Friday, 15 February 2013

A Knight's Tale

While a Knight’s Tale fails to do anything with Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale" from Canterbury Tales, the movie is a fun take on medieval knighthood. Something common between all of Arthur’s knights is the desire to improve and excel. Heath Ledger’s character William does not have noble blood but aspires to become a knight so he disguises himself in order to prove his worth as a knight. Just like Sir Gareth, William proves to be the best knight around, and we find out that he is indeed of noble birth. William doesn’t save any damsels, go on crazy adventures, or save any kingdoms, but he does prove that knighthood is not about noble birth (what a heartwarming message… for medieval times) Anyway, the movie scores points for not taking itself seriously. Worth checking out if you haven’t yet.

Soul Eater's Excalibur

Let’s look at another Anime treatment of Arthurian Legend, this time the sword/character Excalibur from Soul Eater. If you haven’t seen any Soul Eater, I don’t think a quick synopsis is going to help… but basically there is this weird school headed by a Shinigami (a Japanese Demon overseer of Death) who requires a scythe. How a Shinigami’s scythe is made is by a human weapon killing 99 evil souls and 1 witch (in that order)… Anyway Excalibur is ancient sword that is one of the original ‘death scythes’, and is supposedly the most powerful one. As for how this fits with Arthurian Legend (or at least how it could fit) is that Excalibur is a tool of the devil, and in Arthur’s case Excalibur proves to be one of the causes of Camelot’s fall (e.g. when the sword is returned to the creepy hand in the lake as Arthur’s society falls). Well, at least this Excalibur is pretty cute, introducing himself as such: “Excalibur, Excalibur, from United Kingdom, I'm looking for heaven. I'm going to California!”        

Anime Arthurian Legend

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a Japanese anime series from the 80s based on the Arthurian legend. As for how strictly the series keeps with the legend, I’m not so sure. Most of the major players are present: Lancelot, Guinevere, Tristan, Percival, Merlin, Uther, and Igraine are all represented in the shows suitably lighthearted anime approach to the legend. Of course the show takes a number of liberties, adding new characters and a definitive villain (the evil king Lavik who killed King Uther). But, if you are looking for an anime representation of Camelot, the show does design a very nice setting. Apparently the show became popular enough in its Italian and French dubs that a second series was created, so if you are not interested in a proper anime representation of Arthurian Legend it might be worth checking out. Making a definitive story with television shows is something that Japanese anime does get right, but I can’t help but wonder what a serialized take on Arthurian Legend could do. I think it has promise.   

Arthurian Influence in Indian Jones

You can definitely compare Indian Jones to Arthurian Legend, with our imperfect but noble and chivalric hero Indy adventuring throughout the Third World (a modern-day otherworld for the Western world) fighting Nazis or hostile natives that threaten America’s Christian culture. Looking at the third film, The Last Crusade, Indy’s adventure is nothing more than a modern day quest for the Holy Grail. While Indy is no Galahad, a comparison to Lancelot is not too much of a stretch because Indy is “the best”: honest, strong, smart, and always showing respect and mercy to women, even when they betray him at every turn! I am referring to the Nazi double agent Elsa who Indy can never bring himself to harm. Indy even attempts to save her from the temptation of the Grail. Given this, a comparison to Morgan La Faye is reasonable. Additionally, Indy is guided on his quest by his father who has worked his entire life to studying the Grail, just as Arthur devotes his life to perfecting his court and guiding his knights. As for the films use of the Holy Grail itself, using a simple carpenter’s cup is a perfect representation (in my opinion). Plus, the Grail serving as a Deus Ex Machina healing device does the chalice justice: healing Indy’s father and any father issues that Indy previously held. As for the trials, Indy must be penitent, be walking the path of God, and have complete faith in order to obtain the Grail. Pretty good Spielberg.  
I want this shirt!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

SNES game: King Arthur and the Knights of Justice

Based on the short lived 90s cartoon of the same name, King Arthur and the Knights of Justice on the Super Nintendo was a game played quite a bit as a kid. There are actually quite a few King Arthur based games on the SNES, including Knights of the Round Table and King Arthur`s world. Maybe I missed out on these games, but Knight of Justice was a fun game, despite its questinable source material that replaced well know Arthurian knights with the like of Sir Zeke, and Sir Trunk, Sir Breeze (a black knight who looks like Gerald from Hey Arnold), and Sir Gallop. To be fair, this was the show's fault, and at least Lancelot and Merlin figure prominently in both. In the game you take control of King Arthur (who is a silent protagonist for the sake of video game immersion i guess) and two selected companions. The story (as far as I can understand) is that Merlin has gotten King Arthur and his knight lost in time, and need Arthur to retrieve the Deus Ex Machina(s) in order for  Merlin to bring everyone back to Camelot. Despite the games awkward use of Arthurian Legend, it does offer 16 bit Camelot in all it glory
Oh, and I don't think the programmers who drew the overworld map of England have ever been to England....

Army of Darkness

I'm guilty of owning every Sam Raimi film. I'm a huge fan, and my personal favorites are his Evil Dead trilogy. The first two movies follow the hero Ashley "Ash" Williams fighting possessive demons in the woods, with the second movie mixing Horror and Comedy. The third one named Army of Darkness breaks away from the first two by being a Slapstick Horror Comedy set in a Medieval Fantasy Realm. An who does our incompetent hero Ash meet in this realm? None other than "Lord Arthur" and a kingdom facing a dark threat. Ash is captured by Arthur, proves his combat skills in a demon pit, and is set on a quest by the Wiseman to expel a demonic evil from the realm that Ash had already faced in the first two films. While the connection to Arthurian literature is light in this one, I love to see Ash become a knight and stumble along on a quest that he is not prepared for at all. Funny, great special effects (none of that CGI), and a suitably otherworldly medieval setting makes this movie a must see for Horror fans, and a maybe for more conservative Arthurian addicts. Groovy!

Dracula vs. King Arthur

Ok, I am a huge Horror fan and I love to see almost anything placed in a horror setting. So a Horror set King Arthur tale? Awesome. Now, to be fair King Arthur defiantly has a lot of horror themes, but they are often explored through an adventure/fantasy setting. Just to quickly look at how this story works, Vlad the Impaler meets Satan before he is killed by a rebellion and is sent back in time in order to destroy a realm of virtue that Satan dislikes: Arthur's court. So Vlad is transformed and Arthur's court has a horrifying enemy to overcome. As for Arthur's side of the story, the basic Arthurian Legend is there except that Arthur and his court have been absolved by the Holy Grail instead of destroyed. Dracula throws this all out of whack though, and King Arthur has to face Satan himself (in a sense). In my opinion, the first issue (available on Youtube) is a little too serious in tone for me, but it does have promise. Reminds me of Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash : Stupid fun.

Dracula vs. King Arthur motion comic Part 1