David Dobkin's Arthur & Lancelot ticking the right boxes

Kit HarringtonWhen it was announced in June that Warner Bros. had picked up a spec script titled Arthur & Lancelot re-imagining the legend of King Arthur and Lancelot in a contemporary setting I looked for the silver lining to this unworthy idea and found one: it killed off Bryan Singer’s plans to remake John Boorman’s classic of modern cinema, Excalibur.

The Arthurian source material is incredibly rich and there are many good reasons to tap into it to create something new for a modern audience, and for that reason alone there is no justification for a remake. Of course that's not the only reason why a remake is unjustified. A movie as well scripted, directed and performed as Excalibur simply does not need to be remade, and it would take an exceptional script, director and cast to improve upon it. In the unlikely event that this combination of talent came together, it would frankly be better employed bringing us something original.

It's an old complaint.

Anyway, in October Singer had this to say about the demise of his Excalibur remake: “Yeah, unfortunately it is no longer going to happen. I was really enthused to do it. I’m a fan of John Boorman’s movie and it was my intention to get it going after Jack The Giant Killer was completed. The project was with Warner Bros. and what happened is that another King Arthur project was brought to them during that time. Basically, it was just more ready to go into production than ours was. That is why our version of Excalibur ended up being negated.”

But back to Dobkin's Arthur & Lancelot, a project that has grown on us with each announcement.

The spec script was written by Shanghai Knights director David Dobkin and it resulted in a bidding war between Warner Bros., Universal and Fox, with Warner Bros. coming out on top with a US$2 million bid. Dobkin is best known for his comedies (including Fred Clause and Wedding Crashers) and there was some (fearful) expectation that his contemporary re-imagining of Arthur and Lancelot’s adventures might be similarly light-hearted (perhaps, heaven forbid, a buddy movie!).

But as happens so often, the rumours proved to be worthless. Dobkin revealed to MTV that his movie is "faithful to the time period. It's kind of a cool, fun graphic novel approach to Arthur and Lancelot, so it's cool. It's awesome, edgy and dark." More details of the story have now been released and the setting is appropriately Medieval and will focus on the early years of Arthur’s rise to power. An illegitimate child, Arthur is raised by a humble and poor knight, but grows into an inspiring leader, and Lancelot is a rebellious noble at odds with the ruling powers. The love triangle with Guinevere will apparently play no part but will be left for sequels in what the studio hopes will become a successful franchise.

If this is the bare bones of the plot, you have to wonder what the studios were bidding for. Either rumours that the film would be contemporary were utterly misleading or Warner Bros. merely bought the idea of a movie about the early years of Arthur and Lancelot and then had Singer rewrite the script completely. US$2 million dollars for such a basic idea seems unlikely so it looks as if the rumours about a contemporary setting were simply ill-informed.

Adding more appeal to this project is the casting of the leads with two young actors, Joel Kinnaman as Lancelot (The Killing, and also a small part in the excellent Swedish epic, Arn: The Knight Templar), and Kit Harrington as Arthur. Harrington is best known for playing another bastard, Ned Stark’s illegitimate son Jon Snow in HBO’s superb Game of Thrones adaptation. His was a memorable performance. Marion Cotillard (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) has apparently been offered the role of Morgana, Arthur's sorceress half-sister. It is rumoured that Gary Oldman will take on the role of Merlin, but we won’t hold our breath as rumours about this project have proven to be worthless.

Word is that production will be fast-tracked and Dobkin, who will produce and direct, is aiming to start filming in March, with a projected release of March 2013.

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