Fashion has been for some time in "historical" series such as You sleep where the Borgia, we suspected that the legends would soon inspire the writers. And what better than the Arthurian cycle, with its knights, its battles, its betrayals and its dramas? And a little more magic… With Camelot, we are however very far from the series for teens Merlin, and we get closer to one Spartacus. For the best or for the worst ?
The plot and cast of Camelot
King Uther reigns alongside his queen Ygraine, but dies poisoned by his daughter Morgana. With visions predicting chaos, the wizard Merlin sets out to search for Uther's hidden son, Arthur, to assert himself on the throne. The young man then opposes his half-sister, Morgana, allied to the felon Lot. To become king, Arthur must prove his worth, and thus be able to gather around him the greatest knights and especially the people.
Although, as we can see, the plot quickly leads to a few comments on the Arthurian legend, let's start with the casting of the series, because that is one of the first problems.
The positive first. Despite a black look that is sometimes a little too deep, Eva Green plays a very charismatic Morgane, very beautiful and we can say, credible. Magician more pagan than Christian (despite the support of a nun, let's say ambiguous), independent woman, she very easily convinces us to take her side, despite her crimes (a child and a woman, anyway). For the casting successes, you then have to look a lot more ... For two episodes, James Purefoy has fun as a barbaric villain, Lot, and we think with nostalgia of the very good Marc-Antoine he was (in the series Rome). The beautiful Claire Forlani (seen among others in Meeting with Joe Black) is an endearing Ygraine, who somehow manages to withstand the shock of Eva Green, despite botox abuse. Without being exceptional, Philip Winchester is convincing as a cuckold knight, and his tragic fate manages to move us, a little. Other actors and actresses are not doing badly either, like Sinead Cusack, as a Machiavellian nun.
It spoils afterwards, and seriously. Because the two worst actors play the two main characters! How to believe in Arthur's fate if he is "played" by a fair-haired, empty-eyed man without any charisma, even if the directors try to help him by covering him with blood and grime in the last episodes? He is certainly not helped by his character (more on this later), but all the same ... Jamie Campbell Bower manages to be softer and more unbearable than Jonathan Rhys-Meyer in Henry VIII (The Tudors), that is to say ! However, he is thoroughly beaten in ridicule by Joseph Fiennes, and we mourn for Merlin. Worst of all, unlike Arthur's character, Merlin's is here much more interesting, a bit closer to that of Excalibur by Boorman. But Fiennes, probably suffering from a chronic stiff neck, still maintains the same attitude, hunched over and gloomy, a small sneer trying to emphasize his ambiguity. Only the scene of Ygraine's death is successful with him ... Well, poor Guinevere is like the pathetic Arthur. Admittedly, Tamsin Egerton is pretty, but her dazzling blonde hair, dark eyebrows and childish face make us think more of a typical little teen serial starlet. Hartley hearts alive than to the queen of great Arthur. Which is quite logical, after all, since she is not his queen, but Leontes’s wife!
Adaptation of the Arthurian legend
Indeed, the creators of the series took a lot of liberties with the classic Arthurian legend. Adapt, make a new version, why not? After all, the Excalibur de Boorman is an adaptation, where certain characters are merged, events a bit modified. The series for teens Merlin, which is certainly not terrible, nevertheless has some qualities, such as the dragon and the idea of evoking the youth of the characters. But Camelot goes much further, and we often wonder why. Worse, the series manages to make some of the most iconic characters in the Arthurian cycle uninteresting.
As we have said, Morgane is quite successful. But is it really a good idea to make her the half-sister of Arthur through the father and not the mother, even if it "justifies" his claim to the throne?
Merlin, despite his interpreter, is pretty well thought out. Refusing to use his powers (and when he does, it goes wrong), tortured and with a dark past, he is also manipulative. He lacks the derision of Boorman's Merlin all the same.
Sadly, Arthur is just a wayward and egotistical brat, without charisma, who thinks only of betraying his friend and knight Leontes by sleeping with his wife Guinevere. The writers, no doubt aware that they have loaded the mule too much and made Arthur anything but a king, try to make up for it in the final episodes by showing a brave young man, ready to sacrifice himself. But we do not believe in this commando soldier who, like John Rambo or Alan "Dutch" Schaefer (amateurs will understand), manages to resist the attack by force of traps and sword reels. a good twenty assailants, certainly not very fine ... It's hard to swallow that at the end of the season we only think about one thing: what is this guy doing on the throne of the Bretons? Give us Morgane back!
Guinevere, as we have said, is a capricious adulterous woman, but we can say to ourselves that she is in the image of her future husband ... Gauvain is a courageous knight, and one thinks a rather interesting moment compared to his questions (on God, etc.). But he quickly transforms into a kind of video game warrior, with both swords behind his back and a sinister look, his feelings quickly forgotten. We are far from the model and courteous knight… Leontes resembles Lancelot in many ways, even Galaad. It is believed for a time that his character replaces Lancelot, and that the writers have reversed the situation of the legend: he would be the cuckold husband of Guinevere, and Arthur the lover. But he dies in the last episode (saving Arthur) and, apart from the fact that it frees up the place for Arthur in Guinevere's bed, an allusion is made during the construction of the Round Table: Leontes' place will remain empty as long as that there will be no knight worthy to sit there. We can think that this knight would have been Lancelot, if the series had continued ...
Let's move on to the other knights to focus on Viviane. In Arthurian legend, it is a fundamental character, the Lady of the Lake. In most versions, this is even the one that elevated Lancelot. The hand that shoots out of the lake brandishing Excalibur is also her. Finally, she corrupts Merlin. So it’s not just anyone! John Boorman had managed to respect this character, while merging him with Morgana, which was not won. But the series Camelot totally sacrifices it, in two ways. First by political correctness. If the Guinevere of the series Merlin could already ask a question, what about the Viviane de Camelot? Undoubtedly stuck by quotas of "diversity", the creators of the series made Viviane an African, covered with scarifications, very short hair, and whose family would have been brought to Brittany as slaves by the Romans. Worse, far from being a fairy anywhere, she was a servant of Uther and becomes that of Morgana! All without real impact on the plot. Nevertheless, the writers managed to do even harder with Excalibur ...
Excalibur, the Lady of the Lake, daughter of Caliburnus
The sword of King Arthur is central in the legend. In Camelot, much less, and it is even in two copies ...
The first is a large two-handed sword, rusty and full of moss, which Arthur must fetch in the middle of a waterfall to prove his bravery. The second copy has a much more complex origin. Indeed, it seems that the rusty sword is not enough, and Merlin decides to have a real king's sword made for Arthur. On Gwain's advice, he goes to find the blacksmith Caliburnus, hidden in the depths of the woods. Caliburnus is the other name of Excalibur in legend. The blacksmith accepts, but when the sword is finished, he demands to hand it over to the king himself. Merlin, in the midst of existential doubt, takes it badly; the two men clash and, when Caliburnus insults his parents, the wizard burns and kills him. Then comes the blacksmith's daughter, whose name is ... Excalibur! Seeing her father dead, she takes the sword and runs away. Merlin, angry, chases her to ... a lake. The young girl gets into a boat, Merlin freezes the lake with his powers to join her. Excalibur takes the sword, and falls into the water. Merlin realizes what he's done and tries to save her, as she drowns. At this moment, the young girl splits the ice with the sword: this is the image of the Excalibur wielding arm that everyone knows. Merlin takes the sword, but fails to save Excalibur. Back in Camelot, he tells his side of the story, which is actually the legend we know (roughly speaking), and decides to call the sword ... Excalibur.
This summary allows you to see how far the writers of Camelot to make it original. But we say to ourselves, what's the point?
Sex and decadence at Camelot
Finally, the series clearly tends to be in line with Borgia and You sleep, but also Spartacus. Not on violence, but on sex. Admittedly, the Arthurian legend is for the part not insignificant a story of bedtime, but this new way of putting sex scenes in this kind of series is becoming boring, despite the plasticity of the protagonists, who all seem to come out of sports halls and centers of beauty. These scenes are mostly filmed the same way (in all of these series), and mostly irrelevant to the plot, with a few exceptions. This ends up not being enough to generate interest, when the rest of the series is of poor quality. We don't do Rome everyday…
Notice of History for all
Let's save some elements of Camelot. The settings first, all sumptuous, like the good idea of the open-air Camelot castle, covered with vegetation. A few scenes stand out: the wolf facing Leontes, the death of Ygraine, and especially the final scene, which would almost make up for the betrayals of the series to the legend: Leontes barely consumed, Guinevere spins into Arthur's bed (scene from sex, etc). When she leaves the room, her face changes: it is in fact Morgana, who assumed the features of Guinevere to give birth to a king, with her half-brother. Mordred is in gestation ...
Despite this, Camelot is a failure. The cast is too unequal, and the desired changes in relation to the legend are overwhelmingly failures, when they are not betrayals. The plot drags on, and is in fact just a succession of back and forth trips between Camelot and Morgane Castle, with some additional settings. We are very bored. It looks like we're not the only ones, as the series won't have a second season. Too bad such material was wasted at this point ...
- Camelot, series created by Morgan O'Sullivan and Michael Hirst.