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And you thought Monty Python's version was the Holy Grail of all Arthurian Legend fables ... just kidding.

For anyone who has at least a passing interest in the mysterious lives & times of the King Arthur era (if not an avid adoration of the many interpretations that surround this legend) you will no doubt find this TV mini-series unmissable.  There have been close to 50 other film productions that have King Arthur portrayed in them, some just being pure parodies of course ... but The Mists Of Avalon is probably the first ever to centre its attention on the female (if not mystical) side of the equation.  If you thought that the Middle Ages were all about testosterone gone wrong on the battlefield, then this film will change your mind in a big way ... pagan mysticism and female intuition play a phenomenal role in the destinies of everyone involved.

Mists Of Avalon, The
I'm sure that most of you are familiar with probably the most (in)famous of all King Arthur movies ... Excalibur ... so let me first point out to all the adults out there that The Mists Of Avalon contains just as much "taboo" material as its predecessor ... however, the irony is that it is all done in the best possible taste (to quote Kenny Everett :-).  It's difficult to describe exactly what I'm on about without going into specifics, but it does go into material that (even today) would not usually be mentioned in polite company.  However, if any of the "facts" portrayed in this interpretation of the legend were ever true, then I believe our society is now liberated enough to be able to address it (at least in a stylish manner) ... with religious differences and sex being the two main contraversies.  In a way, this film kind of reflects today's society's more relaxed attitude towards traditional religion as well as the increasingly popular New Age world.  King Arthur wishes for the two (Cathlocism and Paganism) to be accepted as valid beliefs in his new kingdom.  The issue of the sexual goings-on is a whole other ballgame ...

Personally, I know very little regarding the Arthurian mythology, and as a result I came into this film production a veritable rookie ... so the enjoyment I had from watching this production was rendered purely by the powerful story-telling and talented acting performances on-screen.  The child actors that play young Arthur and his older sister Morgaine is a casting gem and they give the most emotive performances that I've ever seen ... with the rest of the cast being more than up to the task of telling the story, not just verbally but visually and emotionally as well.  The most recognisable actors would have to be Julianna Margulies (most famous for her E.R. role) and Angelica Huston.  As for how faithful this TV adaptation is to the book I have no idea, and I cannot being to comment as to whether fans of said book will be either pleased or outraged ... that's something for them to sort out on their own.

Movie
In short, I would prefer not to reveal much (if any) of the plot ... suffice to say that this story actually begins well before Arthur himself is even born.  This approach lends itself to a whole new angle of interpretation in the legend, to which the motives and destinies of everyone involved are given a fresh perspective that most other fables have probably never addressed before.

If you are expecting another Excalibur or First Knight then you might be in luck somewhat ... there are a couple of battles here that are about two notches below those of Braveheart ... there's the ever-famous "sword in the stone" sequence (or was that in the kitchen table?) ... and of course you get to see who was 'doing' who and why (just don't ask me who the father of Morgaine's son is).

Apparently this film was based on a well-crafted 800+ page book retelling the legend in its own image, however the general concensus is that the book is far superior to the obviously simplistic screenplay and that the film either skims over or completely contradicts the many events that are meant to be portrayed within.  So it's fair to say that any fans of the book may well be disappointed with this effort.

Mists Of Avalon, The
Video
For a $20m production you'd be rather disgruntled if all that effort was for nothing, and nothing could be further from the truth here.  This was entirely shot on film and we are given a pristine PAL video transfer straight from the source (so Warners has thankfully avoided their NTSC-only policy this time around as well as any possibility that an NTSC->PAL transfer might have resulted since it was originally meant for TV).

Virtually everything here is spot on and without any artifacts to ruin the viewing ... there are the very rare instances of hairs & dust on the print, little or no indication of MPEG blocking or grain, with the shadow detail and black levels at their deepest and most defined.  It's rather sharp in detail but still retains the usual softness that film ultimately becomes once it's translated to video ... it's not absolutely perfect, but there is very little to complain about at all.

Audio
This is an equally impressive soundtrack which is surprisingly full and involving, probably more so than some fully-fledged cinema movies I've experienced before.

The majority of this movie is dedicated to the mystical (feminine) angle, but our aural senses are not ignored here ... there is a magnificent score backing that combines traditional as well as celtic influences which provide a grand feeling towards proceedings.  When the action kicks in you will also be treated to lovely split-surround and sub-woofer activity (even with the mock sword-fighting sequence at the feast festivities) ... this will no doubt help to satisfy the male members of your household.

Extras
Very limited but still welcome ... however I do wish there was maybe an audio commentary or maybe even a mini-documentary of either the filming or the reasons behind the major changes from the book to final filming.

The Deleted Scenes are provided with pre-text information regarding why there were cut (this is the way it should be done).  The Cast & Crew is done a little differently here with all the major characters being branched together in a family tree (which shows something in family trees that should never occur, you'll find out what I mean when you watch the film :-) ... you can click on each character / actor but it provides little else but their names.  The Art Gallery shows a very sparse look at some storyboards and costume design which personally doesn't interest me these days, but it's here for the film-making buffs.

Mists Of Avalon, The
Summary
Given from what I've researched into the much acclaimed book that this film was based on, it seems the general feeling towards the "accuracy" (for want of a better word) of the events inherent is split right down the middle.  Not only do the non-readers of the book debate whether this is a worthy addition to the celluloid library of the Arthurian legend, but the people who know the book back-to-front are also on different sides of the fence waving their swords and armour at each other.

Regardless of the surprising contraversy of the faithfulness towards the original book, this is definately an enjoyable 3 hours worth of story-telling.  Don't judge the book (film) by its cover and at least give this one a rental, decide for yourself.


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