Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: Pendragon

About a year and a half ago I watched all the behind the scenes videos from this film and decided that when I grew up I wanted to be a filmmaker. Since then I've met people who worked on Pendragon and met people who knew people who'd worked on Pendragon and I've felt quite jilted because I didn't get to work on it. And yet, despite all that, I never saw it. The problem with independent films is that you usually have to buy it to see it, and I'm just one of those people who will put off buying something for months, regardless of how badly I want it.

But finally I was at a friend's house who owned it, so we watched it. The funny thing about a well-made movie is that there doesn't always seem to be much to comment on, so it's great fun to nitpick an independent film. It has character, and like most characters it has flaws. A controversial movie or one with flaws tends to be the most popular, at least in the internet culture because there is actually something to talk about. I found more to talk about with Pendragon than I did with any other film I've seen in the past two years. And good or bad, that's a good thing.

The problem with family made films is that family members get the main parts regardless of how well said family members act. Also, because they're family members, it can be a lot harder to teach them to act. Wenneveria had a lot of promise as an actress, but not enough experience. Artose was pretty good. Cadeyrn was the best actor in the film. The acting was one of the biggest giveaways that this was a family made film.

There were several things this film did that I positively loved. The welsh names were brilliant. The research was very well done. All the text was in Latin. The roman history was good. While it didn't follow the Authurian mythology it didn't betray it either. You could see places where you could tell it was based on King Arthur and it's a very good representation of what might have actually happened.

The individual fight scenes were very well done, in my humble opinion. The sword dance was beautiful. I thought it was a brilliant way to have a girl in a dress swordfight without having her act in a very unfeminine manner. (Which would both some people, and wouldn't others, all of which is beside the point.) If I ever need a good choreographer I'm going to contact the people who did Pendragon first.

However, the big battle scenes were not good at all. I'm not sure what the difference is in a realistic battle scene and one that looks like a bunch of guys dressing up, but they looked like guys dressing up and standing around in the woods. They would have done much better to only show close ups during the battle or to avoid the battles altogether. The wide shots of the armies were just another betrayal that it wasn't a multi-million dollar budget film.

Artos' mother looked like a Roman general.

I was informed by a costuming expert that everyone of Wenneveria's dresses was from a different time period and none of them were the right one.

Everyone was a little too clean...

The entire army was in blue. You can pull this off in a fairytale film, costuming the army in the King's colors, but not in an accurate historic one. I understand they probably wanted visual confirmation of which army was which, or they wanted to be artistic, and on stage or in a different genre it would have worked, but not this one. Every time I saw them all in blue I kind of sighed in frusteration. That just doesn't happen.

The sets were absolutely incredible. Watch the behind the scenes videos and they become even more incredible.

They definitely could have used a better script writer. The story line is riddled with plot holes and the characters tend to be somewhat wishy-washy. In places the dialogue was painfully modern, and in places it was clearly written in an archaic style. I think the script held the actors back more than anything. But overall the plot made sense, Artose had a nice character arc, and I was happy that everybody got to live happily ever after.

This was the other very modern element. I didn't have an actual problem with the fact that every other conversation was a sermon... except that it's a sermon from the wrong time period. Arthur was very religious. You can't read through the myths and not pick up a constant stream of prayers and rituals, church services and pleas in the name of Christ. They could have told the same message in a historically accurate way, but instead it sounded like a modern Evangelical church. People back then didn't have the same theological problems, the same solutions to such problems, or the same resources we have now. It was their one area of research I was very dissapointed in.

I loved it. It was exactly what I expected it to be. It's not an earth shattering achievement, it's not overwhelmingly awesome and miraculous; it's a very good movie made by a lot of determined and talented people. It was a first film, and it shows, and it shows us all that first films can be incredible. In spite of it's flaws it's a success, and we love it more for not being perfect because we can aspire to the same thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment