on July 14, 2004
I haven't read the book. I watched this movie without any expectations whatsoever, or any knowledge of the plot. Honestly, I didn't even know it was about the legend of King Arthur.
The movie was far better than any of the other Arthur films I have watched. It surpasses Merlin in terms of believability, Camelot in terms of maturity, and almost equals Excalibur. Julienna Marguiles portrays a very convincing Morgaine. The whole story is told from her point of view, and indeed it was a gorgeous retelling. For once, we are given the refreshing view that Morganne was humane, and good. We are given new explanations for the incest between Arthur and Morganne, as well as the blackness of Mordred's character, which is now blamed on Morganne's aunt, Morgause.
What intrigued me about the movie was the portrayal of the Pagan and Christian society, and most interestingly, about how the Pagan goddess still lives on as the Virgin Mary (I still find that interesting, although I don't quite agree with it). Certain things, like having Excalibur return to the goddess and fading off into the silhoette of the Christian cross puzzles me a little to what the symbolic meaning behind it implies. This intermingling of both religions - the link established wasn't as clear as it should have been.
Beautiful performances from Anjelica Huston (The Lady of the Lake), and Joan Allen (Morgause). I didn't really think that Samantha Mathis was suitable to play Guinevere (she didn't really look the part, nor act the part)... and Michael Vartan surprisingly pulled off the part of Lancelot well (Franco Nero is by far one of the most atrocious Lancelots ever). Hans Matheson (Mordred), a relatively new actor, does a better job here than what he did in Les Miserables.
A good cast, and a good movie. I found it a little controversial, and at times slightly disturbing, but it keeps the mystery and intrigue surrounding Avalon as palpable as ever.
on October 26, 2004
If you've read the book, I cannot imagine you enjoying this movie. It changed the characters and the characterization in the book is what made it so enthralling. Physically, the movie takes the two-dimensional words from the book and makes them three-dimensional by putting them on-screen; metaphorically, the book is three-dimensional while the screen version of the story lacks such depth that I would feel generous in calling it even two-dimensional. I reiterate: if you've read the book, I cannot imagine you enjoying this movie; if you have not read the book, buy it and enjoy the Mists of Avalon not the movie that stole its name.
on March 4, 2004
...but the movie isn't quite as good. The most moving scene comes right before the final battle between King Arthur's men and the Saxon invaders. The battle scene itself is a bit too gory to watch, but immediately before it, Arthur and Lancelet stand at the head of their troops and, without saying a word to each other, manage to express their hard-won realization of the pointlessness of war. This movie skims away the depth of most of the characters, eliminating Lancelet's homosexuality, Gwenhwyfar's hatred for Morgaine, and Morgaine's attempt to get Arthur killed, among other interesting plot twists. Granted, it's difficult to do justice to a 1000-page book in a TV-miniseries, but why attempt a project half-heartedly? The makers of this movie would have done much better to make a longer movie or to not have attempted to cover the entirety of the book in three hours -- doing so simply made this a plot-based store with little character development despite very good acting jobs from the cast.
on January 24, 2004
This is a beautiful retelling of the Arthurian legend, with a welcome twist of change which makes Morgan le Fay (Morgaine) the heroine instead of the villainess we're accustomed to seeing in "Excalibur." The movie begins with three sisters: Viviane (the Lady of the Lake and High Priestess of Avalon), Igraine (mother of Morgaine and Arthur) and Morgause. Upon learning of her destiny with the future High King, Uther Pendragon, Igraine is reluctant to accept but very quickly falls in love with Uther, and he with her. Their secret tryst on the night of her husband Gorlois's death at war, results in the conception of Arthur. When Morgaine and Arthur are both old enough, they are taken from Uther and Igraine and to their separate futures. Morgaine is groomed by Viviane to become the next high priestess of Avalon, a magical land which is fading away as people stop believing in it and in the Goddess. One of the other priestesses is Raven, a kind soul who has taken a vow of silence. Morgaine grows into a beautiful woman in the form of Julianna Marguilies, and is chosen to take part in the Great Marriage at Beltane. She doesn't realize until after she realizes she is pregnant with the Beltane child and after her reunion with Arthur that he was the man she slept with in the Great Marriage. Yuk! Anyway, lots of twists and turns in the saga of Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere, the coming of age of Mordred by his evil aunt Morgause, and the slow fading of Avalon of the years passing by and the deaths of Merlin and Viviane. We all know how it ends. I screamed right along with Raven when Viviane died.
While this is a great film which I would gladly recommend to anyone with an interest in the legend of Avalon, there are a few roles which I believe was miscast. Even though they did a great job anyway, I think that Michael Vartan, Edward Atterton, and Hans Matheson were all miscast for their roles as Lancelot, Arthur, and Mordred. I really believe that they could have found better actors for those roles, but the final selections are well enough. Joan Allen really sinks her teeth into her role of Morgause- wonderfully wicked!
on January 19, 2004
This movie has a lot to say about the Christian influence in pagan England around the 6th Centery. It was when the old religion (worshiping the Earth Godess, Wicca is a modern off shoot of this ancient worship) were being replaced by the new and intolerent Christian one. It is also a new kind of retelling of the King Arthur legend, and is quiet different from traditional myth. It is mostly told from the point of view of the women. Morgana is a little changed; she's the hero, in fact (HUH!?). The Lady in the Lake is actually personified as Angelica Huston, an interesting choice, to say the least. My man Merlyin has very little to do here, and is seen seldomly. It is also a very sick story of masked incest. The fertility rites are a little disturbing, to say the least. Arthur, Lancealot, and Mordred are played by reletive nobodys, as their roles were probably intended. Huston is ok, but isn't there much. Julianna Margulies is pretty good, if a little cold and frozen (but her role is so different from traditional portrail of Morganna that it is a huge distraction). Joan Allen is probably the best of the bunch as the evil, always scheming aunt, also a Avalon priestess. Excaliber and magick takes a back seat to soap opera style palace intrigue and plots which are goofy. Avalon is an interesting theory; it exists between this world and the next, and it takes an enormaous amount of disiplin to access. The fights and battles are ok, good for TV, but not anywhere close to "Braveheart".
on December 13, 2003
The Mists of Avalon is a good story that unfortunately fails to work. At 183 minutes, it is too long, and yet the viewer is introduced to the large number of integral characters at a dizzying pace. It surely would have worked better had it been released as two movies, and the storyline slowed down somewhat.
Having said that though, the storyline is certainly exciting and involving. It is the story of the Court of Camelot and its ties to the mystic isle of Avalon, as recounted by the oft-maligned Morgaine Le Fay. It is set in ye olde Britain, where Christianity is gaining ascendancy over the ancient druid religion. In an increasingly desperate effort to keep the old ways alive, Viviane - the Lady of the Lake - shapes the destinies of Morgaine, Arthur, Gwenwyfar, Lancelot and the other familiar characters. But some of them begin to rebel at being moved around like pieces on a game board.
Why, in such a quintessential British story, were so many American actors used? They either speak painfully slowly in their attempts to sound English, or they use dreadful faux-British accents that frequently slip. And while Angelica Huston's accent is admirable, she is too strident and not ethereal enough as the Lady of the Lake. The thoroughly evil Mordred acts entirely with his eyebrows, and there are some abysmal performances in the minor roles.
Such a lavish production deserves better. The sets, scenery, and costumes are visually spectacular, but there are too many annoyances to distract the viewer. The 'mists' of the title are created through an overindulgence in smoke machines, and perhaps this is symbolic of the fact that in the wrong hands, a good story can become a bad film.
on November 23, 2003
I don't understand why people who watch movies or read books of mysticism, magic or fantasy cannot let their minds run wild with the plot, instead of examining it with a fine comb like some political story. If you cannot enjoy fantasy without being unimaginative or critical, then don't watch it. It's extremely difficult to create things which one can easily fantasize about and all credit must be given to the producers and cast for even having the guts and imagination to pull it off. They have brought entertainment to the silver screen and made a child's dreams appear as reality. The story line is good, the props are fantastic, so what more could we ask for? Even Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings had lots of holes in them but don't expect a blow-by-blow account in a good movie, otherwise the movie will become too long and our butts will be numb or it's going to bore us to death. This is definitely a movie to be enjoyed, just like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Merlin, Dungeons and Dragons were so enjoyable to those who can fantasise and believe in magic. That's the key, We must believe in magic, believe in the unbelievable and don't expect everything from the movie, so that it will whet our appetites for more of the same. Otherwise, if a movie is so brilliant, it will take the fun out of all other movies in the future and we won't have anything better to look forward to. This is definitely a 5-star rating for those who enjoy a good movie about magic and fantasy, like me.
on November 20, 2003
To be fair, I can honestly give this TV Movie Adaptation of Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Mists of Avalon" two stars because of the lovely costumes, surprisingly beautiful sets, and the combined talent of most of the actors involved. The other three stars shall remain staunchly "unbestowed". Here's why...
First of all, I've never read this book, but from this movie alone I get a distinct impression that it's innovative and intriguing in its revisionist treatment of the Arthurian legend. (I had many flashbacks to Senior English. It made me feel quite learned, really.)
With this in mind I have to say "shame on you!" to the scriptwriters of this poorly adapted screenplay. It is glaringly and painfully obvious that the passionate themes present in any "good" book (assuming from the testimonials of those who have read the book that it is indeed "good") have been considerably watered down and hacked to pieces by time constraints and a need to please the TV censors.
For example, the romantic relationship between Guinevere (Samantha Mathis giving a fine performance despite being an inferior casting choice) and Lancelot (Michael Vartan is legitimately pretty, but almost completely void of similar passion) is about as interesting as a chipped coffee mug. Decidedly NOT exciting or interesting.
This also applies to the threesome between Lancelot, Arthur, and Guinevere. It made pretenses to being intense and life changing and ended up looking like heavily edited soft core porn. Correction: heavily edited soft core porn devoid of anything remotely stimulating. The embarassment on the actors' faces was not just charaterization, it was actual professional embarrassment, like "What the hell am I doing with my career?!"
The plot meanders about, "speeding" and "slowing" at awkward moments. Frankly, the overal structure is sloppy and a two part miniseries may have given these writers an actual chance to faithfully and beautifully adapt a moving story about conflicting worlds. And speaking of conflicting worlds, the "battle" between Christianity and Paganism played out like a poorly reasearched trash novel. Would it have been so difficult to inject a little detail and believability into each group of believers and their respective believers? Do historians really charge so much for appropriate consultation that it wouldn't have fit in the production budget? I hope not, because that means giving up that history degree was a really big mistake.
Moving on though. I have to say a word about the direction of this movie as manifested in general "pictures" throughout the narrative and assumed coaching of the actors' performances. I watched many moments in the movie when I was slightly embarrassed by the loose and juvenile camera positioning and boring formulaic blocking (how the actors move, that is). It wasn't just ugly, it was also at times confusing. The artistic directing effort, which has the ability to truly move a viewer particularly through the varying levels of intimacy elicited by certain camera angles, was minimal at best.
And those poor, poor actors. My heart went out to them as a fellow performer because although they tried and tried to save this sinking ship, they ultimately failed. I could see the perpetual strain on their faces to make the lines, some of which were quite goofy and contrived, sound remotely dramatic.
In general, the actors took admirable risks to portray their characters as in depth, feeling individuals. But this is practically impossible to do with bad plot structure, lackluster writing, and sloppy directing. I have a strange feeling that the director did not really do his job of guiding these actors in their performances so as to prevent certain acting train wrecks. Case in point, the actor who portrayed Arthur was all over the place, and Michael Vartan's Lancelot was downright boring. Anjelica Huston bravely turned in a strong performance, which ultimately looked over the top in comparison to the rest of the movie's glaring downfalls discussed previously.
The biggest train wrecks were the campy performances given by the young Morgaine and Arthur (are you telling me that these kids couldn't have been coached better or the roles cast better?), the ridiculous portrayal of a 14 year old Morgause by a middle-aged Joan Allen (who otherwise delivered a good performance), and Hans Matheson's desparate attempts to inject much needed evil into the poorly adapted Mordred who is given little explanation and even less screen time. Perhaps the final downfall of Camelot and lost hope of Avalon would have been more impactful if the one responsible (Mordred) had been more properly fleshed out by the dolts who wrote the screenplay.
I was pleasantly surprised by the performance delivered by Julianna Marguiles. I had low expectations for this actress considering the narrow range of characterization she has displayed to date as an actress. She was a believable if not, at times, enjoyable Morgaine. I will say, though, that her British accent (can anyone say Queen Mother?) was occasionally giggle-worthy.
In conclusion, this movie is a sad, sad excuse of serious literary adaptation. And although I suffered significantly from watching all three shameful hours, I'm willing to bet the real victims are the actors and actresses who have to look back on their careers now and shudder at the terrible product that resulted from their good intentions and hard work. It was a chance of a lifetime for any actor to portray any of these legendary characters in such a innovative retelling of this legend. But now, it's nothing more than a line on their resume that they wish they could erase.
Don't see this movie if you have a hard time watching good actors crash and burn at the hands of bad directing and a lousy script. And any enjoyment you may find in the romance of this legend will be overshadowed by the campiness of its re-creation on screen. Perhaps we should all just stick with the book.
Too bad the director and screenwriters couldn't have done their jobs properly.
on October 24, 2003
I have to say that I found Juliana Margulies to be a great casting choice for Morgaine, as well as some other casting choices...too bad the book wasn`t given a chance to become a feature film. Like many have mentioned already, the complex relationships and plot would have been given better chances to make it to the screen. I would recommend this video over other versions of the Arthurian Legend so far.
If it`s any indication, though,I have NOT seen any video or DVD version of this production for sale on the Amazon.uk site, but I have seen many of Zimmer-Bradley`s books (including "Mists" of course), which says a whole lot to me. (I am an American, by the way.)
If you haven`t read the book, this version is an eye-opener for sure, particularly for an American audience, but if you have, it is disappointing, but understandable at the same time. But then again, why do we look for film to recreate great books for us all the time? That`s our own mistake...(shrug)...I have to say I am very guilty of it, too. Nothing comes that easy... I highly recommend the book above all.
on October 2, 2003
Its been a long time since I've been moved by an Arthurian movie, but I LOVED Mists of Avalon, and NO, I haven't read the book, so I had no prejudices about what the film should be like. The film was told from a unique perspective: that of the women of Camelot. The women struggle with the ending of their matriarchal culture and the rising of a patriarchal one. No one character is entirely evil. Some are selfish, others are driven to excess by their own desires or manipulated. In particular, I loved the fact that all the characters were morally ambiguous. One gets tired of reading about pure and innocent Arthur, virginal Gwenevere and rake-like Lancelot. Well, in Mists tells another story.
Favorites: I loved the facial tattoos. Not overdone, just accenting the characters features. Especially the small blue-lines around the eyes. I enjoyed the characterization of Morgan, and the character of Uther. Uther was handsome and bear-like and kindly. The friendship that Arthur and Lancelot shared was evident, and I found both actors to be quite handsome. Gwenevere was portrayed as cow-like and docile, and just a bit spiteful. I even, felt sorry for Mordred, who in my opinion was the worst off, having been manipulated since the point of birth.
I did think it was quite sad and telling that poor Morgan and the others never found happiness. In fact NONE of the characters found happiness towards the end (being stuck in a cloister doesn't cut it, at least for me), but I loved it. Excellent movie. Beautiful soundtrack. I was deeply moved.