Tuesday, December 10

First Knight


First Knight

By Colburn Tseng

Richard Gere is some big stud. Even moviegoers who have never
found the actor very appealing will walk out of First Knight
agreeing that the soon to be ex-Mr. Cindy Crawford, with his silver
hair dyed a youthful brown, just oozes charisma in the role of
Lancelot, knight of the legendary King Arthur’s Round Table.

Though Sean Connery (King Arthur) receives top billing, make no
mistake: First Knight tells the story of Lancelot and his ill-fated
romance with Arthur’s queen, Guinevere, and the film belongs to
Gere and Julia Ormond. Those expecting a faithful adaptation of the
Arthurian legend may be disappointed with screenwriter William
Nicholson’s ’90s vision of the familiar tale, but the film is so
enjoyable only Camelot purists will mind the changes.

Nicholson has recast Lancelot as an archetypal 20th century
rebel. Lancelot is a wandering loner with neither family, friends
nor formal occupation. He loves nothing and fears nothing, which
makes him a swordsman without peer. And behind his devil-may-care
attitude is hidden the pain of a great loss. Corny? A little. But
Gere pulls it off superbly.

Lancelot first encounters Guinevere when her traveling party is
ambushed en route to Camelot by soldiers under the command of
Malagnant (Ben Cross), a former Round Table knight turned despotic
warlord. Lancelot rescues Guinevere and the two discover an instant
attraction. But Guinevere has already promised to marry King
Arthur. Lancelot leads Guinevere back to her party and rides off
into the forest.

He arrives in Camelot some time later and impresses Arthur with
his athletic abilities and courage. Arthur invites Lancelot to stay
in Camelot, but he declines. Later, when offered knighthood and a
position at the Round Table, Lancelot accepts, though he knows full
well that his feelings for Guinevere could be the undoing of
Camelot itself.

Ormond, first introduced to American audiences in Legends of the
Fall, is a major talent whose subtlety is refreshing. The film is
at its best when Ormond and Gere are on screen together. Connery,
usually an imposing presence, has little to do but spout democratic
ideals that are strangely 20th century for medieval times and
appears significantly less dashing than the brash, young
Lancelot.

Director Jerry Zucker doesn’t stage major battle sequences as
masterfully as Mel Gibson, who displayed a true flair for chaos in
Braveheart, but the film’s other action sequences are raucous good
fun.

First Knight is not a flawless movie. The outfits the Round
Table knights wear look like Star Trek suits with armor plating,
and there are some melodramatic moments – Lancelot remembering the
destruction of his village and King Arthur screaming at God while
alone in a cathedral – that will arouse much unintentional
laughter. But these small missteps are easily forgiven. At the
film’s end, audiences will no doubt have put these minor concerns
out of their minds for the larger truth First Knight presents to
its viewers: Richard Gere is some big stud.

FILM: First Knight. Directed by Jerry Zucker. Screenplay by
William Nicholson. Starring Sean Connery, Richard Gere, and Julia
Ormond

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Gere champions romance as Arthurian knight

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