To me, this movie is perfection.
Perfect cast and a good story
Fun premise, good actors, bad writing. This film seemed to have potential at the beginning but it quickly devolves into a trite action film. Ultimately it's very boring.
The story, direction, characters, and writing/dialogue is akin to taking a tranquilizer shot to the neck, but everything else was so well done.
It takes a bit over an hour to really start getting in this two part TV movie that attempts to take all of the characters of the Arthurian legend and turn it into something truly epic. Take everything you remember of the Lerner and Lowe musical, Disney's "The Sword and the Stone", the magical " Excalibur" and both the movie and stage versions of "The Holy Grail", aka "Spamalot". Sex it up a bit, tossing in some brother and sisterly love, a vindictive aunt, and you've got the makings of an intriguing variation of a most familiar tale, told from the point of view of the often villainized Morgan Le Fey.Other updates of classic fairy tales and legends often become misandrist in their themes, but fortunately this avoids that, giving women equal intelligence, if not equal power. While the men are evil as in brutal in battle, the evil women are calculating, turning deep into the dark arts to achieve their ends, which ends up with Arthur and sister Morgan an unknown night together and information that could lead to the destruction of Arthur's "perfect" kingdom. It also makes insinuations of Arthur allowing wife Guenevere allowance to be with Lancelot, an odd menage a tois that happens over the montage of dark arts occurring at the very same time. Of the cast, Angelica Huston adds another unique characterization to her portfolio as the aging "Lady of the Lake" who isn't evil by nature but puts some shocking plots in motion. Joan Allen is the wicked aunt who uses the information of what she knows to her advantage, the perfect villainess to move the plot forward to her benefit for a while and ultimately a fantastic destruction. This feels perfectly set in the dark ages as the civilized post Roman world tried to expand outward. It's quite a show piece, and if not satisfying consistently with other Arthur Pendragon legends (only moderately acted by the leads), it certainly knows a way of gaining and keeping the viewer's attention.
I give it the two points for being pretty and making the attempt, but the end result was just so bad when considered as a whole. The first hour had me excited that they may have gotten it right, the next had me squirming in discomfort, and the last had me sorely disappointed in a way that I haven't been since the movie adaptation of "A Prayer for Owen Meany"... and that was at least a little forgivable in that Irving had the foresight to disassociate Simon Birch with the book as much as possible.This is NOT the book. This actually insults the book pretty heavily. It might have been better if they'd called it by another name and said it was "Inspired By..." or something, because saying this is based on the book is selling a bill of goods that doesn't deliver. It is about as loosely based as one could imagine.Honestly, why can't producers make a GOOD version of the Arthurian legend? Game of Thrones has proved it could be done. But this steaming pile, along with the blandly mediocre "Excalibur" seem to suggest no one is willing to take the source material and make a great movie out of an equally great novel.I hold out hope that someone steps up and takes another crack at MZB's book--it's well worth telling right.
The Mists of Avalon (2001): Starring Angelica Houston, Joan Allen, Julianna Margulies, Michael Byrne, Edward Atterton, Samantha Mathis, Michael Vartan, Hans Matheson, Mark Lewis Jones, Clive Russell, Ian Duncan, David Calder, John Comer, Tony Curran, Karel Dobry, Biddy Hodson, Noah Huntley, Klara Issova, Edward Jewsbury, Christopher Fulford, Hugh Ross....Director Uli Edel...Screenplay Gavin Scott.Based on the popular novels by Marion Zimmer Bradley, "Mists of Avalon" was adapted into a successful, cable mini-series that nevertheless strayed from the original literary source but turned out to be a grand cinematic affair, complete with a superb and talented cast, stunning visual effects and artistic direction. The familiar legend of King Arthur, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table is approached in a radically different manner. It has been revised so as to appear closer to the historical period where the myth of Arthur developed, the time of the warring Anglos and Saxons, as well as revised so that the female characters that figure in the legends are even more significant. Angelica Houston delivers a strong performance as the spiritual, matriarch figure "Lady of the Lake Vivien", the High Prietess of Avalon. Avalon is an eternally beautiful island, hidden in the mists, where the ancient, mysterious, primeval Goddess is worshipped. She has under her tutelege two women- Morgaine (Julianna Margulies) who is the most qualified to succeed her as High Priestess, and the darker, more ambitious sorceress Morgause (Joan Allen). While much of the same content from the old legends remain intact - i.e. Uther Pendragon beds Igraine to conceive Arthur, Arthur grows up to be king after receiving the sword Excalibur, Lancelot and Guenevere are accused of committing adultery and treason, Mordred battles Arthur, the wounded and dying Arthur is transported to Avalon - the events are manipulated behind-the-scenes by the cunning magic and influence of the women, each who have wills of their own and envision a Camelot of their own making. Morgaine and Arthur commit incest without knowing it during a pagan fertility ritual, the result of this union is the evil Mordred, who is himself reared to be king by the evil Morgause. King Arthur (Edward Atterton) finds that he loves both his friend and champion knight Lancelot (Michael Vartan) and his wife Guenevere who is bitter because she cannot bare his children. The result of this- a threesome between the three of them. Guenevere (Samantha Mathis) finds that she cannot have children, cannot have a proper husband in a king with too many loads on his back, nor a lover in Lancelot, so she retires to a convent. Morgaine learns to value spiritual matters over material ones, and throughout the film grows as a woman. Despite the attempt at a feminist version of the Arthur saga, the women cannot take matters into their own hands and instead scheme and use witchcraft to do their work, far from true feminism in which a woman proves herself worthy on her own. But even with this turn-off, the film is excessively beautiful and contains a magical, mysterious quality that takes you to another world and time. With music by Lee Holdrige and Loreena McKennitt, a popular Celtic-blooded singer of the late 90's, this is a story of interest to women, Arthurian legend lovers and Wiccans whose rites, like Beltane as depicted in the movie, are still very much a part of their religion. This movie is powerful, emotional and perhaps the only real fault is that, as many viewers have noted, the series stray from the original novel.
David Lee (zeupater)
The book is simply amazing and this film adaptation adequately embodies its epic stature. I am amazed how much of the book is actually reflected in a 2-hour television digest version. I really don't like spoilers and I always try to avoid giving away a story myself, so I will just say this movie can be enjoyed by either fans of Marion Zimmer Bradley's book or the uninitiated.The scenery, cinematography and costumes are beautiful. The acting is generally very smart and understanding. The cast was well chosen. The writing is well-informed.Some of the negative reviewers seem to be offended by sexual material and what they perceive as "anti-christian" content. Of course I would not try to change any of these people's opinions, but I would remind these reviewers of the story's point of view. The setting is in a largely non-Christian world and told from a feminine perspective. With virtually all other tellings being from a masculine, heroic, 15th century Christian perspective (despite the fact that the setting is actually 4th century pagan) I find this appealing for history's (her-story's) sake alone. Usually the "winners" write history. In this case I think Bradley is trying to tell the other side of the story.