Review By Aaron M. Crilly
Released on the 24th of September in cinemas and on the streaming service Amazon Prime and based on the legends of King Arthur, “The Green Knight”, which is directed by David Lowery, the acclaimed director behind 2017’s “A Ghost Story”, and by A24 the studio behind such hits as “Hereditary” and “Midsummer”, starring such acclaim actors as Dev Patel, Kate Dickie and Joel Edgarton.
This medieval fantasy is set in the final years of King Arthur’s reign which see’s King Arthur’s nephew and heir, Sir Gawain (played by Patel) being tasked to go on a mythical quest throughout the land of Camelot, where like in “Alice in Wonderland” he meets a series of weird creatures and people before he goes and meets the Green Knight at his castle, in order to fight him and take his axe or risk getting his head cut off.
The film, which was shot in Ireland during 2019 in the Wicklow/Dublin area, is a breath-taking adaption of the myth for the silver screen. Director David Lowery, who was also behind such great films as the 2016’s “Pete’s Dragon” and “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”, is to fantasy what Ari Aster (director of Hereditary) is to horror; a master and auteur of the genre. Every frame and shot that he positions is a painting in of itself and, with the film’s director of photography, Andrew Droz Palermo, gave each scene its own distinctive colour. As if by doing so, they were breaking the film into chapters and therefore making it feel like a book that has come alive.
Not since Lord of the Rings has a fantasy film brought such joy to my senses. My only complaint about Lowery’s direction is the overuse of title cards, which in film can be a good idea, but only in healthy amounts; there is at least a new title card every ten or so minutes which becomes quite annoying.
As for the film’s script, it would be easy to make this film seem pretentious, but Lowery (who also acted as the script writer for the film) steered cleared of Shakespearian type dialogue (which so many fantasy films are guilty of) and instead kept it simple & accessible, therefore helping the audience to relate better to the characters. He also very cleverly decided to use some of the script to show the characters, especially Gawain himself earlier on in the film, in their downtime; we see him sleeping around and getting drunk with his mates, which also makes him more relatable in a charmingly rough manner similarly to Robb Stark. The only criticism of the script that I have is the lack of development and sufficient screen time for the supporting characters; this makes them come across as one dimensional.
Dev Patel, who is making a return to the fantasy genre for the first time since the abysmal 2010 adaption of “The Last Airbender”, is on fine form as the lead character Sir Gawain; not only does he makes the character charming, but better still it’s not in an annoying manner like most Disney princes. He is able get across his character’s sweet sensitivity to the audience with relative ease, which I can only compare to Orlando Bloom’s performance in “Kingdom of Heaven”.
I’m also happy to say that there is very little CGI used in this film. Most of the effects are practical, including the use of mantel paintings for the castles. But by far the most impressive effect and design is that of The Green Knight; this design would make Guillermo Del Toro himself proud and to me could easily be placed in Pan’s Labyrinth with ease. And the costumes, designed by costume designer Malgosia Turzanska, are a feast for the eyes. They’re heavily detailed and unique which helps the film to stand out from other fantasy projects like “Game of Thrones”.
All in All, despite not having any previous experience with either the legend of Sir Gerwan or with David Lowery, I have left this film impressed with Lowery’s abilities as a director and a newfound respect for and interest in Arthurian Legends.
I give this film, 4/5.