By Helen Cox
If 1998’s Merlin is the Home and Away of Arthurian legend then the Camelot of 2011 is Dynasty; Dynasty with boobs – Eva Green’s boobs to be exact. With overacting aplenty, lots o’ plot point labouring and more spoken exposition in the first episode than in the entire Matrix trilogy as a whole, it might seem to the casual observer that Camelot is nothing more than a derivative, diluted version of Arthurian attempts before it. Although there is some weight to that insinuation, it doesn’t detract from the strangely compelling nature of the series especially for hard-core fans of Arthurian myth…or Eva Green. How now, Guilty Pleasures!
Camelot’s Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) is an infuriatingly callow brat in robes who has managed to land himself in the black books of the dead king’s daughter, Morgan (Eva Green) by claiming a right to a throne she believes is hers. A bald Joseph Fiennes plays a somewhat sinister interpretation of Merlin who has pledged to protect Arthur as he battles his way to acceptance in the kingdom and Tamsin Egerton of 188.8.131.52. (2010) fame competently plays Arthur’s forbidden muse: Guinevere. Although she is undoubtedly beautiful Egerton’s Guin is not quite gutsy enough for a modern-day reading of the character. Some mild attempts are made at making her look tenacious but they don’t quite stick which, although this is only lazy-day comfort viewing, feels like a bit of a lost opportunity. Then again, next to the insidious exploits of Eva Green who is quite literally, in true Tudors style, willing to use every trick in her box to get what she wants it’s unsurprising that the goodie-goodies pale a bit in comparison.
Those people misguided enough to approach this series with any seriousness in their heart should know that there is a bigger problem with Camelot than the ingenuity and believability of the characters in that, essentially, none of the characters are that likeable. Guin gets a bit whinny in places (O woe, being torn between two men – such tragedy bestowed!), Arthur just wants anything he’s told he can’t have and Merlin comes across as a bit of a sadomasochist; not that much of a pretty colour on him. All this makes it pretty difficult to identify with any of them or really care what blood-stained or sex-infused end awaits them.
This said Camelot is not without its technical merits. It is beautifully shot and some of the set pieces, particularly the castle of Camelot, are perfectly envisaged. The castle is green, mossy and unkempt; forgotten over the ages; a lost refuge of old waiting to be reawakened and rejuvenated with hope. It’s a bit of a shame that there is very little beyond the skin-deep when it comes to Camelot but, for what it is, it is entertaining. Through some kind of sick curiosity the series keeps you hooked; keen to see where the ever-twisting plot goes next. This is mainly down to some of the excellent cliffhangers that occur later in the series, some of which are guaranteed to have you guiltily camping out on the sofa for a Sunday afternoon Camelothon you’re unlikely to admit to your high brow friends. If indeed, unlike this unashamedly low brow reviewer, you have such friends in your life.
Harmless fun but hardly the stuff of legend Camelot is a playful jaunt into medieval magic and animal magnetism for the Sunset Beach generation.
Camelot is out now on DVD.