Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Sword in the Stone

The Sword in the Stone; Animated adventure, USA, 1963; D: Wolfgang Reitherman, S: Rickie Sorensen, Karl Swenson, Martha Wentworth

England, early Middle Ages. The mystical sword Excalibur is captured in a stone and the legend has it that he who manages to pull it out will becomes the new king. Many knights tried, but couldn't get the sword out of the stone. A young boy, Arthur (12), meets the wizard Merlin in the forest and his grouchy owl - they tell him he has a mission and settle at Arthur's stepfather. Merlin teaches the boy about the discoveries of the 20th Century and even transforms him into a bird, but then gets captured by the evil witch Mim. Merlin goes to a duel with her and wins. During a tournament, Arthur pulls out the sword from the stone and becomes the new king.

Neat adventure "The Sword in the Stone", the 18th feature length animated film by the Walt Disney studios, has a lot of charm and offers wonderfully detailed animation, yet it's still one step away from a real classic. One of the problems is that the main hero, boy Arthur, isn't half as interesting as the fascinating wizard Merlin who constantly steals the show with his amazing magic, thus creating a slightly uneven tone. The second problem is that the story about the mystical sword Excalibur is very short and thus it's obvious the screenplay is 'roughly' overstretched by the writers with annoying transformations of Arthur and Merlin into fishes, squirrels and birds. Still, it's hard to deny the movie's charm and competence. By far, the best part of the movie is the ontological duel between Merlin and the evil witch Mim: that sequence where they rival each other by transforming into a caterpillar and a chicken, then a mouse and a cat, then even into a dragon and a bacteria, is so rich with sharpness, free imagination and intelligence that it shakes off all prejudices of viewers who don't expect a high level in an animated film.


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