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Camelot: The Complete First Season(TV) (2011)
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.
For more about Camelot: The Complete First Season and the Camelot: The Complete First Season Blu-ray release, see Camelot: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 13, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Joseph Fiennes, Jamie Campbell Bower, Eva Green, Tamsin Egerton, Philip Winchester, Sinéad Cusack
Director: Michael Hirst
» See full cast & crew
Camelot: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review
It's not exactly an addictive series, but "Camelot" is a slick and entertaining look at a popular legend reborn.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 13, 2011
The new king has come.
Starz sure does seem to have this niche of flashy historical fiction serials down to a science. They've also got the market cornered, it would appear. First there was the wildly popular "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," the hip, ultra-violent, and super-sexy tale of ancient Rome, the gladiators who fought within her borders, and the sleaze and corruption that infested her darkest corners. Then there was the hugely successful televised adaptation of Ken Follett's massive historical novel, aptly titled "The Pillars of the Earth," a sprawling epic built in the tradition of television's finest miniseries. Now there's "Camelot," a show which focuses on the enthralling and oft-explored legend of Britain's King Arthur. Neither as sweepingly monumental as "Pillars" or as primal as "Spartacus," Creators Chris Chibnall's and Michael Hirst's foray into historical television is instead a little bit of both. It doesn't feel big and it's not excessively violent or sexy. It's instead very well-balanced, tightly-knit, and highly entertaining. It hits all of the right Arthurian legend notes, sexing things up a bit for modern audiences while staying relatively grounded in familiar lore and comfortable -- but not always predictable -- plot arcs. "Camelot" shies away from an excess of fantasy -- while still dabbling in magic and the dark arts, both in many ways critically important to the the way things play out -- and tends towards a more basic, grounded, and grimy feel, eschewing much of the fantastic for a dose of middle ages pseudo-reality. It's not for absolute purists, historians, or those who prefer their Merlin to sport a big white beard and a flimsy replica of The Sorcerer's Hat from Fantasia, but the show will no doubt please 21st century audiences looking for an old tale given a sleek new edge.
When England's King Uther suddenly dies -- under mysterious circumstances -- the throne appears to be the sole property of his only child, the young Morgan Pendragon (Eva Green). The unruly once-banished but now-returned heiress is all to happy to claim her place as the head figure of the land. Before she can officially become Queen, Uther's trusted advisor and true defender of the king and the crown, the powerful Merlin (Joseph Fiennes), retrieves the country's true heir, Uther's illegitimate son Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower), from a make-believe life as a peasant in the English countryside. The handsome but naive and inexperienced Arthur struggles with the revelation but comes to embraces it. He and his half-brother Kay (Peter Mooney) are taken to the future site of the English throne, the ruins of the once-mighty castle Camelot. Unfortunately, Morgan's not about to give up her claim to the throne without a fight. Hers is a testy relationship with the new king, whose own rule is challenged when he falls madly in love for the young maiden Guinevere (Tamsin Egerton) who is engaged to be married to one of Arthur's knights, Leontes (Philip Winchester). Can Arthur's rule withstand threats from afar and a dangerous lust for an unobtainable beauty, and can the wise sage Merlin mold the young man into a leader for the ages?
"Camelot" is many things -- adventurous, sexy, entertaining, sometimes even gripping -- but cutting edge and envelope-pushing it is not. This is just another solid all-around cable television show, one that generally pushes all the right buttons but that certainly won't go down in medium lore as anything that defined, re-defined, started, or ended a particular style or era of television history. Then again it doesn't try to accomplish any of the above. "Camelot" is rightly satisfied to deliver a none-too-involved and never-at-all-epic but nevertheless appropriately twisty-turny and infinitely watchable medieval drama centered on a power struggle between two impossibly good-looking leads and the quasi-mystical aids who guide them in their search for power, one for the betterment of society, the other in a ruthless power grab that must be accomplished at all costs. The series finds a very good balance between all of the necessary Arthurian ingredients, including politics, mysticism, spirituality, adventure, violence, kingdom building, and interpersonal drama. The show hits all of the Cliffs Notes, too, including the pulling of the sword from the stone, the presentation of Excalibur, the formation of the Knights of the Round Table, the Lady in the Lake, and more. It's all seamlessly integrated, and whether or not any or all of the legendary Arthurian pieces fit together as any particular audience member deems appropriate is to miss the point that "Camelot" strives more to entertain in the style of 21st century dramatic television rather than to bore with a regurgitation of everything already learned from classic literature and film.
"Camelot" is further enhanced by its quality visuals and fine atmosphere. While some of the special effects shots leave something to be desired -- some of the sweeping vistas of Camelot and other digital landscapes and structures resemble in visual mediocrity those cliffside shots of the Ludus in "Spartacus" -- and are anything but visually appealing and convincing, the show's practical sets and costumes more than make up for any digital shortcomings. The practical sets are well-dressed -- run-down, weathered, often covered in ivy, and nicely conveying the basic look and feel of the era's technology and style -- to the point that they serve as stable and at least superficially convincing stages for the action. The show is further enhanced by some positively breathtaking exterior scenery; rolling green plains are not an uncommon visual in the series, and they serve as a nice and bright contrast to some of the dank and dreary period sets that are built of gray and earthen neutral colors and harshly lit by flame or peeks of sun coming through cracks, crevices, and the occasional window. The show's costumes sparkle in high definition; whether intricate leather and metal armor, fancy regal garb, or tattered and stained commoner clothes, "Camelot" dresses its characters, again, to the point of superficial believability.
Ultimately, however, it's not where the characters stand or what they're wearing as much as it is what they say, how they say it, and what they do and how they do it that's the real strength the show has to offer. Its cast might turn convention on its head and favor "pretty" over "rugged" or "real," but the primary players are surprisingly engaging and deeply entrenched into the world in which they operate, giving "Camelot" a boost in appeal that extends well beyond its superficial details. Of the three primaries, Jamie Campbell Bower's turn at Arthur is the most dynamic, Joseph Fiennes's try at a younger, "hipper" Merlin is the series's best, and Eva Green's efforts as series antagonist Morgan is the most as-expected. Bower, the definition of a "pretty boy" if there ever was one, turns from shy, uncertain, and surprised would-be king to powerhouse performer as the series maneuvers through its ten-episode string. Bower toughens up, gets his hands and face dirty, but doesn't lose his boyish charms as the character and the series progress in tandem. As tensions rise, drama mounts, blood spills, and dangers increase, Bower's character undergoes a great transformation and proves himself worthy of the part and the weight of the character he portrays. Of all the good scattered throughout "Camelot," it's perhaps this dynamic and evolving performance that's most enjoyable to watch progress. Then again, so too is Fiennes a real pleasure. Looking more like Jim Cantore from The Weather Channel than a middle ages sorcerer, Fiennes delivers a new kind of Merlin with a quiet strength; a smarter, more politically involved façade; and a subtly ruthless demeanor rather than merely regurgitate a one-trick pony who dabbles in magic first and all other matters second. This take on Merlin paints the character more as a close personal friend, advisor, mentor, therapist, and even cheerleader, but in a more dignified and subtle manner of speaking. Merlin is the show's rock, its best character, not most dynamic or most devious, but its center. As with many great shows, it's not the main character but the people the main character surrounds himself with that make a series, and that definitely holds true in "Camelot."
Camelot: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
"Camelot" looks good in high definition, but the transfer isn't without a few issues. Though a bit noisy here, a touch detrimentally shadowy there, and a hair flat elsewhere, the image holds up otherwise quite well on Blu-ray, delivering oftentimes stunning details and well-balanced colors. Fine detail is extraordinarily good; period clothing in particular reveals every stitch and seam, while faces are nicely intricate, too, save for those younger ultra-smooth actors whose faces are either unnaturally perfect or smoothed out by precision makeup. Unfortunately, shadows manage to ruin facial textures, oftentimes turning them into soupy and undefined globs where colors seem to either run together or show unnatural separation. Colors are generally excellent; though much of the show is built on worn-down grays and uninspired earth tones by design, the lush green areas of England and the sprinkling of colorful clothes and flags give the transfer a well-balanced appearance. Black levels are mostly solid but a touch murky in places, while flesh tones are well-balanced and natural. Occasional banding and a hint of aliasing are trouble spots, but neither severely hinders the overall appearance. This isn't on the same level of excellence as "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," but this is nevertheless another high quality offering from Anchor Bay.
Camelot: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
"Camelot" wields a powerful Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Every musical note from the first episode to the last is energized, aggressive, and nicely spaced, though not quite naturally transparent or up to the level of exact clarity demonstrated by those few perfect soundtracks. The track handles its many atmospheric effects marvelously; vocal echoing through the cavernous rock walls is practically natural and seamless in five-channel surround sound, while other natural outdoor ambience does well to create a convincing middle ages England in the modern day living room. The low end delivers some powerful elements, notably as heard when a waterfall dominates the track in an early episode. Less intense but no less critical low end elements, like the sound of rumbly heavy doors opening and closing, play with a convincing and strong but not overwhelming posture. Battle scenes take full advantage of the space and clarity offered by the lossless presentation. Clanking swords, screaming combatants, and other sounds of medieval combat mayhem pull the listener directly into the action. Made complete by seamless dialogue reproduction, "Camelot" delivers in every way via its audio presentation.
Camelot: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
"Camelot" features a handful of featurettes and little more, all of which appear on the third and final disc. The only running supplement throughout is a pop-up trivia track that supplements various aspects of the show.
Camelot: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
"Camelot" isn't the best current-running show on television, nor is it even all that memorable, but it's at least a well-crafted, smartly-conceived, well-acted, and thoroughly entertaining re-imagining of one of the world's most storied tales of adventure. "Camelot" runs ten fast-paced episodes long, covering many of the expected bases while also breaking some new ground on an old legend. It's not a perfect show, and it doesn't seem like one fans will be all too angry about not seeing renewed for a second season (despite a doozy of a cliffhanger), but the foreknowledge that, as of now, there's no second season on the horizon might be enough to scare weary fans away from giving it a shot. However, for those who wish to discover or re-discover "Camelot" may do so via Anchor Bay's high quality Blu-ray set. Boasting strong 1080p video, a quality lossless soundtrack, and a good sampling of extras, there's no better way to sink into the world of "Camelot" again or for the first time. Recommended.
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Camelot: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Camelot, The Complete First Season - September 2, 2011
Blu-ray.com, Starz and Anchor Bay Entertainment are offering three Blu-ray.com members the opportunity to win a Blu-ray copy of Camelot: The Complete First Season, a reimagining of the King Arthur legend starring Jamie Campbell Bower as Arthur, Joseph Fiennes as ...
• Camelot: The Complete First Season Blu-ray (Updated) - June 21, 2011
Camelot: The Complete First Season will arrive on Blu-ray this fall, courtesy of Starz and Anchor Bay Entertainment. This reinvention of King Arthur's legend stars Jamie Campbell Bower (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) as Arthur, Joseph Fiennes ...
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