Honor, Adventure, and Sex Appeal Abound in Supernatural Fantasy The Green Knight (2021)
Title: The Green Knight
First Non-Festival Wide Release: July 29, 2021 (Theatrical Release)
Director: David Lowery
Writer: David Lowery
Runtime: 125 Minutes
Starring: Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Dev Patel stars as Gawain in this re-telling of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, a classic medieval fantasy story. On Christmas Day, Gawain is celebrating at a royal party when a mysterious knight arrives and challenges any of the knights to strike a blow on him. The caveat is that whatever someone does to the Green Knight must be repaid in exactly one year in the same manner. Gawain takes on the challenge, decapitating the visitor, who immediately regenerates and reiterates the terms of his condition before riding off into the night. Now nearly one year later, Gawain begins his journey to fulfill his end of the deal.
The Green Knight is a dark, intoxicating, and at times sensual re-telling of a literary classic that unnerves and reflects while it excites.
Lots of little things here and there make the journey worth it. From side quests that forewarn danger for our protagonist to the tests people and creatures along the way throw at Sir Gawain, it’s easy to delight in the stunning cinematography and fantastic worldbuilding. It straddles the lines between the downbeat, dark, eerie, and mystical effortlessly, which makes for a substantive watch. Its stellar cast, great score, and top-notch effects work make The Green Knight a sight to behold and experience in its might.
Dev Patel delivers a stalwart worthy performance here. He handles Gawain with a level of brashness and vulnerability that makes his journey feel more real outside of the more gallant telling in the original poem. It’s interesting to watch Gawain’s journey as he starts as this young man without any regard for living a virtuous life until he is thrust into something greater than himself. It’s clear he wants to do the right thing but doesn’t always understand what that is. Virtue is not in his nature and temptation weakens him significantly.
I appreciate the deviations from the source material. As someone unfamiliar, this retelling makes it so all people can walk away with something different. On can glean either an appreciation for the archetypical hero’s journey or find that it is a slightly different retelling of a classic morality tale. Gawain does not go through the journey in the way a good knight should. Every step of the way he makes bad, and oftentimes cowardly, decisions. He falls prey to his temptations and his own pursuit of grandeur rather than by doing good. Director David Lowery weaves themes of honor, mortality, and coming-of-age into this dark fairy tale. This is made all the better by its openness to interpretation.
At the end of the day, The Green Knight is an excellently crafted film that suffers only from its accessibility. This isn’t the film for those seeking a straightforward fantasy epic, nor is it one that will appease horror buffs in the way they expected from the marketing campaign. It leans into ambiguity and focuses on its story and themes. Lowery enhances his story with striking visuals that evoke feelings of uneasiness and the darkly fantastic. He doesn’t go for broke to simply entertain. Instead, he will opt for little things like using colored lights to give an extra edge to the metaphors used throughout the film.
Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect from The Green Knight, but it is an absolute visceral treat for genre fans. Meaty and posing many philosophical questions, it’s a film that treats its audience like adults, allowing them to interpret the symbolism, metaphors, and allusions that arise. Patel’s charismatic and nuanced performance cements the already high production values and aesthetics of the dark fantasy. It does fall victim to a misleading trailer, which may engender some pushback, but for those expecting a dark fantasy filled with heavy themes and ethical dilemmas, it will be a wonderful treat. Look no further on your journey to finding quality cinema; watch The Green Knight today.
Overall Score? 7.5/10