Hoping to capitalize off of the upcoming release of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, production company The Asylum has released a modern retelling of the classic story with their new film King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. They have previously used this format of updating a classical story or legend to a more modern setting, with the likes of Sinbad and the War of the Furies, 2010: Moby Dick, 3 Musketeers, and the 7 Adventures of Sinbad. Embracing the mockbuster concept, they should be commended for doing so much with the miniscule reported budget of $300,000. If you can accept the inherent ridiculousness of what is basically an extended episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, it is actually slightly entertaining.
The evil enchantress Morgana and her son Mordred are banished from Earth by King Arthur, who vows to eventually get her revenge. They manage to escape from their imprisonment 1,500 years later in Thailand and look to regain the Excalibur sword and eliminate the ancestors of King Arthur and his knights. Yes you read that right, this takes place in Thailand. The obvious question here is why are all of the descendants of King Arthur and his knights just randomly hanging out in Thailand. They attempt to address it, but it is apparent that it is more cost effective to film in Thailand rather than England or some comparable substitute. Plot wise, this is very reminiscent of similar fare like Masters of the Universe and the Power Rangers movie and television series. It features sorcery and mysticism in a modern setting, with a group having to band together to fight off an evil villain and her zombie-like horde.
The directing and cinematography is a mixed bag. The camera is shaky at times, which appears to be an attempt at pulling off some sort of POV shots. There are also questionable and unnecessary angles and camera movements that look as if the camera was accidently out of position and then quickly adjusted, which end up being off-putting and pointless. The major positive is the fantastic locations that they were able to shoot at in Thailand. This included massive buildings, extravagant houses with gorgeous interior design, underground caverns, and classic old Thai structures. It makes for an interesting look and greatly enhances the production values. Even though shooting in Thailand doesn’t make much sense plot wise, it’s a really beautiful location. Veteran Asylum director Jared Cohn does a fine job of delivering an action heavy picture, with high paced, well choreographed fight scenes. The only issue with these fight scenes is that they are slightly over-edited for my personal tastes, especially when it appears that most of the actors where performing their own stunts.
The acting is as good as can be expected, with most of the characters comfortably fitting into their standard one-dimensional tropes. Sara Malakul Lane portrays the typical brooding villainess Morgana, sexily dressed in an unusual bondage style outfit and doing her best Rita Repulsa impersonation. Eoin O’Brien plays the hot head Penn, who must learn to control his anger and become the hero and leader of the group. There is the goofy sidekick who has a vast knowledge of all things King Arthur. The only character with any sort of depth and true arc is Mordred (Russell Geoffrey Banks), whose performance has some really superb moments. At times, he evokes memories of Alan Rickman in Robin Hood. The one positive aspect is that the core group of heroes was able to get a significant amount of screen time, while also showing off their martial arts and weapons skills.
It is questionable who the actual intended audience for this is, as the presence of deathly violence and blood may prohibit some children from watching it. In its essence, children are the most likely audience. They won’t scoff at plot and dialogue issues or the poor special effects, plus there are six fight scenes peppered in to maintain a continuing sense of action and excitement. Out now in the UK and due to be released on VOD in the US May 2nd, King Arthur is worth watching for fans of The Asylum, mockbusters, or indie action movies.
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