Excalibur (Part 2) – Here There Be Dragons

The second part of Nash’s look at the sprawling 80’s Arthurian epic.

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Welcome to Radio Dead Air! It's "Wayne's World" meets the 21st Century as Nash, Tara, Stick Boy, Space Guy, Arlo P. Arlo and more delve into the deep...

30 comments

  1. Nice. I was hoping part two of this would be here before Christmas.

  2. Wow – Forgot pt 1!

  3. I vaguely remember seeing a anime about King Arthur one summer in the Dominican Republic when I was a kid.

  4. You left out Merlin with Sam Neill, and Helena Bonham Carter. That and Gargoyles was my 1st exposure to the Arthur mythos.

    • General-trilane Jochum

      This is to expand on Eikoh bringing up “Merlin” which is my favorite adaptation. I actually grew up watching this mini series on VHS and now own it on DVD as well as have it on my itunes. Apparently, I was spoiled on this good adaption and I just didn’t realize it until I saw “Excalibur” for the first time earlier this year. That is why Nash’s look at this film was so frustrating to me. Basically, all the negatives he brings up in this film are fixed in droves in the “Merlin” mini-series. Strap in, I’m going on a spiel:
      Nash’s biggest complaints were pretty much two things; poor character development and poor character motivations in keeping with the strict adherence to the Arthurian legend.

      In “Merlin”, the main driving force behind most of the events (outside of Merlin’s biography) is the fight between progress and the ‘old ways’. Or Good and evil, if you feel so inclined, with Queen Mab fighting for the latter side and Merlin fighting for the former. To keep this from becoming an essay, I’ll try to stick to the characters directly related to the Arthurian legend as the mini-series actually predates Arthur by several kings and goes into Merlin’s story. ANYWAY, in the mini-series, it’s Mab’s influence and magic that makes Uther lust so adamantly after Igraine. Merlin is trying to find a good king for the people of Britain which has the side effect of pointing them towards Christianity, and Mab is trying to cause chaos to bring the people back to her and the ways of magic. Merlin agrees to help Uther because he realizes that he is not the proper king Britain needs but that his soon to be son (Arthur) will be.

      Morgan la Fey, who has some minor deformities, and is generally considered to be homely by the standards of the time, kind of gets the shaft as she knows damn well that it was Uther who impregnated her mom, the reason for her father’s death, and the subsequent ruin of her family, and resents Merlin for allowing it to happen. Through this resentment she becomes an easy target as a lackey for Mab, who makes her beautiful and promises her retribution by giving her future son (Mordrid) the crown. She is easily manipulated into seducing Arthur, who is yet unmarried at this point, and she isn’t recognized because of the magic makeover she was given by Mab. When she does give birth to Mordid, Mab is there every step of the way manipulating him from the start and gradually turning him against his mother. In the end, Morgan wasn’t evil, just misguided, used, and eventually thrown away as the pawn she always was in Mab’s fight for victory.

      Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot are also handled beautifully. It is stated that Arthur isn’t madly in love with Guinevere, nor is she with him. They are fond of each other, but it’s a political marriage because Arthur knows that she will be a good queen. He and his knights decide to go looking for the Grail to have (to use Nash’s words) as a rallying point to bring peace to the land. However, Guinevere cannot be left alone for what will be a years long search. This is something Merlin is especially cautious of because he knows the kingdom will be vulnerable to Mab in Arthur’s absence. He is guided to where he will find the perfect guardian for Guinevere and returns to Camelot with Lancelot. Through a little bit of Mab’s influence but mostly many years alone together, love develops between Lancelot and Guinevere. This happens just in time for Arthur to return home and Mordrid to be sent in as a pot stirrer. He calls for a sentence of death for treason against Guinevere. Through his meddling, gets the citizens of Camelot to stand behind him, leaving Arthur little choice but to convict her. At the last minute, he begs Merlin to intervene because he acknowledges that he is to blame as well, which allows Lancelot to rescue Guinevere at the last minute. Mordid uses this to turn the people of Camelot against Arthur and Merlin, which eventually leads to their final dual. Turns out that, while Lancelot was a good and just man, Galahad was the pure soul that Merlin was supposed to return to Camelot with (it’s explained better in the mini-series). He is also the one who eventually finds the Holy Grail.

      Merlin, is just trying to find the right leader for the people in his war against Mab. She will stop at nothing to win the fight because if the ‘old ways’ are forgotten, she will disappear. While he is a product of the ‘old ways’, Merlin is content to let mankind grow, develop, and change as he just wants what’s best for them. He interferes magically when he has to, but for the most part, he just tries to teach and dispense wisdom and morals. When he does leave Arthur, it is because he wants to try and spend what time he can with his love, Nimue. I won’t go into that here because it would make this even longer and isn’t really relevant to the complaints against “Excalibur” save for it gives Merlin a more human element and an added emotional stake in the whole business.

      This was a long one, and if you stuck through, please find the mini-series and watch it if you haven’t already. It may seem like I covered a lot, but believe me, I left a bunch out. It’s a really fun watch, the cast is awesome, the story is much more in depth than it was in “Excalibur”, and the characters actually have growth and motivation. Honestly, there was so much I didn’t cover here (especially my favorite character, Frick and his story arc), so please go out and see this. Really, the only thing “Excalibur” has over “Merlin” is the effects budget. “Merlin” was a late 90s mini-series and the effects reflect that. But, if you can get past the made-for-TV level effects, it will be well worth your time and attention. Thank you all!

  5. Minor quibble re: Disney’s Sword in the Stone. In that case it’s not just an adaptation of Arthurian myth, but specifically an adaptation of the first book of T.H. White’s King Arthur stories that would eventually coalesce into The Once and Future King. And it really did work–for that particualr book–in more of a kiddy fashion.

    Kinda surprised you’re doing Dresden Files, though, since I thought that came out after the time period this show usually covers.

  6. Cheer up Nash, you could have gotten Constantine in film form. The sad part is we never got much more than the first book or so.

  7. I love that the Elf in the intro (who does look an awful lot like a Thalmor), and he takes an arrow to the knee!

    (Disclaimer: No, “arrow to the knee” is NOT a reference to marriage! We’re tired of hearing it!)

    Why do you have a decapitated Tom Servo head behind you?

    • 17:35 – I would have gone with, “What… is the average air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

    • You do realize that that’s just an empty snow-globe with the word “fuck” on it, don’t you?

      Aside from that, thanks Nash. I’d been wanting to see that movie for a while now, just because Sir Patrick Stewart was in it. Now that you’ve shown me the highlights . . . as painful as they are . . . I, I think I’m good.

  8. What about Quest for Camelot? The one with the two headed dragon?

  9. My favorite adaptation is The Mist of Avalon made for TV movie/ mini serie

  10. Yup, I knew Linkara would make a cameo. Maybe I should take a look at this movie sometime in the future.

  11. Well, the Dresden Files books are certainly entertaining. I never watched the show but I assume it’s a poor adaptation of the books considering what the effects budget would be for epic battles between every supernatural and mythological being ripped from pop culture in various mashups.

  12. I still think you are a bit strict with the movie. You made a great argument about how myths are effective and even though they lack logic, they blend together in something that does make sense. Mostly because all these stories reflect on emotions and basic ideas that are common to the people that go through the story. You say this only works for Gods and not men. That is exactly the reason why for me it works here. The characters are not men. They are larger than life mythical heroes. They might as well be gods in relation to the audience.

    The movie might not be good in terms of cinematic narrative, but it does manage to bring out everything that is alluring to experience about the myth.

  13. You forgot “Camelot” (the Starz-series). While it took some liberties with the source material (making the magic more subtle and creepy and turning Merlin into a master manipulator playing both sides), I kinda enjoyed it (especially the “drawing the sword from the stone”-scene was a really original new take on the idea).

  14. Thanks Nash, for this great birthday gift. Also, don’t forget Knights of the Round by Capcom. Ok, I’ll shut up.

  15. Oh, and since I’m at it, Happy Holidays for everyone!

  16. Well. That film explains thing or two about Zack Snyder…..

  17. And then there’s BBC’s Merlin and that Showtime Camelot, which had really good stuff for Merlin and Morgana, but Arthur and Gwenivere were horribly dull.

  18. I always liked Nicol Williamson best in his reading of the Hobbit in abridged form back in the seventies.

    In terms of depictions of Arthurian legend one that sticks in my mind is the depiction of the magic sword Excalibur in the anime Soul Eater, where the sword can become a singing loon, so now whenever I hear the word Excalibur I think of the song he sings even though I’ve seen like one episode of the anime. “Excalibur, Excalibur, from the United King…”

    An interesting thing about the movies Camelot and the Sword in the Stone is that since both are based on The Once and Future King, we get the detail that Arthur’s nickname as a kid was Wort in both movies. Also the idea that Merlin transformed Arthur into animals to teach him about life comes up in both (in very different ways). Also from Camelot I like Arthur’s description that since Merlin lives life backwards, you do not say he ages rather you say he youths.

  19. You have a point about character motivations and such, but at times you are simply missing the obvious.

    Morgana’s incest fuck was out of the left field, but it made sense motivation wise – she wanted revenge on Arthur (being product of Uther’s rape of her mother) and she wanted to do it by destroying him as a person and his kingdom, so she needed an heir to the throne.

    Mordred did recognize her, why would you think he didn’t? He just put the two and two together and was pissed off about the fog thing.

    Disappointed you didn’t bring up the moment where Arthur tells Guinevere he wishes he could have just been a normal man. That was sad stuff.

  20. You have a point about character motivations and such, but at times you are simply missing the obvious.

    Morgana’s incest fuck was out of the left field, but it made sense motivation wise – she wanted revenge on Arthur (being product of Uther’s rape of her mother) and she wanted to do it by destroying him as a person and his kingdom, so she needed an heir to the throne.

    Mordred did recognize her, why would you think he didn’t? He just put the two and two together and was pissed off about the fog thing.

    Disappointed you didn’t bring up the moment where Arthur tells Guinevere he wishes he could have just been a normal man. That was sad stuff.

  21. Really You think Muslim Obama’s Liberal America is or will be Camelot and it’s fall all because of Donald Trump’s victory? Fucking pathetic and dangerous to think like that.

    • Nobody forced Nash to bring up politics, so you have right to take an issue with him. But if you want to know why so many people dismiss Trump supporters as stupid bigots, it’s because not only they believe the “Obama is Muslim” conspiracy theory, they seriously think it’s something that should automatically mean he shouldn’t be president. Guess religious freedom should only be a thing if it’s Christianity.

    • Soak it up, normies. This useless person’s vote counted as much as yours.

    • Well, if you think in “Pax Americana” more than in America itself as the alegory of Camelot, that is at the same time not Great Britain itself, then yes. Trump would probably bring doom to us all.
      And I’m not even from there.

  22. Fact No.1: First of all The Jungle Book (1967), was Walt Disney’s last supervised, controlled, slightly iron-fisted production prior to his death the year before. Fact No.2: What about Lerner and Loewe’s Broadway Stage Musical that is literary called “Camelot” that was used as a metaphor for John Fitzgerald and Jacqueline Kennedy’s I guess you might say “Shining Democratic” Administration for only sadly, two years and was turned into a film in 1967 (Your friend and fellow producer Linkara’s favorite and I own it too), by the way the main actor/singer Richard Harris (playing the freaking King Arthur Pendragon) had no singing vocal chords whatsoever, I mean the Irish guy couldn’t sing slightly more operatically to save his life if it depended on it. Somewhere in Central and Southern Italy they would throw even fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) at him if he sang in public on stage just like Rodney Dangerfield tried in one movie just before his death in 2004 called “The Fourth Tenor,” and the local Italia people there would form an angry mob to lynch him. Fact No.3 Warner Brothers Pictures first attempt at animation Quest for Camelot (1998). Fact. 4: Linkara sings better than Richard Harris ever did. Fact No. 5: Donald Trump is not going to destroy “Camelot,” on the contrary he is Democratic “King Arthur” to me and so many down on their luck a little bit Americans and not just white Caucasian (Western and Eastern European) ones.

  23. You forgot the video games that borrowed from the legend (plus lord knows how many books), such as Shining Force 2, but you can be forgiven that.

  24. 18:39 Why the movie just suddenly transformed in Dark Souls?

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