I thought I had seen every version of the Arthur saga, but Arthur and Merlin is very different, and refreshingly so.
Arthur and Merlin begins with the boy Myrrdin watching his mother die at the hands of the evil druid Aberthol. When Aberthol calls for Myrrdin to be killed as well, young Arthfael saves him. Myrrdin (Merlin) vanishes into a forest haunted by the ancient gods, the Tuatha Dea. As a hermit there, he learns their magic, and so is ready to help Arthfael (Arthur) when he comes searching.
When the powerful druid Aberthol is bent on destroying the Celtic people. Arthur and Merlin, now adults, embark on a heroic quest to stop the druids and save their people, before the Celts are lost forever and become a myth themselves.
This film depends on three actors, Kirk Barker as Arthur, Stefan Butler as Merlin and Nigel Cooke as Aberthol, and all three are imminently watchable.
Kirk Barker is driven and everybody’s hero, complete with obligatory bleach blonde tips on his hair. He drives the film along on an endless quest to right all wrongs and ensure that right triumphs in the end. His portrayal is well thought out and he holds the viewer’s attention in every scene.
Stefan Butler was an intense Merlin. Unfortunately, he bore an uncanny resemblance to Russell Brand, both in looks and in voice. This made it hard to take his character seriously.
Nigel Cooke was every inch the villain, arch, calculating and devious. I found his character unlikable from the start to the end (which is as it should be). However, he was compelling viewing.
Add to this a more than average sprinkling of magic, special effects and CGI and you have a film that is enjoyable from start to finish.
My only criticism was I found the pace a little slow at times but if you are looking for a different take on the Arthur saga, try Arthur and Merlin!
Reviewed by Barry Hill
Rating out of 10: 8
Arthur and Merlin will be released on DVD and Blu-ray from 15 February 2017.