The ponderous ‘The Green Knight’ takes too long to tell story

© A24 / courtesy Everett Collection[/caption]

The emergence of the Delta variant has quashed my interest in returning to live movie experiences, though several colleagues have claimed that if anything this skittishness has emptied theatres, thus reinforcing their safety. How I might’ve responded to The Green Knight on the big screen I’ll never know. Mostly immune to spectacle these days, I might have awarded it the thank-you-next it earned when I watched it at home this week. An expensive-looking adaptation of the 14th-century romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight many a high schooler has rolled his eyes over, David Lowery’s film has an acute case of self-importance. The montages and shots of misty forests substitute for a lack of will. Aspiring to be brooding, it winds up ponderous.

The Green Knight in both forms is steeped in magic. A head bursts into flame in the first sequence, setting the mod. Hastening to Camelot at the urging of his mother, sorceress Morgan Le Fay (Sarita Choudhury), Gawain (Dev Patel of Lion) finds himself the most beloved member of his uncle King Arthur’s Round Table. Like the Wicked Witch of the West, the Green Knight suddenly appears. Whoever can knock him down will win his Green Axe, provided this knight travel to the Green Chapel on Christmas to receive an equal blow. Naturally, Gawain unsheathes his sword and with one stroke decapitates the Green Knight; rising amiably, the Knight picks up his head and reminds him of his promise. Thus the quest begins.

At this point The Green Knight should offer more thrills, yuks, and yucks than what David Lowery presents. But then the writer-director of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013) and The Old Man & the Gun (2018) isn’t known for spectacle. He specializes in low key if not moribund character interplay. With his Gorgon-like locks, doleful expression, and beautiful dark eyes, Dev Patel has the carriage of an epic hero; we can understand why Queen Guinevere (Kate Dickie) makes goo-goo eyes at him, why he’s the favorite of Arthur (Sean Harris), why he’s embarked on a quest through time and space. Alas, Lowery does little but stage montage after montage set to Daniel Hart’s strafe of a score while Patel wanders, like a doe transplanted to Madison Avenue, through a schlocky post-Lord of the Rings landscape where the trees are CGI-green and Patel’s hair on the acceptable part of greasy; the color grading grates. Even The Fox looks less convincing than the star of Wes Anderson’s 2009 film.

At two-hours-plus, The Green Knight, I must stress, doesn’t earn its running time. Lowery and cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo do themselves most proud when St. Winfred appears, asking Gawain to retrieve her head from a pond; the atmosphere is so convincingly charged that I could smell the dew on the grass and the reek of the pond. Ah well. Patel was made to glower in epics. Hook him up with another story. And stick to the original story.


One thought on “The ponderous ‘The Green Knight’ takes too long to tell story

  1. Was wondering about this. I like Dev Patel but the whole “epic fantasy/legend” groove thang give me the hives. I’ll stick with my first instincts. If it’s any consolation, I’m not only immune but downright allergic to spectacle in my dotage. You’ll get there eventually. The color grading looks like at least a change from the dreaded orange/teal palette which had cause me to disengage from so many movies I’ve lost count. But to what end? This just looks like moss has been running wild. Try here for some eyeball relief.

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