King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, 2017.
Directed by Jared Cohn.
Starring Sara Malakul Lane, Eoin O’Brien, Alex Winters, Kelly B. Jones, Russell Geoffrey Banks, Jon Nutt, Asia Marie, Byron Gibson, Harold Diamond, Jack Easton, Eilidh ‘Ailey’ MacQueen, Tanja Keller, and Ron Smoorenburg.
In this modern retelling of the classic tale, facing certain defeat, Merlin banishes the evil enchantress Morgana and her son Mordred to the ends of the universe. Vowing revenge, Morgana and her son return to Earth, hell-bent on destroying every last descendant of King Arthur and his Knights.
In the face of the blockbuster King Arthur: Legend of the Sword that nobody asked for, we’re also treated to a mockbuster that nobody knew that wanted. This particular mockbuster feels more meta than usual, as though it’s poking fun at the unwantedness of the actual blockbuster. Nonetheless, they both exist and we’re here to talk about the latter.
The film opens in true The Asylum fashion by wearing its low-budgeted limitations firmly on its sleeve only to ignore it and work around it. It opens with a legend of King Arthur (Byron Gibson) banishing sorceress Morgana (Sara Malakul Lane) and her son Mordred (Russell Geoffrey Banks) to space. Leap ahead 1500 years to modern Thailand where we meet our protagonists in a weapons training session; couple Penn (Eoin O’Brien) and Jenna (Kelly B. Jones). After sparring Jenna makes tenuous connections to the King Arthur legend, courtesy of Penn’s cousin Gunner (Jon Nutt) who believes their family are descended from the bloodline.
Meanwhile, Morgana and Mordred return to Earth in a spacecraft (which they seem to have built it from their medieval understanding of science and a rock) to reclaim the lineage 1500 years prior.
Yes, this plot does sound ridiculous. It’s a screenplay that was clearly written around location opportunities and whatever was next in the blockbuster calendar. If you were watching this at home, and your roommate/partner/family member walked into this opening scene of two Caucasians sparring dojo in a Thai palace, you’ll have to explain the connection to the film’s premise to the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Or say it’s an Asylum film and hope they’ll understand.
Morgana and Mordred wear BDSM attire to blend in contemporary Thailand. At first, this is played for laughs, winking at the audience that these medieval sorcerers don’t understand contemporary fashion. However, because they keep the BDSM look throughout the film it’s uncertain if this is intentional or not.
As is with The Asylum films, it’s an awkward film to endure. The clumsy exposition, the forced conflict-resolution dynamics, the uneven acting choices made by the performers, and a catalogue of camera motifs that shows a lack of self-discipline i.e. just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should, all make it a joyless experience as The Asylum films go.
It’s not without merit, however. Mordred in the final act provides a (late) Alan Rickman’s Snape-inspired performance that is part-comical and part-pathetic. It’s uncertain if this is intentionally menacing, or if the actor had given up and gone straight for scene-chewing fun.
The climax, as depicted in the trailer, looks to be a last minute riff on the finale from Power Rangers, right down to the one-dimensional female villain who has quietly been building a horde and consequently becomes a giant villain (of sorts, for that last part may be tenuous). Nonetheless, it’s an entertaining, 90s-inspired CGI climax that audiences will be waiting for.
Besides the joyful camp villains, the protagonists are forgettably bland. They take up the heroic tropes of defeating a force beyond their immediate capabilities, a nerdy sidekick who makes nebulous connections between the King Arthur bloodline and the characters, and someone must commit an act of faux-martyrdom for the good of the group.
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a slog to sit through, and really for The Asylum fans only. Everyone else should just watch the trailer again.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★ / Movie: ★★