Despite the trailers’ colorful imagery, the fact that it’s made by A24, and its fantasy-inspired concept full of many storytelling possibilities, hardly anything redeems this promising yet boring motion picture. Worse, The Green Knight calls itself a masterpiece despite the many blaring deficiencies that makes it anything but a masterpiece.
Director David Lowery (A Ghost Story) just couldn’t resist his male gaze, as he sought out an easy chance to cast Alicia Vikander so he could force her into not one but two sex scenes. It’s sad… she just cannot get a break from roles where she’s told to strip nude, jump into bed, or talk seductively, roles that essentially say women must become less human so men can become more human. That would be passable here if her performance was any good, but Vikander just has a bad accent that’s faker than the historically inaccurate set designs, which is just even harder on the ears with the painful romantic dialogue she recites. Though she’s not entirely at fault, because Vikander’s written to be nothing more than that female supporting character who gives her man emotional support from back home. Her only smidgen of personality is when she monologues about how red represents lust while green represents what lust leaves behind, even then what she’s told to say is so cringingly on-the-nose.
As for Dev Patel, he hardly ever reacts to anything he sees, even looking at a special sword the same way he would look at a single leaf on the ground. He has no chemistry between the actresses or the actor playing the Green Knight, he’s just as motiveless as the way his character is written. The issues with him are at its most clear in a scene where he comes across these giants (yes, giants), all nude women, on his journey. He sees them walking toward a specific single direction together, yet he asks them, “Which direction are you going?” Why care about a guy who doesn’t even have common sense? And on a few unrelated notes: the digital effects on the giants sucked, his question is never really answered, and these weird behemoths are never mentioned again after this scene.
That’s really what carries on through the entire feature: bizarre, confusing arthouse style imagery. The first of those happens when Dev Patel is beaten by robbers and left tied up on the ground. In a seamless take, the camera circles around the forest and lands back to him, who has turned into an exposed skeleton. The camera turns another 360 and back on him alive again. It’s not clear what on earth this means, it’s just art without meaning, which automatically makes it not art, but showing off. Then later, a substory involves a ghost girl (Or maybe that’s what she was supposed to be? It’s not clarified.) who needs her severed head retrieved back from a pond. Aside from the awkward acting from this substory, it contributes absolutely nothing to the overall journey. To its credit though, the substory features an ultra-freaky moment that demonstrates how much potential this movie could have had if it decided to go the horror film route. Imagine how awesome this could have been if an actual horror film director was put in charge instead of some unknown creator of arthouse cinema.
A couple of images do however showcase the hidden talent of David Lowery screaming to get out, particularly in the opening shot of a crown floating onto a backlit king on his throne, whose head then bursts into flames before the sun is seen flaring through a flurry of snowflakes. So from these few shots, it looks like a great way to kick off an artistic triumph, until the first scene after the opening credits chucks the director’s merit off the deep end. The editing and cinematography are in fact awful, not perfect like they pretend to be, resorting to dark interior shots where barely anything can be made out by the naked eye, motion sickness, excessive close-up shots that can’t even crop the actors’ faces properly, all these quick cuts that don’t even feel necessary, and some of those cuts, for no real reason, are fade cuts. Plus, each chapter of the script is marked by this large ineligible text that covers the entire screen, by ineligible, it means it’s usually a brightly colored font on a background with spotty dark and light elements, such as tree branches, which makes the text impossible to read. Then before the average viewer can get a chance to make out what the letters are trying to say, it goes away.
Rather than cinematic technique, the intended lush symbolism works best in the bold use of color that chills the senses with an aura of dark, cold ambiguity. Early on, everything is made up of cool colors with the exception of blood and flame, but as the journey goes on, the color palette shifts appropriately toward warm colors until the climax is enveloped by a glamorous amber hue. The weather likewise goes from mostly wintery bliss to overabundance of sun, and back again, to mark the important turning points of the perilous journey.
It would be a worthwhile journey however, if there was an actual journey; as described, there’s little to no influence on the main protagonist’s quest for honor, as he never quite gains it. No matter how much it tries to manipulate with the beautiful views, there’s no substance nor valuable takeaway. It’s just pure confusion and boredom for over two hours.
So it’s beyond obvious why The Green Knight got rave reviews from critics, seeing how this is one of those motion pictures chock-full of pretty colors, renowned actors, and symbolic imagery that feel designed to make the self-indulgent, high-class moviegoers feel smarter than everyone else for appreciating something ambiguous in meaning. Now I’m a critic, but I would rather be entertained than watch a director masturbate to his own craft.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!