The Green Knight

The Green Knight ★★★★½

If Nintendo is ever crazy enough to lease the rights out to a Breath of the Wild adaptation, I think we’ve found the right director for the job.

That aside, the first movie of the summer season that I’ve genuinely been excited for has finally arrived, and for someone whose gateway into cinema was Lord of the Rings, that paragon of fantasy cinema, this proves to be a different type of swords-and-sorcery catnip.

Take that “different” descriptor seriously -  David Lowery’s latest eschews the type of spectacle and action you might expect from a Tolkien or Westeros work, opting instead for a journey of self-discovery that not only fills in the gaps that the original epic glosses over but also examines the intrinsic value, or potential lack thereof, of achievements themselves. In doing so, Lowery makes Gawain an at times frustrating but consistently compelling protagonist - one who desires to be made great yet is trapped both between circumstance and vice in alternating measure. Lowery also toys around with elements of the poem in mostly fascinating ways. Aside from the occasional rather jarring quips that feel like they’re straight out of a contemporary Disney blockbuster, the film fills the journey with pretty fantastical imagery borne both from Lowery’s imagination and from the confluence of the European myths of varying creeds while complicating the roles of characters with less elaboration in the source material. The chief deviation (or is it?) manifests within the final fifteen minutes or so of the film to particularly fascinating effect, recontextualizing the entire story in a way that simultaneously provides little and all necessary closure needed.

The film also triumphs on a visual and Sonic level. Despite presumably getting the equivalent of scraps from other high fantasy budgets the film demonstrates an impressive command of aesthetic vision, assisted by the gorgeous settings of the Anglo-Irish countrysides. The score by Daniel Hart is also a sonic wonder, synthesizing disparate influences and even certain musical epochs to yield a work that amplifies the impact of the events onscreen.

The Green Lnight has not only proven to be a corrective for a summer movie season that has mostly proved unappealing for those less interested in tentpoles, but also in revising my opinion of Lowery as a filmmaker. Although I’ve only seen his A24 releases I’ve had a much less conflicted relationship with this film compared to A Ghost Story, and can now relish the type of visual and thematic mileage many of my peers got from that film.

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