23 December 2008 | wes-connors
Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword
It opens with the backdrop, "At long last, the wars were over. Arthur, the great king of Camelot, had devoted his life to building a land of peace an justice. Now he wished to marry. But the peace was not to last. The most powerful of Arthur's knights, Prince Malagant, had long been jealous of the King's glory. Now he found cause to quarrel with Arthur and left Camelot with hearted in his heart. And so the land was divided again, between those who rallied to Prince Malagant, seeking the spoils of war, and those who stayed loyal to the King. And then there was Lancelot, a wanderer who had never dreamed of peace or justice or knighthood. Times were hard. A man made his living any way he could. And Lancelot had always been good with a sword
An awareness of a general negativity concerning this film is one of the reasons it's a more enjoyable than not. Even without lowered expectations, "First Knight" is an above average film. Jerry Zucker directs a series of well-paced action scenes with pomp and circumstance. William Nicholson's screenplay focuses on the "love triangle" formed with Richard Gere (as Sir Lancelot) falling in love with Julia Ormond (as Lady Guinevere) on her way to marry Sean Connery (as King Arthur). It isn't difficult to figure out the rest of the story.
The three principal players are nicely suited to their roles. Mr. Gere plays "Lancelot" (the leading man) with nobility and nonchalance; he has a gracefulness which might have been utilized in other Errol Flynn-type roles, had he chosen to perform them. Ms. Ormond adds a considerable amount of spirited resoluteness to her "Guinevere"; this, combined with her physical beauty, makes her irresistible. Mr. Connery's "King Arthur" gives the film an old-world foundation. Ben Cross (as Prince Malagant) heads up a splendid supporting cast, with something old John Gielgud (as Oswald), and something new Stuart Bunce (as Peter), all dressed up in something blue.
So, where's the rub? The valiant filmmakers took a chance by removing the mythological elements. The wizard "Merlin" does not appear. "Excalibur" has no magical powers. Stripped of its magic, the still noble "Camelot" is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there.
****** First Knight (7/7/95) Jerry Zucker ~ Richard Gere, Julia Ormond, Sean Connery, Ben Cross