Top critical review
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on August 26, 2011
I love King Arthur and his legendary knights, whether it's gritty "historical" stories or a pile of medieval anachronisms a la Malory.
But the once and future king has really gotten more than his fair share of rotten movies and TV, and the latest disaster is "Camelot." No, not the Broadway musical or the movie adaptation -- this is Starz's attempt at updating the timeless Arthurian legends (which don't NEED updating), which just turns into a silly, sloppy and overly PC mess.
The evil princess Morgan (Eva Green) murders her father Uther, exiles her stepmother, and allies herself with her dad's enemy King Lot. But Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) is having none of this, and hunts down Uther's secret illegitimate son Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower), who has been raised by an adoptive family in the country. With Merlin's guidance and training (in rock-climbing), Arthur claims the throne --and gains Morgan's wrath.
He also falls in love with Guinevere (Tamsin Egerton), the beautiful young wife of a loyal knight, and is deftly manipulated by Merlin in decidedly unmagical ways, sometimes with bloody outcomes. As young Arthur struggles to unite Britain under him, he must deal with Morgan constantly trying to undermine his rule and his power -- but with little idea of just how far she will go.
The idea behind "Camelot" is not a bad one, and even the rewriting of Arthurian lore (the origins of Excalibur) aren't that bad. The problem is in the execution. This series wants to be a plot-heavy, gritty, authentic "Game of Thrones"-esque story, but it's actually more of a silly, anachronistic BCC "Robin Hood" (complete with multiculturalism and modern feminism, which makes it doubly ridiculous).
Yeah, this is one of those series where the costumes, sets, perfectly-coiffed hair and even some of the beautiful scenery all feel like they were lifted from a Renaissance Faire. There's no feeling of timeless grandeur, epicness or awe -- instead, it sometimes feels like "King Arthur: The Legendary Journeys." Additionally, the main storyline is.... rather weak, especially since the straightforward Morgan's plans for overthrowing Arthur get downright silly.
As for the acting, it's a mixed bag. Fiennes is wonderfully conniving and Machievellian as Merlin, almost to the point of being villainous, Peter Mooney is dynamic as Kay, and Green is brilliantly wrenching as a destructive yet wronged young woman.
However, Bower's Arthur is a massive twerp, with zero presence or charisma. He's a skinny surfer-dudeish kid whose appeal is honestly a total mystery. I mean, his Arthur only decides to become king because HE CAN SCORE WITH GIRLS. Who can take that seriously? As for Egerton, she's painfully awkward and rather flat, and her character is Mary-Sueish to the extreme.
"Camelot" is a painful experience -- not just because it's a lackluster, weakly-plotted series, but because it could have easily been so much more. Give it a pass.