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Excalibur
BLU-RAY disk
03.17.2011 By: Jason Adams
Excalibur order download
Director:
John Boorman

Actors:
Nigel Terry
Helen Mirren
Nicholas Clay

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
The life and times of King Arthur, from the sword in the stone to the quest for the Holy Grail.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
The many tales of King Arthur are so ingrained in popular culture that it's hard to keep track of all the different takes on the legend. There's the animated kiddie fare, the mystical magician adventures, the Richard Gere-Sean Connery weepfest (sorry FIRST KNIGHT fans), and EXCALIBUR—perhaps the most all-encompassing version ever made.

Having just watched the insane mess that was director John Boorman’s previous film ZARDOZ, I was honestly a little weary of another fantasy action movie from the man, but I think EXCALIBUR proved that the Sean Connery drug trip was just a fluke a fluke. Thankfully working within the reigns of a time-tested tale, Boorman was able to find a subject matter perfect to explore his fascination with brutal action, tragic romance, family drama, politics and power.

EXCALIBUR is impressively epic, tackling pretty much the entire legend of King Arthur from before his birth until after his death. You get the Lady of the lake and the birth of Arthur, Excalibur and the sword and in the stone, his training with Merlin, the formation of the Knights of the round table, Arthur and Guinevere, Lancelot and Guinevere and their betrayal, Camelot the quest for the holy grail and more. The film runs a fairly lengthy 2 hours and 20 minutes, but even so it still moves quite fast and each part of the story almost feels like distinct episodes.

What Boorman does well is present a unique spin on the character that balances both the supernatural elements of the story with the realistic elements of the historical time period, battles and politics. And since it covers so much ground, and fairly successfully, EXCALIBUR almost feels like the definitive version of the tale. I can't imagine another take on the material being as quick and precise, not to mention as iconic as some of the great imagery Boorman captures, like the lush nature scenery, the horse riding through the Dragon's Breath and many other memorable visuals.

The film is also notable for its cast. Nigel Terry is great as Arthur and has no problem carrying the film, but EXCALIBUR also boasts quite an impressive array of then unknown actors like Liam Neeson, Patrick Stewart, Gabriel Byrne, and Ciaran Hinds in bit parts. And lest we not forget a young Helen Mirren as Morgana Le Fay, who's so hot and seductive you might be able to overlook the teeny bit of incest in the film.
THE EXTRAS
Given the cast involved you'd think this would be perfect fodder a cool documentary or retrospective, but this is all we get:

Commentary by John Boorman: Taken directly from the previous DVD, the director's track tends to focus on the plot a bit much, but there are some occasions of insight in to the production or the legacy of the film. But honestly, you might be better off just checking the IMDB Trivia page.

Theatrical Trailer.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
EXCALIBUR is a vivid, violent and faithful retelling of the entire King Arthur legend that feels like a definitive version of its source material. The Blu-Ray could use some more special features but serious fans of knights and Camelot should still look at picking this up.

Extra Tidbit: John Boorman originally was working on his version of LORD OF THE RINGS in the 1970s, before giving up and making this instead.
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10:36PM on 03/17/2011
Whenever I think about the Arthur story, this is the Gold standard. Nigel Terry is perfect in the role, convincingly playing a boy, a grown man, and an old king. I actually need to see it again because I didn't know who Ciaran Hinds was back when I last watched it. I'm sure I could spot him now.
Whenever I think about the Arthur story, this is the Gold standard. Nigel Terry is perfect in the role, convincingly playing a boy, a grown man, and an old king. I actually need to see it again because I didn't know who Ciaran Hinds was back when I last watched it. I'm sure I could spot him now.
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10:29AM on 03/17/2011
Love this flick! I have the old DVD so maybe I should strongly consider replacing it with the Blu Ray!
Love this flick! I have the old DVD so maybe I should strongly consider replacing it with the Blu Ray!
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