Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Camelot, a potted review

  Merlin's boy.
Camelot, in Camelot, those are the daily laws..Oh wait, wrong movie but at least one that didn't pretend to be historically accurate (sort of) and had an Arthur who was kingly and had charisma. The new Arthur is a weak chinned wimp who looks to be about 12 and acts accordingly.

But, thank heavens Camelot is no Spartacus with it's endless slow motion gore splattered across the screen and go-nowhere episodes - but it's early days yet so who can tell? There's the gratuitous nudity and lots of sex but (alas) no male dangly bits (so far ). There are some capable actors, including Eva Green and Joseph Fiennes. Unfortunately, they killed off Sean Pertwee and James Purefoy whose portrayal of King Lot made the first episodes so much more entertaining. In fact, I was looking forward to more of Purefoy whose robust, sexy and unprincipled Lot was a great match for Eva Green's Morgana. But I guess his virility showed off the fact that "our" Arthur is about as virile as a wet noodle. We can't have that. Arthur is the hero. It's in the script.

The pacing is slow and there's a unsubtle attempt, to turn the medieval romance of Arthur (Morte d'Arthur, 15th century, Mallory) into a parable about nation building. In this version, Arthur doesn't just pull the sword from the stone. He's got to climb up a cliff, through a waterfall and then, pull the sword out of the water, at the top of the cliff. Naturally, it's a long way down but our boy doesn't perish. How can he? There's the rest of the series to get through. 

Why the waterfall? Why the cliff? He didn't look that sexy when wet. Maybe that's so Arthur can be ogled by the crowd gathered at the bottom of the waterfall - makes it more suspenseful? It was certainly slow motion to the max, what with the water, the cutting away from Arthur climbing the wet cliff to Merlin muttering new age slogans to Morgana plotting with Lot. Or rather, Morgana fighting with King Lot, badmouthing Lot, getting tied to a post and muttering incantations. 

But much of the time in the first three episodes is taken up with the grooming of Arthur for the throne by a tattooed, bullet-headed Merlin (Mr. Fiennes), who in this telling is a cross between a medieval life coach and Rahm Emanuel. “A king exists primarily as an idea,” he tells his young candidate, and warns him, “We’re in a fight for our lives, for the soul of this country.” (NY Times). He also does a lot of intense staring at various people so I guess that the psychic powers don't always work so well.

 You are getting sleeeppppy....sleeepy....
On the other hand, this Arthur is so young and so clueless that he needs a lot of coaching. Lots and lots plus a few extra hours at the gym combined with sword practice and even then, he's just too callow to portray Arthur. Better yet, why not ditch him and chose Purefoy's King Lot? Oh wait - got to kill him off in the second episode. Damn.

Doesn't anybody ever read any history, ever? Fourth century Britain wasn't a country. The idea of nationhood didn't occur for about a thousand years so spare us the medieval equivalent of the Declaration of Independence and the Rights of Man.

Fiennes is fun to watch as an arrogant, mysterious, Merlin although I'd ditch a lot of the bad dialogue. It's difficult to see what exactly are his mystical powers but again, it's early days yet. At least, he's shaved his head and is not trying to hide the receding, thinning hairline. His weird hairdo in "The Merchant of Venice" was so off putting that I lost whole parts of the dialogue trying to figure out just what the make up people thought they were doing. I also love the tattoos and the eyeliner so obviously dark age Britain was still trading with Egypt.

Certainly, he’s much more interesting than Jamie Campbell Bower, whose lightweight Arthur, to this point, doesn’t appear to deserve all the attention he’s getting. Mr. Bower, who plays the vampire Caius in the “Twilight” films, is presumably here to appeal to a younger demographic, which might also explain dialogue like his reaction when told he has to pull the sword from the stone: “No way!” I guess you have to be young to appreciate his narrow, close set eyes, puffy mouth and pointed chin; I know that they don't do a damn thing for me.

But Eva Green as Arthur’s sister and rival (known here as Morgan) is sexy, smart and intense. Plus, she can toss her hair better than anybody else in the show  and she looks great in the backless halter dresses that were apparently popular in the Middle Ages. In fact, all the ladies are gorgeous beyond belief but I already know that I will be shouting at my TV set over the story of Guinevere. I don't ask for much in a TV mini-series - a bit of beefcake, a bit of sex, some interesting interpretations of clothing, maybe even a well- decked out throne room or two. 
I give them bonus points for big, four-poster beds for the odd romp or two or three.

  Eye-liner and glare face off. I am prettier than you AND I have a hell of a lot more hair..
But I can already see the handwriting on the wall and it ain't antique Roman lettering. Not even close. But it will pull in the viewers. Clio and I will be over there in the corner, commiserating over a jar of mead.

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