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  • Lars Henriks

Mysterium Pictorum 23 - ARTHUS & MERLIN

Listen to our full discussion of this fantasy film on our podcast series Mysterium Pictorum! Available on any podcasting app you like!


Ever since I've read Tankred Dort's legendary play "Merlin Or The Wastelands" thirteen years ago, I was fascinated with Arthurian legends. Of course, as a child, I had seen the Disney film based on the T. H. White novels and stuff like that, but Dorst's play for the first time really opened my eyes for all the further legends surrounding Arthur.

I haven't ever been blessed enough to see a staging of said favorite play of mine. Neither have I found a satisfying film adaptation of the rich mythos it is based on. And yet - I do hope. Every time I find a new "Arthur", "Merlin" or "Arthur and Merlin" film, I hope it's going to be the great one I am looking for - finally. This one isn't it and that's a shame, because there were some good ideas mentioned in here.

According to an interview clip I've found on YouTube, "Arthur & Merlin" is based on very old versions of the Arthurian myths, and if all the stuff about raising ancient dieties is from there - Awesome! It feels very Lovecraftian and that on its own is cool enough. Arthurian legends with a Lovecraftian undertone? What could go wrong with a pitch THAT cool!?

Well, for example: The film could be made like a demo reel, seemingly only designed for showing off the filmmaker's skills of making a standard blockbuster on a low budget. That's how "Arthur & Merlin" felt to me - And it failed even in that task. Why would anyone want to watch a Marvel-type film, only with less money, thus no spectacle? A low budget effort doesn't make sense if it doesn't utilize the narrative freedom the lower economical pressure affords. At least, to me.

I was pretty bummed out about this, but "Arthur & Merlin" really doesn't have a lot to offer. The performances vary from passable to bad, while all being bland and forgettable, the visuals are boring and lack flavor and ideas of any kind, the script consists largely of exposition, making the viewer expect battles, dragons and an underworld of mystical beings - none of which ever materialize or become important - The list goes on.

Had this film had more charm, fun characters with chemistry, interesting dialogue, an innovative narrative, anything along those lines, it could have easily saved itself from being the mind-numbingly bland piece of "meh" that it is.

The only way to fuck up an amazing pitch like "Arthur and Merlin vs. Cthulhu" is, apparantly, lacking the courage to give it the heart and individuality that it needs. The low budget was not why this film failed.

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