Movie Reviews

Review: Quest For Camelot

Sebastian Ferguson

The Quest For Camelot: An Animated Musical, made by Warner Brothers Feature Animation, is often overlooked and overshadowed by the big name animated film companies like Disney, and this is sad, seeing as this was also Warner Brothers first animated film. But that doesn’t mean that this movie has none of its own majestic beauty. So for my first official Tor Echo review, I have decided to start off with Quest for Camelot, as I feel it is a very underrated film.

First, let’s talk about the music, which seems to fill the movie more than any other Animated movie that I know. It often feels like a musical, rather than a movie. The songs vary from corny to majestic, from darn right godly to down right unnecessary. But let’s digress, the movie really was known for its songs. In fact, one of its songs, “The Prayer”, received a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. Even though the song was born from the movie though, it sadly was not enough to make the movie a great success. Probably due to the comedic song, “If I Didn’t Have You”, a duet sung by a two-headed dragon. The song became completely forgotten, most likely due to its forced reference material. The song was so full of references, it had the pair make an Elvis impersonation, just to end it.

Now, a big thing about the music is that all the songs are sung directly by the characters, which sometimes may make it feel out of character. But the feel of everyone breaking into song whenever they have song feelings towards something actually brings forth the grandiose feeling we, the audience, get towards the kingdom. One of my favorite songs from the movie, “Ruber’s Song”, is all an exposition, but the way the lyrics are written, sung, and presented in animation, make it feel both awe inspiring, and comedically forced. Ruber feels like he is trying to find words that rhyme, like when he says, “Now watch me create my mechanical army…With Pride!” His pause, his over the top gestures, they all greatly solidify the feel that Ruber wants us to respect him as a villain while trying to sing a song about creating robots to take down knights. Not to mention that he has a few screws loose for even doing it.

And that brings us to the exposition. Some might say that the details behind the witches from whom Ruber gets the magical portion that creates his robots are too short and the audience is left with too many questions, but I don’t think so. To me, it is like the witches in MacBeth. They come in, present conflict to the story, and then leave, never once being shown again. This is a story set in King Arthur’s time. Just by hearing that, we know that there are Wizards and Knights, Dragons and Enchanted Forests. There doesn’t need to be anything else told. In fact, this might make it better. Most stories of Fantasy focus a lot of time on backstory and the lore of the world, which was solidified by Token’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, but by using the tale of King Arthur as the backstory, it is all taken care of. All we get to the lore of the world is a brief exposition told by a knight to his daughter about why he became a knight. It is short, tells us everything, and we are ready to watch the movie.

The story is quite simple. There is an evil knight, Ruber, who wants to be king, but Arthur is already King, so the Ruber tries to kill him in front of everyone. Not the smartest move, but the twitch in his eye and mouth is a clear sign that this guy isn’t quite sane, right from the get-go. Kayley’s father, a knight, and the same one from before who gave us the backstory, gets killed trying to protect Arthur, which drives Kayley to want to dress as a bat and bring all evil knights to justice. Nope, sorry, she takes the smarter route to dealing with loss, by dreaming of becoming a knight like her father. Sadly, the Feminist movement won’t come around for another five hundred years, so for Kayley not very much is permitted by her mother. Then one day, Ruber returns, his giant Griffin having stolen Excalibur and he has a potion that can merge weapons with living beings to turn them into robots. He tests this out with a Chicken, merging it with an ax, and calls it Bladebeak, for obvious reasons. Unfortunately, Merlin’s Falcon, called Ayden, or Silver Wings sometimes, causes the Griffin to drop the sword into the Forbidden Forest, giving Kayley a chance to prove herself as a knight by going in to find it.

To be fair, she actually was forced into the Forest when she tries to escape from Ruber, and doesn’t even think about looking for the sword until she meets a blind man named Garrett who also has a falcon with silver wings. Realizing that falcons with silver wings are rare, she assumes that the bird is the same one that fought the Griffin. The two then follow the bird and Kayley is brought to see the beauty of the world. This is also where most of the movie happens for a while, with a huge musical number called “I Stand Alone,” showing us just how beautiful the forest is, but also how dangerous it is. This song is also my favorite by showing us just how magical this world is, which nature being the heaviest of themes.

Now, right after the songs closes, we return straight to Ruber and his robots, which I feel solidifies the theme of the movie: Nature vs. Science. The world the heroes are hiding in is an enchanted forest. Our Heroes are a Blind man attuned to nature, a Falcon, a Dragon, and a young woman. A symbolic factor of a woman, especially a young woman, probably in her early twenties is life. Because a woman is at her peak as a childgiver, the connection between new life and a young woman is often a key symbolic trait. But please don’t take this as a sexist opinion. The enemies on the other hand, are robots, even if they are made from magic, their forms are very much metallic. All the heroes of the film are average, even weak, beings that must learn to rely on others to make them stronger, while the enemies are all individuals that show no teamwork and are often clumsily defeated.

Now, the ending of the story is a tad deus ex machina, with all being set right in the end, but this is a fairy tale, and you have to give it props for the story as a whole. There are problems, such as the two-heads of the dragon constantly bickering with each other and providing comedic relief. Some argue that the development of Bladebeak is forced. The Dragon I can agree with, as they are all up in the audience’s attention with their goofiness, even during romantic and beautiful moments. But the Bladebeak scenes where great. At the beginning he is shown as a wimpy rooster who flirts with all the young hens, while his large wife constantly scares him for it. Comedic, and it feels right in some weird way. Then his transformation into Bladebeak gives him some power, some strength, and he is rafted into an army where he shows cowardliness, but all around genuine heart. At the end, he shows that he feels sorry for the humans and helps out Kayley, even taking down a robot with his ax beak, which is responded with the Wife Hen proudly pointing to him like she is saying, “That’s MY husband.” What could have been done batter would be if they made him silent, as all he ever does when he talks is spill references, though thankfully he never got a song.

Before the conclusion, let me finish with a word on the one character I didn’t talk enough about: Garrett. Garrett is a blind hermit living in the Forbidden Forrest. He lost his eyesight and was trained by Kayley’s father. When he died, he moved to the forest. His insecurities towards his blindness are shown in the movie, and by the end of the film, we see him leave the forest, not out of glory, which he feels he doesn’t deserve, but out of desire to save Kayley. This might be a little cliche, the tragic, brooding warrior, left alone in exile, but his reasoning, his backstory, his skill, they are all justified in a realistic perspective. They do employ my hated plot technique (Hero leaves the story for a reason and is able to save the day because he chose to leave. If the hero hadn’t have left, he wouldn’t have been able to return to save the day.), but they also employ my favorite one (Romantic male chooses to give up the woman he loves because he feels that she deserves someone better than himself) at the same time, so I can forgive them for using that.

The music is magical and oftentimes breathtaking, and sometimes they even use CGI that is used in live action, like during the big fight scene and when they show the ogre. They use great moments of animation, though sometimes the mouths don’t sync very well with the voices. But you can hardly blame them. This was Warner Brothers’ first animation, and they were ill prepared. Let us be grateful that the bad sales didn’t make them cancel all together. The company lost $40,000 and the film was greatly overshadowed by the hyped release, Godzilla. All around, though, this movie is amazing and shows it as well.

 

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