Sunday, September 21, 2008

Camelot! Camelot! (It's only a CGI effect.)

Yes, I watched the BBC's new fantasy series, Merlin.

Good things about Merlin:

Unlike the last two screen examples of Arthuriana, I've seen, King Arthur and The Last Legion, there is no attempt here to do a 'historical Arthur'. Instead, it's all set in a timeless quasi-mediaeval fantasy world (seemingly using leftover sets and costumes from Robin Hood). In general, I approve. When Geoffrey of Monmouth and Chretien de Troyes wrote down these stories, the main fonts from which all subsequent versions come, they set them in a timeless mediaeval fantasy world. Doing a historical Arthur strikes me as slightly missing the point.

Gwen from Torchwood! Actually showing more acting skills than she's ever displayed in that role.

Bad things:

Richard Wilson's frightwig is rather unsettling.

The music, overly dependent on Howard Shore, and over-emphasizing the emotional content of each scene, which seems to be the fashion these days.

And there's not much of a sense of otherness about Camelot. Everyone talks, behaves, even to a degree dresses as if this is 2008 London. Roll that up with a bunch of cliches (the bullying prince, the servant who saves everyone but can't tell), and, though this is not bad, it doesn't climb much above most other semi-competent Arthur versions.

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