Guess what? It is another B-Arthurian flick. You know the drill—bad, overly-hammy acting, cringe-inducing special effects, and a plot which is eccentric, to say the least. A film, in other words, only produced to steal some of the spotlight from the Guy Ritchie Arthurian outing[1]. Enter Jared Cohn’s King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (2017).

I won’t lie, I am confused why this movie exists; by that, I mean that though I am fully aware of why this movie exists—to make a quick buck off the Arthurian resurgence likely to happen in the wake of Ritchie’s movie—but what I do not know is why it exists as it does, in Thailand. Ostentatiously, it is set in Thailand because one of the characters, Gunner, owns a dojo there and believes that he and his friends are the reincarnations of the legendary Knights of the Round Table as founded by King Arthur.

The thing is, though, that this is a plot point that could have been reproduced without dragging the adventure all the way to Oceania. I am tempted to say that it is because of Gunner’s degree in medieval archeology but… since the movie never mentions his research and King Arthur is NOT Asiatic in origin or, to my knowledge, has an immense degree of popularity in far eastern countries, I do not know what the director, Jared Cohn, decided on shooting the film in such an exotic location. Sure, it adds a certain exotic flair, but it remains mystifying all the same.

Regardless, this is merely one thing among many mystifying things about this movie. With the plot centered on modern heroes fighting back against a recently returned Morgan Le Fay hell-bent on revenge after the original King Arthur trapped her and Mordred in this space-shuttle rock, the audience learns some odd things; namely, things like how Excalibur was melted down into the Holy Grail, how Mordred, in fact, desires redemption for his role alongside his mother’s cartoonish EVIL© antics, and last but not least, Morgan uses advanced technology to transform into a giant machine-woman (“dragon”). Yeah, it is a weird film.

Speaking of the film being weird, that finale, wow, what an unexpected twist—Morgan Le Fay, wounded by Excalibur, uses the power of the sword to enhance her machines and grow to stupendous portions. Just how stupendous? Think Power Rangers giant monster levels of stupendous. Now, I had previously known that this film was just a cash-grab for that sweet, sweet Arthurian market opened up by Guy Ritchie, but what I didn’t know was that this was also going to grope the Power Rangers franchise; and when you look at it, this is clearly what Cohn’s film is inspired by– a disparate group of young people, physically fit and who are supposedly “special” (re ‘descended from the original Knights of the Round Table’), must band together to defeat an evil “witch” and her male lackey (Mordred), a battle which ultimately culminates in the witch using magic to enlarge herself to giant status and attack the heroes’ city.

Well, I say the heroes’ city, but it is not actually their home-town, it is just this odd adopted vacation home which they only visit because Gunner owns a dojo there and, as an archeologist, we all know that he has plenty of time for martial arts. This brings me to the other real concern I had about this movie, the likely unintentional, White Saviorism. Throughout the film, our valiant White heroes spend an inordinate amount of time slaughtering brainwashed natives; such an occurrence is reminiscent of the controversy which broke out over Resident Evil 5 some years ago when woke gamers realized that the White protagonist was killing an awfully lot of exclusively Black zombies. Although unlikely to be a point of intentional ideological commentary, it does at the very least show a lack of racial awareness surrounding the histories of colonialism and genocide in that part of the world inspired in part by Western (White) imperialism.

Let’s cut through the crap, though: King Arthur and the Knight of the Roundtable is half-way decent as far as cheaply made Arthurian films go. This doesn’t mean that it is much good, but it is probably the best B-Arthurian film I have so far seen. Yeah, the acting is clumsy, but the actors at least try. Furthermore, the special effects, though nothing to write home about, are far elevated above than, say, Excalibur Rising. So, it has those things going for it.

I can safely say that I will never again watch this film. Unless my bros and I want to watch a bad film-fest, or my eventual students are assigned this movie as an example of contemporary Arthuriana, then this is a text anyone can easily forget. Yes, for the Arthurian fan there is some neat Easter eggs (such as the massage parlor being named “The Perilous Seat”), but those are not enough to make up for the sub-par characterizations and narrative. In short, another B-rated King Arthur film. As expected.

 

Footnotes

[1] The film actually admitted to this as while I was watching this film on Amazon.com, the “X-Ray” feature said that the film was due to release at the same time as the Guy Ritchie movie. A bold move to admit to!

One thought on “Sword in the Machine: or, King Arthur in Thailand (A Review)

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