Niall over at The Speculative Scotsman put up a post about the prequel second season of Starz’ Spartacus: Gods of the Arena a few days ago, and while I’m not exactly terribly excited about the show, his post did provide an excellent segue for a bit of news on another Starz historical drama series.
You all know the basic story of King Arthur either through books, movies, or television. So when a new adaptation of a very old source material rears its ugly head, I have to stop and wonder what this new incarnation will do that others have not. Camelot picks up where many other Arthurian tales have, with the death of Uther Pendragon and the installation of a new, previously unknown king: Arthur.
Have a look.
In the wake of King Uther’s sudden death, chaos threatens to engulf Britain. When the sorcerer Merlin has visions of a dark future, he installs the young and impetuous Arthur, Uther’s unknown son and heir, who has been raised from birth as a commoner. But Arthur’s cold and ambitious half sister Morgan will fight him to the bitter end, summoning unnatural forces to claim the crown in this epic battle for control. These are dark times indeed for the new king, with Guinevere being the only shining light in Arthur’s harsh world. Faced with profound moral decisions, and the challenge of uniting a kingdom broken by war and steeped in deception, Arthur will be tested beyond imagination. Forget
everything you think you know…this is the story of Camelot that
has never been told before.
The trailer begins with several plusses on its side.
First, I like what they’ve done with the costume and set designs, steering clear of the medieval romances for an attempt at a more geographically and historically accurate adaptation. Of course, this is all a guess, and really open for interpretation given that texts used as historical basis for a real King Arthur wildly contradict one another. As far as I’m concerned, though, Dark Ages Britain (Wales more to the point) is the best possible guess for Arthur's time and locale, which would make him a Celt, of sorts. The setting and Romano-British costumes all point to a more…believable reality for Arthur and his “knights”.
Second, casting seems strong. Eva Green looks the part of Arthur’s sister Morgana, and she just evokes power. (On a side note: Green would make the perfect actress to play the character Skade in a screen adaptation of the Bernard Cornwell book that I just read, The Burning Land. Not that any of you would know what the hell I’m blathering about, though.) Joseph Fiennes takes a different turn as the scheming Merlin, and I swear I saw James Purefoy in there somewhere, which is a bonus.
And then about halfway through the trailer, it all goes in the shitter.
What in the blazing saddles was that atrocious music that began around the midpoint of the trailer? Though it’s doubtful this music will make it into the actual series, when coupled with some of the trailer’s more romantic scenes, I was reminded of some awful teen soap opera I’d expect to see on the WB. It could be argued that a trailer is only a trailer and shouldn’t be used to judge the potential of the actual product, but such dreadful music makes me question the series creators sensibilities. Who are they appealing to? Because if they’re trying to get at the MTV demographic, then it’s a near guarantee that it won’t appeal to me.
My only other complaint would be the casting choice for Arthur. He seemed to be a bit of a sissy, and not at all what I’d expect for a gallant king that unites the land. This one complaint could be easily forgiven, so long as that terrible music stays in the trailer and away from the actual show.
We’ll see. Adapting the Arthur legends is a tall order. And with so many adaptations in literature (Bernard Cornwell’s The Winter King, Enemy of God, and Excalibur) and film (John Boorman’s Excalibur), it will be that much more difficult to impress me. And I gotta call foul on the catch line, “Forget everything you think you know…this is the story of Camelot that has never been told before.” Seriously? Like I said before, it’s going to be very difficult for an adaptation to be original and not derivative of other adaptations.
But, crappy, poser rock music and silly tag lines not withstanding, this might just be the second reason for me getting cable again. HBO’s A Game of Thrones being the first.
What did you think? Would you watch Camelot?
Camelot premiers April 1st on Starz network.