Any time that I watch a low-budget Arthurian film, something almost always happens—I either eagerly devour the movie due to how terrible it is, or I find myself knocking myself out because I am so bored. Thankfully, director Rubiano Cruz’s late-nineties spin on the legend was easy to watch. It was, dare I say, all right, maybe even good?
The movie concerns Lancelot and Gawain accepting a quest from Merlin. It turns out that an evil wizard named Wolvencroft has gone back in time to kidnap the young Arthur; now, with Merlin’s aid, Lancelot and Gawain must travel back fifteen years before Arthur is king and rescue the boy from the dreaded sorcerer. Unfortunately, while they are in their recent past, the evil magic-user does not go down without a fight and initiates part of his evil plan—to travel forward in time, to the 20th century, initiate shenanigans, and have Arthur pull the sword from the stone so he, Wolvencroft, can rule in Arthur’s stead.
Lancelot is unexpectedly thrust back in time along with Arthur and Wolvencroft. Though the new time disorients him, Lancelot sticks to his quest to find Arthur before it is too late. Luckily, he has Michael Shelly by his side, a computer game designer who doesn’t have many friends that is more than ready to help an authentic Knight of the Round Table.
Joining them on their quest is Katherine, Michael’s… sister? It is never really explained; or, if it is, I completely lost that thread. But Kat is an amateur historian who wrote a book called “Men and Romance: Myth & Reality,” so she only somewhat reluctantly joins Lancelot and Michael in their quest to locate Arthur and Wolvencroft. She acts as auxiliary support; essentially, in other words, as a kindly voiced maiden that knows how to drive a car and who can distract bad-men while the good men do some butt-kicking.
Yeah, the plot is pretty derivative. Same with how it is executed because even though a decent amount happens, at the end of the day, all the cast ends up back at Wolvencroft’s 20th-century hideout, making the viewer wonder why any of the rest had to happen in the first instance. I get that their budget was not huge, so that is why the film had a lot of this mild filler, but still.
While the good guys try and rescue Arthur, Arthur himself doesn’t do very much. He briefly escapes from Wolvencroft’s prison in the Museum of Natural History, but is quickly recaptured by Wolvencroft’s top henchman, Blackpool. All the same, Arthur’s brief sub-plot is intriguing if only because he makes the acquaintance of several young men playing volleyball. How? Why, through stealing their food, fighting them, and then, in true homosocial fashion, befriending them with thanks to his fisty-cuff and story-telling skills. Amusing at the very least.
Actually, I want to pause here and comment on the movie’s usage of homosociality.
Throughout the film, both sexes have their homosocial moments. Right in the beginning, Lancelot and Gawain bond over dueling practice; then, later, Kat and her bestie are seen walking closely together holding one-another’s sides; then, finally, the young Arthur punches a dude and becomes friends with them while literally on top of him. Truly, it is media artifacts like this that make you see where Queer theorists were getting fuel for their philosophy from; so strong are the homosocial moments, that it is easy to imagine an alternative cut of this film existing where homosexual relationships existed.
But, the homosocial relationships in the film are politicized. For example, when Kat and her bestie talk about chivalry and men, the only sign to throw people away from the obvious assumption that they are Lesbians is the jarring anti-feminist jab, that is, that years of radical feminism has prevented men from fulfilling their natural proclivities as defenders of women-kind. This is but a slight step away from suggesting that homosexuality is a result of gender imbalance. It is an odd balancing act for the film to insinuate and one that seems natural as the stopping point for the film’s narrative were it not for the typical heteronormative ending.
Beyond what the homosocial relations mean, however, the reason for the strong homosocial bonds is rather less obvious—because it is aping a popular children’s show; indeed, the film feels a lot like an episode of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. From Lancelot fighting Wolvencroft’s henchmen (who seem a lot like Rita Repulsa’s “puddy” grunts), to even Lancelot’s clothes changing between “medieval knightly attire” and “modern cowboy with a sword,” (which feels like the distinction between the Rangers’ normal day-clothes and their power-suits), the film is rife with parallels close to Saban Entertainment’s hugely popular kid’s program. Ultimately, the function of homosociality in the film is to connect the movie to its intended audience, pre-teen boys.
Let me just say that I have seen worse New Medieval movies. Oh boy, I have seen much worse. In contrast to those awful, awful movies, this was almost a breath of fresh air. I saw almost because it is still not very good. Honestly, the movie is essentially a low-budget Power Rangers spin-off using Arthurian time-travel as its gimmick.
Standing on its own, the movie is average. The acting is the strongest feature of the movie with the quality of the cast’s performances being fine; a bit hammy but nothing over-the-top (apart from Wolvencroft and Blackpool). The film, like any time-travel movie, has its share of fun thanks to the desperate attempts of medieval people trying to exist in the 20th century. There is even a little commentary on Chomsky and manufacturing consent thanks to a mini-engagement with TV, Truth, and prophecy. Small things like that really make the movie engaging, alas, such moments only exist few and far between.
To wrap this up—It’s fine. What more can I say? If you have a young son or daughter who wants something to watch on a Saturday afternoon, then you can do a lot worse than this. Family friendly, not very violent, despite the fighting and sword clashes, and filled with conventional story-telling, the movie can at least say that it won’t bore you to death.