The Green Knight
The Green Knight (2021) movie review
The Green Knight is based on the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which was written sometime in the late 14th century by an unknown author. The story, which has had a few other film adaptations including Sword of the Valiant (1984) follows one of King Arthur’s knights, the titular Sir Gawain, as he accepts the challenge of a mysterious knight. This film adaptation, written and directed by David Lowery, was released in late July to a decent box office reception for an A24 film. Critics of course love the film, while audiences seem to share some, but not all of the warm feelings.
To be totally honest, I don’t know how I feel about the film. On the one hand, it is an indisputable visual masterpiece worthy of the epic Arthurian story it takes up. On the other hand, do fables make good movies…? The Green Knight embodies the idea of a tale, rather than a story, and in doing so, challenges some of the conventional notions of screenwriting. This is not the first time Lowery has shown this ability, taking on both ghost stories and crime thrillers presented as dramas with his 2017 and 2018 films A Ghost Story and The Old Man & the Gun. (Both of which I would recommend if you haven’t seen them.)
The quality of filmmaking on display deserves Oscars, regardless of the entertainment value of the film. The production design was stunning, bringing the feel of a true medieval epic back to the big screen! And with that comes lavish costumes, wonderful makeup work and surreal visual effects that never once betray the captivating world that the audience is drawn in to from the very beginning. Daniel Hart score was also a thoroughly compelling element, blending moments of period orchestration with the best vocal cues from Daniel Pemberton’s score from the King Arthur movie that everyone hates. (What a great score from that movie though!)
The performances are also exactly what the film wanted them to be. Dev Patel makes Gawain his own, challenging the traditional ‘bold and brave’ performance that you find with many less compelling films of the genre. The supporting performances all deliver, to some degree, the same depth, each also challenging the conventional roles of the genre. Alicia Vikander is great, Joel Edgerton is wonderful and unrecognizable as always, Sean Harris is going to go down as one of the most underrated portrayals of Arthur, Ralph Ineson’s voice is terrifying as always, and both Barry Keoghan and Erin Kellyman have brief but strong parts to play in this legend.
Now shifting from quality to quantity, let’s talk about our protagonist: Gawain. When we first meet Gawain, he is not the knight of legends that you may expect. The Green Knight predominately focuses on Gawain discovering his courage and honor (depending on your takeaway.) The only problem is that, as a flawed character, he does spend a large chunk of the film as a somewhat dislikable character. I’m not saying I hated him, and Dev Patel’s performance defiantly helps! But I never liked Gawain as a character… There are also a few choices regarding casting (one in particular) that I just didn’t get.
That leads me to the other factor that kept me from loving The Green Knight: the story. This film is bookended with the original fable, and filled with Skyrim (2011) side quests that either help or hinder Gawain, each teaching him lessons along the way. While I do understand the intention behind most of these short stories, and that the film would be half the runtime without them, I ended up asking more questions than the film had answers for. Why this? What happened to this? Why is that there? Things that this twisted tale left up to the audiences’ imaginations. That said, the core of the story does work well, so I will give the story credit for that.
In the end, I think the enjoyment (or lack thereof) that you get from The Green Knight will depend on you. First off, if you love fantasy films, go see it. It delivers on the desire to be swept away unto a fairy tale. That said, it is not your average fable, as the winding story takes you through a series of puzzled and confused looks before landing you on a note of uncertainty. While the character development is a grounded feat, how we got there is still pulling at my own imagination for answers. That said, while I was trying to decide on my rating for the film, I cannot deny the absolute marvel that is the film itself, which brought the world of Arthur and his knights to the big screen in arguably one of the most grounded fantasy films I can recall. While I don’t know how much I actually liked the film, I would watch it again to see if it made more sense on a second viewing. 7/10.
So The Green Knight? Did you see it? What did you think? And what is your favorite film abut King Arthur or any of the Arthur legend? Be sure to let us know what and why below, and leave a like if you found this review helpful! Let us know what else we should talk about too! (Because we have alot that’s coming up!)
-review by Ryan Prince