Director: Giles Alderson
Starring: Richard Short, Richard Brake, Stella Stocker, Jennifer Matter, Joel Phillimore and Tim Fellingham
Run time: 1h 30min
King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin, Knights of the Round Table, Camelot and Excalibur. There’s nothing like an exciting adventure based on these famous legends and Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot is, sadly, nothing like an exciting adventure.
We’re introduced quickly to best friends King Arthur (Richard Short) and Lancelot (Tim Fellingham) as they rescue a young woman in mysterious, magical circumstances. It turns out to be Guinevere (Stella Stocker) and she and Arthur get married. Fast forward several years and the lads have been busy fighting a war against the Romans. Arthur has somehow lost his mystical sword Excalibur and is taking life easy with his most trusted knights in France, if you can call bare-knuckle boxing and boozing taking it easy.
Back in Camelot, a petulant Modred (Joel Phillimore), Arthur’s son, is overseeing things and plans to take advantage of his father’s absence by usurping his throne and buddying up with the approaching Saxon army. He also wants to marry Guinevere. Don’t worry, she’s his step-mother, although that’s not mentioned until later in the film leaving one or two uncomfortable moments.
Arthur gets wind of this and begins his journey home to put things right, but must deal with his own demons along the way. Self-doubt and disillusionment shadow his once inspirational manner and he’s in desperate need of a little help from his friends.
Enter Arthurian legends very own Dumbledore, the wizard, Merlin (Richard Brake). He gets second billing and is even the main feature of the poster, but has less than five minutes of screen time and does absolutely nothing memorable with what he has.
Same can be said for most of the cast too. As Arthur, Richard Short doesn’t exude the heroic qualities and commanding presence needed to have inspired so many to loyally follow him. Yes, he’s disillusioned at the life fate has handed him and he portrays this well, but he broods through most of the film which becomes tiresome. Tim Fellingham’s Lancelot, on the other hand, displays a natural charisma and swagger that might well have been better suited to him wearing the crown and Short taking his role.
There’s a distinct lack of action throughout the rather pedestrian narrative and when things do kick off, it’s over far too quickly. Also, there’s a noticeable lack of people in Camelot. Apart from a handful of nobles present in the castle itself, that’s it. It would appear the production budget didn’t stretch to background artistes. A siege on the castle towards the finale showcases this as our heroes enter virtually unscathed. There’s some inept soldiery on display with some of the guards even facing the wrong way from what they’re supposed to be guarding when attacked.
Having said that, it’s not all bad. The sets are impressive as are the costumes, Jennifer Matter scowls with sinister delight as the evil Vortigone and Nick Samuel’s score add to the atmosphere, but unfortunately the overall feel is one of a filler episode of an average TV show rather than the swashbuckling, exciting adventure aimed for. The title should be changed too. Sulking Arthur & some of the Knights of a rather deserted Camelot is much more appropriate.
Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot hits DVD and Digital HD from July 13th.