Film Review: Quest for Camelot
In 1998, Frederik Du Chau released Quest for Camelot, based on the novel The King’s Damosel by Vera Chapman. Starring Jessalyn Gilsig, Andrea Corr, Sarah Freeman, Cary Elwes, Bryan White, Gary Oldman, Eric Idle, Don Rickles, Jane Seymour, Celine Dion, Pierce Brosnan, Steve Perry, Bronson Pinchot, Jaleel White, Gabriel Byrne, John Gielgud, and Frank Welker, the film grossed $22.5 million at the box office. Winner of the Golden Globe for Best Original Song – Motion Picture, the film was nominated for multiple other awards including the the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song and the Annie Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Effects Animation and Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Theatrical Feature.
Ten years after her knight father is killed when Baron Ruber attempts to usurp King Arthur’s throne, Kayley still wants to be a knight. One day, Excalibur is stolen and Kayley wants to go after it. However, Ruber returns soon after, invading Kayley’s home with a scheme to gain entrance into Camelot. Now, Kayley must find the sword and return it to King Arthur and must do so with the help of a blind hermit and a two-headed dragon.
Though a spectacularly bad film, Quest for Camelot actually has some pretty interesting core concepts when it comes to the main plot and its villain. Kayley wants to be a knight and would be the first female knight if she ends up doing so, but no one believes she can and with her father having been killed earlier, it makes sense that her mother wouldn’t want her to be one either. It’s the quest for Excalibur after it gets stolen and goes missing and the journey going after it that’s supposed to prove her worthy of being one of Arthur’s knights. There’s actually no problem with the initial idea surrounding the film and would make for a very interesting film had it been executed properly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that much thought went into anything beyond that core idea.
There’s also the main idea surrounding the character of Ruber. He’s a former knight who ends up defying everything that Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table stands for by attempting to overthrow King Arthur and gets banished only to make an appearance many years later having grown even crazier and more lustful for the throne. On its own, Ruber’s character is a great idea and there’s plenty of places to kick start and fill the character out to have even more depth. However, it seems that figuring out the character stopped at his basic essence and the bare essentials of his plan. One such example of how badly the character was thought out was how he skulks up to Camelot alongside the wagon carrying his minions driven by Juliana. Properly thought out, the character would be inside the wagon as well, not looking as evil as possible while cloaked in black and riding a black horse next to the wagon.
That’s only one aspect of the film that doesn’t make any sort of sense though because while the core concepts of the plot are good for a basic idea of where a film should go, nothing the film presents beyond that works. The reason for that is practically nothing makes sense. Take Ruber’s plan for instance. He creates an army of half-human, half-mechanical hybrids based on a potion that he claims to have gotten from some witches. However, the only reason it’s stated to work is simply because it’s magic. There’s also the entirety of the “Forbidden Forest” where nothing is explained as to how the forest is supposed to work beyond the simple hand wave of it being magic. That point is greatly shown when Kayley takes a leaf and uses it to heal Garrett and the leaf does so in a matter of seconds and even sews up the rip on his sleeve. While all of this is supposed to be explained away as simply being an act of magic, it leaves it up in the air as to how the magic works. That should be explained and what the film ultimately feels like is that the filmmakers took the concept of “show, don’t tell” to an illogical conclusion of not explaining anything. Turns out that sometimes it’s a good idea to explain something.
The characters are also woefully inconsistent as well with Garrett being a wonderful example. He’s properly introduced in the Forbidden Forest as a blind hermit who goes after Excalibur with Ayden. Kayley wants to tag along, but he refuses to let her do so, sings a song about how he stands alone and not three seconds after the song is over, Kayley reiterates that she wants to tag along and he just goes with it. It’s a sudden change in character that makes no sense, especially right after a musical number that outright states why he doesn’t want her coming along.
Kayley is also a terribly written character as she has all these dreams and aspirations to be a knight and the very second she starts getting into trouble, she’s practically useless. What’s more is that she doesn’t recognize how useless she is and keeps having the aspirations of knighthood, even when the film has shown she doesn’t have what it takes. She doesn’t have any growth as a character either, as she stays the same throughout the film except for one singular moment of competent clarity at the end, and even after she’s spent practically the entire film being a monumental waste of space, she ends up getting knighted.
With failed concepts, no explanation for anything that happens and badly written characters, it’s no wonder the film failed at the box office.
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