Sony // 1995 // 133 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // April 24th, 1999
Their greatest battle would be for her love.
First Knight is an entertaining spin on the story of Guinevere and Lancelot. If you enjoy these types of fantastical period pieces, then you may enjoy this movie.
The story of King Arthur and Lancelot has been told and retold for generations. However, Columbia has come up with a new twist on the story that provided a nice vehicle for Richard Gere to show his stuff in an action-type role. As the story begins Lancelot is a wandering swordsman for-hire who roams the countryside from town to town. He stumbles on the beautiful Guinevere (Julia Ormond) and saves her from a kidnap attempt. Naturally, they fall for each other, but she is on her way to be married to King Arthur (Sean Connery). Lancelot performs a few brave and selfless acts and is knighted by Arthur. The story evolves into war and treachery and adultery from there and climaxing in...?
The performances carry this movie. Julia Ormond, in particular, does a wonderful job as Guinevere. She effortlessly portrays a woman torn between two men, both of whom she loves in different ways. Connery does as good a job of portraying a legendary hero as one could expect or ask, and in many ways exceeds those lofty expectations. Gere acquits himself to some degree, but is not quite as good as the cast around him. Another bright spot is the portrayal of the evil Malagant by Ben Cross. While I have seen his work before, and enjoyed it, he probably would not have been my choice in this role. But, he proved my instincts to be way off base.
The video quality is, yet again, what we expect of Columbia. I guess it is difficult to continue to exceed expectations when those expectations are set so high. Frankly it gets tiresome to keep tooting Columbia's horn in this way, but they seem to have gotten the knack of DVD mastering fairly early on. It certainly doesn't hurt that they have embraced anamorphic transfers from the very beginning. There are a few trouble spots in the transfer, but most of them I would attribute to the filming itself rather than the transfer process. For instance, when Lancelot and Guinevere are alone in the woods after his rescue, we see a very soft picture at the end of that scene. I believe this was shot with lens filters to provide some ambience to the moment. All in all, the transfer is quite spectacular with richly rendered colors, and deep dark blacks. Particularly of note are the lush green landscapes and the rich deep colors of Arthur's Knights' uniforms.
Also of note is the terrific Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, which makes full use of all six channels. Everything from the thundering hooves of war-bound horses to the scene where Lancelot faces and beats "the gauntlet" are masterfully mixed to take full effect of all that the format offers. One of the best 5.1 soundtracks I have ever heard.
While I have listed the story line as a plus, that is not to say there were not any holes. Indeed there were, however, I believe that the freshness of this approach to the Arthurian legend more than makes up for whatever lacks in the story.
Typically, this film is devoid of any extras, which is too bad. I would have liked to learn more about the making of this film, and particularly how they actors felt about recreating such a well-known story. While this is fairly typical of Columbia's efforts, a contributing factor may have been that this film bombed at the box office. Costing $75 million to make, the film grossed only about $38 million in the US according to the Internet Movie Database -- which is too bad. I found this movie an entertaining two hours.
A refreshing take on the Arthurian legend of Guinevere and Lancelot, First Knight takes on the job with style and beautiful cinematography.
Acquitted on all counts except extras.
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean McGinnis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 133 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13