Making the Grades
First Knight brings some interesting twists to the Camelot tale. The film opens with the horrendous King Malagant (Ben Cross) and his men routinely attacking the neighboring land of Leonesse where Queen Guinevere rules with a velvet glove. Defenceless against Malagant's ruthless armies, Guinevere relies on her next door neighbor (and soon to be husband) King Arthur, to protect her country.
But then along comes the wayward Lancelot, played by Richard Gere, who looks like a man who has been trying to find himself for a long time, or at least since his last haircut. One day, as he is out strolling the woods, Guinevere's carriage passes by, and as fortune would have it, is brought under attack by Malagant's men. Of course, Lancelot saves Guinevere and immediately finds her irresistible, setting the stage for one of the most famous love triangles set to film.
A movie with knights and armies provides countless opportunities for violence, and there are many battles, but I found the brutality in this setting much easier to justify as Arthur first attempts verbal reconciliation with his enemies. He does not fight until forced to protect his lands.
Sexual scenes are at a minimum (a surprise considering the subject). The most intense moment is a short scene where we expect Malagant to rape Guinevere after ripping off her dress (fortunately ladies of the time wore ample underwear). Instead of rape, Malagant has her thrown into a dungeon that opens into a bottomless pit. Adulterous acts are limited to one critical kiss, although the writers opt for the easy solution at the ending of the film. As for language, I didn't detect one obscenity.
Finally, First Knight doesn't appear to be a high technology film on the surface, however the producers utilized the latest tools in special effects throughout the film. For instance, only fifty horsemen were used for the battles -- their images were just duplicated. This movie is an example of how effects are being used more frequently to save money instead of impressing audiences.