First Knight

1 out of 5 snowstones
"First Knight" is a movie so bad that it merits an extensive review. What could possibly have motivated several renowned actors and a major movie studio to produce such an unequivocal pile of poo? The script, the acting, the casting, the art direction, even the costumes; all work together to create an all-round turkey.

Since Arthurian legends are sketchy at best and often contradictory, the boys in the writing team went wild with this one. They rob the knight of his shining armour and created a universe where the bad guys are evil for no particular reason and where Arthur's philosophy is presented as some weird mix of devout Christianity and vague, American-Constitution-sounding principles. And although Arthur explains that everyone is equal at the Round Table, "even the King", I couldn't help noticing that the other knights seem to do little more than raise their fist and shout in unison whenever Arthur makes a suggestion. We never even learn their names.

The bad guy in the movie, called something like Flabberghast, is easily identifiable by his black outfit and wicked ways. He threatens the peaceful land of Leonesse and burns down villages there, although I'm not quite sure why. Maybe it's because it gives Guinevere (Julia Ormond) the opportunity to be a damsel in distress. Guinevere says she loves King Arthur and goes off to marry him, but on the way, she gets kidnapped by the bad guys, so that she can be rescued by Lancelot (Richard Gere). She's obviously smitten by the ruffian, but when she arrives at Camelot (which, incidentally, is an exact copy of Cinderella's Palace in Disneyworld), she still agrees to marry King Arthur (Sean Connery) even though he gives her a chance to back out of the deal without losing his protection from the bad guy. Women!

Before the wedding bells can toll, however, Flabberghast arrives (invited by King Arthur the Gullible) to act innocent and be obviously evil for the three viewers in the back who didn't get it yet. He insults everyone and then storms off. Lancelot joins the Round Table, although I don't think we ever see him sitting at it. And then, just to make things absolutely crystal clear, Flabberghast goes and kidnaps Guinevere (taking off the mask of innocence he had been wearing for a full three minutes).

Now at this point, Lancelot decides to rescue his Queen-to-be, unarmed, from a heavily-guarded castle. Attention script writers everywhere: there is a point where the fine line between selfless bravery and blundering stupidity is crossed, and this is that point. Frequently exposing the love of his life to mortal danger that could easily have been avoided (the bad guy had no intention of killing her, he was holding her for ransom), he drags her back to Camelot through a heavy thunderstorm, without looking for shelter. She could catch pneumonia, but then these are the Middle Ages, you see, where medical science could deal with such an eventuality.

The heavy rain both sets a romantic mood and gives Lancelot the chance to show his awesome survival skills. As they stand under a tree, Lancelot lines up some leaves to create a little stream of water for his maiden to drink from. Never mind that it's raining cats and dogs and all she has to do is open her mouth to have a drink. No, 'Where did you learn that?' she says, marvelling at this amazing feat of engineering. Anyway, one romantic interlude later, they ride on to Camelot.

Back at Disneyland, the Knights of the Round Table seem still to be giving the bad guy the benefit of the doubt. It takes a heavily bleeding villager, announcing the invasion of Leonesse, to make them sit up and take notice. Um, sorry, but wasn't this invasion thing going on from the start of the movie, and wasn't that why Guinevere agreed to marry Arthur? Anyway, Arthur and his army finally ride out to Lionesse and set up camp. But instead of sleeping in it, they make straw dummies of themselves and wait for Flabberghast's men to arrive. Then they fire a volley of flaming arrows at the camp and attack. This is where we learn Rule No. 1 from King Arthur's "Fighting with Honor" Manual: when you attack your opponent in battle, make sure he's on fire first. They win the day, obviously, and strangely assume that that will be the end of the war, because they immediately go back to Camelot.

There, the full extent of the romance between Lancelot and Guinevere becomes apparent when Arthur catches them snogging. Angrily, he confronts both his wife-to-be (they still didn't get round to actually marrying) and his first knight with it. This results in memorable dialogues such as:
Lancelot: "My lord..."
Arthur: "I'll ask the questions around here!"

Anyway, being the just and firm ruler that he is, Arthur appoints himself judge, jury and executioner and calls a public trial against the two lovers in the castle courtyard. The charge is treason, although I fail to see how a quickie endangers the kingdom. The punishment is death, and it becomes obvious that Arthur just wants to kill both Guinevere and Lancelot, in keeping with his noble, chivalrous principles.

But just as he is about to execute them, guess who shows up? That's right, Flabby's back in town and this time, he's here to stay. He wants to force Arthur to his knees, but the king yells at the townsfolk to fight, fight, FIGHT, which they subsequently do in a badly choreographed way. Arthur himself gets shot with half a dozen arrows. Lancelot kills the bad guy and is just in time to find Guinevere saying a tearful farewell to her husband (sort of) and protector (sort
of). Both she and Lancelot are inexplicably heartbroken when the man who was about to chop their heads off conveniently draws his last breath.

They put him on a raft, let it float out to sea and then set it on fire. Boy, do they want to make sure he's dead. The End. Lancelot and Guinevere obviously get married and have lots of babies. What kind of moral we are to draw from all this is beyond me, other than this one: First Knight is a stinker of a movie.

Posted by cronopio at 01:40 PM, April 14, 2005