First Knight (1995) Movie Review

First Knight (1995)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Richard Gere in First Knight (1995)

Lancelot Puts on Knights Gere

Former knight of the round table, Prince Malagant (Ben Cross), is on the rampage as he seeks to take control of Leonesse and has been relentlessly vicious in his attacks on the villages. This leads to Lady Guinevere (Julia Ormond - Legends of the Fall) to accept the proposal of King Arthur (Sean Connery - Rising Sun) as she knows he will not only protect her but also Leonesse, a decision which is hard because whilst she is fond of the older Arthur she is not completely in love with him. On the way to Camelot her guards come under attack from Malagant's men with the heroic Lancelot (Richard Gere - Sommersby) coming to her rescue and igniting something in her which she doesn't feel for the King. It leads to Guinevere having to decide between head and heart whilst everyone having to contend with Malagant's evil plans.

"First Knight" reminds of the swashbuckling movies of the 1950s the sort of thing that Tony Curtis would have starred in but done in a 1990's popcorn movie style. Now does that make it a bad movie? Nope as it is certainly a very entertaining movie for some right reasons but also for some clearly wrong reasons. But "First Knight" has a problem, and not of its own doing, as in 1995 we had the epic "Braveheart" and the equally impressive "Rob Roy" both full of grandeur, depth and exceptional cinematography which when you compare "First Knight" to them, well it comes in third place. That is not the only issue as purists are likely to find the vast re-imagining of the classic tale insulting.

Julia Ormond and Sean Connery in First Knight (1995)

So let's put this is as simply as I can, the writers behind "First Knight" have taken a slither of the classic legend and developed a movie around it. That slither basically consists of the love triangle featuring Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere but at the same time includes the nefarious Malagant and his lust for power having disagreed with the rules of Camelot. But rather than trying to create some sort of grand romantic drama the emphasis is purely on being entertaining with big sets, even bigger set pieces and characters that have visual appeal. It makes it more in tune with the later "A Knight's Tale" than the epic grandeur of "Braveheart" but with less comedy.

Now that isn't going to be for everyone especially for those hoping that "First Knight" would be a grand epic but in a strange way it works in that popcorn movie way. The various sets are impressive and whilst the set pieces are hilarious the fact they have that element of swashbuckling daring do makes them entertaining. When Lancelot goes to rescue Guinevere after she is kidnapped the escape via a turn table feels inspired by Indiana Jones but then as they ride on a horse in the rain it becomes more akin to Mills & Boon. As I think I mentioned it is cheesy yet also entertaining in a simplistic sense. And I could go on because a scene where Lancelot runs a mechanical gauntlet is hysterical yet entertaining.

Now all of this so far makes "First Knight" entertaining but then I get to the acting and I find myself saying two out of three isn't bad. Sean Connery is well cast as King Arthur and would have worked just as well if this had gone for epic grandeur whilst Julia Ormond manages to bring out some of the romantic conflict in her character despite finding herself in most of the worst Mills & Boon style scenes. But then there is Richard Gere as Lancelot and whilst he is entertaining when it comes to playing him as an expert swordsman with a flare for entertaining and a charming cockiness, when it comes to finding any more depth in his character than that comes up criminally short.

What this all boils down to is that first and foremost "First Knight" is entertaining in a popcorn movie style of way. But as an interpretation of a slice of the King Arthur/ Lancelot legend it comes up drastically short.