Film Corner: Merlin

Merlin and the War of Dragons

*quiet whisper* It's amazon prime movie time, but in a quiet indoor voice because ana didn't sleep last night because anxiety attacks. shhh.

Today we have MERLIN AND THE WAR OF DRAGONS. "An army of dragons invade the crippled English countryside and the apprentice wizard Merlin must confront the fire-breathing beasts." I honestly can't remember any legends about young Merlin, though surely there must have been some. It's just weird thinking of him as an apprentice. We start off with a young man on a horse galloping away from a dragon while an opera loses its shit. BOM BOMP BA BAHM!!!

Sorry for the delay. Both my parents are having medical crises, because this week is hell week from hell. We carry on as a distraction. It's kinda funny that the prologue is all "Britain is in turmoil after the Romans left, tribal chiefs are fighting for dominance, Saxons are invading, BUT MERLIN" but the plot is about dragons rather than any of that. Unless, like, the Saxons brought the dragons.

A princess is having a baby that apparently has a spirit-god daddy. Druids argue about whether to keep the child or kill it. One of them tries to Force Lightning the other but it doesn't work. Twenty years later, Merlin is the blandest young man ever. He has a co-apprentice. I'm sure they won't be rivals. Their druid master is one of those teachers who really resent being expected to teach. He's like "why use magic when you could NOT use magic" and look I didn't enroll in Charles Xavier's School for Stolen Babies to develop a chill attitude.

His advice for how to read minds is basically if you know someone well enough, you don't need to; his response when Merlin asks how to create magical light is to say that light can attract unwanted attention. He casts a little light ball and the boys pass it around. Boys and their light balls, just having fun. The Master has a spell book that he won't share, and the boys are conspiring to steal it. Merlin wants to know who his daddy is, as an orphan. No mention of his mom, because patriarchy? (He definitely doesn't seem to know she is a princess!!)

It's always interesting to me when characters in a setting which OUGHT to have lots of orphans still consider orphanage to be a weird/unusual thing. You'd think you'd see more "lol, NOBODY knows who their dad is, Septimus!" or whatever. (Dude's name is probably not Septimus, do not try this at home. Ask your doctor if you are pregnant or might become pregnant before using any magic books.)

The boys wingardium leviosa the book away and it wakes up Tom Riddle style and asks what the fuck they want. "Show Merlin his father." gets them a vision of a cloaked dude with satyr horns and Merlin collapses screaming with a tummy ache. A familiar mood. Master runs after the non-Merlin boy and after a petulant YOU'RE NOT MY REAL DAD conversation, the boy refuses to come back home. I guess he's going to run away? I don't know. He feels like Merlin is the favorite.

Master begs for help and curses the gods nearby a lake and a girl appears to tell him to watch his mouth. Possibly she's the fabled Lady of the Lake? There's only so many lake-girls in this mythos. Yup, she's Nimue. She breathes clipart into Merlin's mouth and he wakes up. (It was fire or autumn leaves or fiery autumn leaves, I think.) Viviane is also mentioned. Huh.

Merlin isn't thrilled about being the son of a demon or possibly a god (I WANT EVERYONE TO DEFINE THEIR TERMS, PLEASE) and Nimue is looking at him like he's a meal she's going to eat for dinner, but, like, sexfully. SMASH CUT TO A LAKE, and I guess we don't get to see how they got out of Master's secret cavern (not a double entendre). Nimue disappears into the lake and Master tells Merlin she's a god and to not get on her bad side.

Meanwhile, Apprentice Petulant walks through the rain and takes refuge in a cave which has a GIANT HECKING DRAGON EGG. BUT ENOUGH OF THAT, Master and Merlin are dueling with swords because that's what I think of when I think druid. Elsewhere, the other apprentice saves a lady and her son from a fire breathing dragon, then kills it with one shot from his bow and the BIGGEST ARROW IN EXISTENCE. That was easy?

The thought occurs that the villain in these movies is always the one who got fed up and dropped out of portentous home-schooling with the master. ALWAYS the good kid is the one who stays behind and patiently waits to be given secrets, and the bad one is the quitter. I don't think I like that! I keep saying we need to glamorize quitting more, because it's often the right choice. And teachers aren't all infallible gods. Has anyone ever written a story where the teacher being all "be patient and I'll teach you the ultimate secrets on my death bed" is WRONG and the student who is like "no fuck you I want to use my powers to help people while I'm still young" is right?

Well, Star Wars, I guess. But I'd like to see a story where the apprentice who quits goes on to have a meaningful life helping people and his impatience wasn't a marker of being evil, he just had different priorities. And for all that Master insisted that he doesn't have favorites, I'm pretty sure Merlin God-son was getting premier treatment that Human McMortal wasn't, you know? And that would suck.

I'm back with foods!

Everyone is congratulating Sir Pettypants for killing the dragon and he's all AWW SHUCKS, IT WEREN'T NOTHING, HERE DRINK THIS RED LIQUID and uhhhhh. They all choke and fall over, and the dragon opens his eyes, so I can only assume that he's feeding it and this is the former egg, now hatched. He now has at least four dragons. Was that egg carrying a litter?? Anyway, he joins a dude's army and says they have lots in common. Always a good sign.

SOMEWHERE ELSE, another king is told by his druid that Merlin is going to destroy the kingdom or something, it's probably not important. SMASH CUT back to Master and Merlin, in which a dude and a gal walk up with crossbows and say they're here for Merlin. So popular, this boy. Smash cut to Merlin riding with them. I have no idea why. Where's his master? Did they agree to this?? A Pict woman with woad face paint shows up to attack them. Movies are so interactive when you can make up your own plot! Merlin scares them off with badly aimed magic. It's fine. They probably won't be relevant again.

Now they're just walking up to the king who might or might not be his granddad. The royal druid--are there even supposed to BE royal druids? I thought movie druids were supposed to be hermits and shit in the woods--says they're going to sacrifice Merlin to the gods in order to repel the Saxons. Master shows up (did he teleport? walk? YOU DON'T GET TO KNOW.) to be all like "sure, great idea, definitely do that if you want to kill your only hope against the Saxons, I approve, here's a slow clap." That's the gist, I'm paraphrasing.

Merlin has a vision of a white dragon appearing, exactly two seconds before everyone else sees it for real. I laughed. I sense a Dead Master milestone approaching. Master is engulfed in flames and Merlin uses light magic to blind the dragon so everyone can run away. Master is fine, though, he's right here. Master tells him to go to Viviane, Nimue's sister, and get Excalibur. Ah!! That's how they've managed to split the Lady of the Lake into two different women. They're sisters. Ok, cool, I'm down.

Master is like "you must not let her.......detain you" in the MOST ifyouknowwhatImean growl ever.

Actually I don't think this king is the king who was Merlin's mom's dad. I'm not sure. There's a subplot with the Guy Sent To Get Merlin being someone special and the king doesn't know but the Master does. I was gonna guess that the girl is Guinevere and then I remembered that we're presumably about 40 years prior to her birth, so I don't know.

Merlin runs back home in, like, an hour (movie economy of distance) and yells politely at the lake until a girl appears. They actually have a good dialogue I like, ha. She wants something for the sword Excalibur: "what's in here" as she caresses the sides of his head with her hands. "You're not going to find a lot," Merlin demures.

The blade was "forged in the Hyborian age" and I was pretty sure that's a Conan thing? Not a real thing? They kept the humble magic scabbard and I like that. A lot of Arthurian fiction forgets that. The royal druid mugs Merlin for the blade, draws it, and dies on account of being judged unworthy by Excalibur. Exxy, to her friends.

Merlin is just having visions willy nilly, and I feel like having visions of the future without being able to CHANGE the future is the definition of anxiety. Apprentice Vendiger uses a glamour to look like Merlin and to try to get the Book of Secrets from the Master. He crossbows the Master and it's very sad. Force Lightning happens, Merlin rides up, and Master flings himself onto the horse so they can ride off and have a touching deathbed scene.

I'm far from an Arthurian scholar, but I'm impressed by the fact that this FEELS appropriate to mythos? In a way that most Arthur movies, well, don't. Master says to take his dead body to Viviane for the book, but again not to trust her because the gods aren't like mortal men and she's not the human she appears to be. (If you know that Viviane is eventually the death of Merlin, and takes his power--I.e., what's in his head--this is all very foreshadowy in a good way.)

I think the king was captured but I'm not really sure. King A (the captured one, and possibly the Apprentice in disguise) has lined up his army against King B (the Apprentice's employer) and is telling his own troops to throw down their weapons and leave. Mysterious Dad and Daughter are like what the actual fuck. The rest of the army is like, uhh, ok, and throws down their weapons. Mysterious Dad is having a Braveheart speech to rouse them.

Well, the captions just helpfully prepended his off-screen reply to the king as "UTHER:" so I guess the mystery of his identity just collapsed, lolsob. THERE ARE A LIMITED NUMBER OF UTHERS IN THIS MYTHOS. Oh, ok, he just yelled I AM UTHER PENDRAGON so the subtitles didn't spoil too far in advance. HOLY SHIT, his daughter is doing AMAZING with sword-and-horse.

Back at the lake, Nimue and Viviane sing over the Master's dead body. They're going to take him to Avalon. Merlin is trying to figure out how to unlock the book. Viviane is trying so hard to learn all his magic. She's trying to trick him into saying his spells out loud, which is a much cooler attempt than trying to seduce it out of him, which a lesser movie would do. Nimue is like, Merls. You need to leave. If you don't, Vivs will imprison you here for your knowledge. Just saying. If she's so dangerous, you'd think Master would've been in danger from her, but I guess this is the gap between master and apprentice.

(Ah, the red liquid was dragon blood and turned the humans into dragons.)

WAIT, NIMUE IS THE BAD ONE?!? TWIST I DID NOT SEE COMING!! And totally legit, since they were split from the same person, so that's allowed!! And very cool. How often am I surprised by plot twists anymore? I am delighted.

Merlin jumped on one of the dragons and stabbed it. That's one down, and somehow he survived the fall-- THE SCABBARD!! YES!! He's gonna turn Pendragon into a dragon, omg omg omg omg omg how appropriate?!?! OOOOOOOOH. Pendragon is a little alarmed after watching the first guy transform. His daughter is SO ENTHUSIASTIC about this, because she's a fearless badass. Oh, Uther needs to stay human to lead the troops. His daughter and volunteer dragon army, though, are awesome.

Aww, Merlin defeated a guy in combat, but he can't bring himself to kill. I love him.

OH. Apprentice McFucky has the same demon-dad! That's why the royal druid kept whittering on about cursed birthmarks. And Exxy comes from behind with a THOU ART NOT WORTHY win, the crowd goes wild!!!!! Uther killed the Saxon king, whomp whomp.

All the dragons are ok again and human! Including the baby!

Awwwww, that movie had no right to be as good as it was!! I give it a solid 4 stars and it's easily the most Arthurian-feeling Arthurian movie I've seen? It maintained that feeling of mystery and magic without being grimdark? Viviane and Merlin flirt wholesomely, while Nimue resurrects Apprentice Fucky and they make the cutest evil couple EVER. DRAMATIC SMASH TO CREDITS.

Aw, it's always so cool when one of these movies turns out to be good???


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