Lancelot (Richard Gere) is a rogue with no ties, no enemies, and no fear-until he meets Lady Guinevere of Leonesse (Julia Ormond). She has promised to marry King Arthur (Sean Connery), not only because his armies can protect her country from evils like Knight Malagant (Ben Cross), but because she truly loves him. But her chance encounter with Lancelot as she prepared to enter Camelot stirs conflicting and powerful emotions within her. Arthur welcomes both into his city with an open heart, little foreseeing how his great capacity for love and trust opens the doors for his own betrayal.
First Knight marks the second time that director Jerry Zucker has traded in the laughs of Airplane! and The Naked Gun films for something a bit more dramatic. His first, was a little "mega hit" called Ghost, therefore his limited track record in the genre was off to a fine start. To be honest though, the main draw for me in the film, was the prescence of Connery, whom I have always liked and Julia Ormand. She made quite a name for herself in Legends Of The Fall. I knew both of these actors could make the most with the material. It's too bad that Gere had to be in the film. He must have went to the same school on how to use a bad surfer dude accent, as Kevin Costner did. This is not something that's easy to forget. It is so bad that it brought everything else down in the process. He makes it difficult to get into the film, without thiking that maybe Zucker is making a comedy after all. As usual Connery saves the day--commanding every scene he's in. Connery, Ormond, and Cross, who makes a good bad guy, are reasons to watch.
The DVD lacks extras. But you have the option of watching the film, in either the fullscreen or widescreen formats.
The movie does get points at least for using as inspiration a source other than Sir Thomas, for a change, in favour of one of Chretien de Troye's tales. The whole of the Maliagaunt kidnaps Guenivere plot was right out of Chretien. It is not without some irony that where it is closest to Chretien, it is best. It does take things in different directions with different characters which seems more whim than artistic decision. The other Arthurian characters are either minimized, or not utilized at all. Maliagaunt is used most effectively, Arthur and Guenivere work fairly well, while Lancelot is just too card-board tragic as scripted. Those are the only characters that get the film time, really.
One of the oddest things about the movie was that they sent Arthur off in a pyre, burned up like a viking! No way the king will "return" after that, thereby killing the nationalistic resonance of the legend.
The visual look of the film is more of a pristine sort of, fantasy look. It isn't very gritty at all, with all the bright costumes, and bright architecture. There seems nothing dirty in the realm. And apparently, in some cases they didn't use real swords, that is, real prop swords even. If one pays attention there is a moment in the climactic battle where Lancelot is holding a sword, then merely a hilt, then his sword reappears again!
This film as far as I know is the only English language film that seems to have taken any inspiration from Chretien (there is a much better adapted French language one, script-wise). It is fairly acceptable for family viewing, (something which, generally, can not be said about EXCALIBUR) the good are fairly good, and the bad are really bad.
Judging from younger relatives, if they can sit through and enjoy Harry Potter, this might not be a bad introduction at least to other realms of fantasy.