragons feel stilted.
So, yes, The Dragons of Camelot is not a good film. But, it is a low-budget, early 2000s riff on the Arthurian legend which was only ever meant to be a B-level production. I would be surprised if the film was ever meant to be anything other than a hammy, poorly made affair from the get-go. Obviously, then, the movie is bursting with bad acting, terrible writing, meh music, and only slight slivers of decency throughout (some of the transition shots, for example, are well done, as is some of the lines delivered by the Morgan Le Fay actor, Sandra Darnell). You do not watch this film to be thrilled, you watch it to be entertained in the sense of you and a buddy ripping on it time and time again, yelling at the screen on how awful the production values are and why someone even bothered. So, put this dreck with the films about glossy Armageddon-level events and settle in for a disaster not worth watching