×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Mists of Avalon

The legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are transformed from an adventure story into a grand-scale soap opera told from the women's perspective in TNT mini "The Mists of Avalon."

With:
Viviane - Anjelica Huston Morgaine - Julianna Margulies Morgause - Joan Allen Gwenhwyfar - Samantha Mathis Igraine - Caroline Goodall Arthur - Edward Atterton Lancelot - Michael Vartan Merlin - Michael Byrne Mordred - Hans Matheson Uther - Mark Lewis Jones Gerlois - Clive Russell

The legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are transformed from an adventure story into a grand-scale soap opera told from the women’s perspective in TNT mini “The Mists of Avalon.” Filled with incest, sorcery and violence, this adaptation of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel has an awful lot going for it on the entertainment front, including Anjelica Huston and Joan Allen as battling sisters. But even great concepts and strong casting give way to mediocre execution. Despite some exciting sequences toward the end, this mini is dominated by a plodding pace and long stretches of muddy storytelling.

This is certainly an epic tale, and while Gavin Scott’s teleplay is thoroughly uninspired, it does manage to cover an enormous amount of ground. Julianna Margulies leads this cast as central figure Morgaine (usually known as Morgan Le Fay), Arthur’s half-sister. Pic begins with Morgaine as a child, and for the first hour focuses on her mother, Igraine (Caroline Goodall), and her two aunts, Morgause (Allen) and Viviane (Huston), the latter the high priestess of the pagan Druids, also known as the Lady of the Lake.

This is a family of the “old religion,” worshipping the Goddess of the Earth who rules in Avalon, a magical isle shrouded, literally, in mist that threatens to make it disappear forever unless its ways are kept alive. In the meantime, those devoted to Avalon also need to collaborate with the Christians in order to stave off attacking Saxons, who threaten to reduce Britain to barbarity.

All of this is background for a series of episodes in which characters do things they know are wrong in the hopes of accomplishing some greater good. Unsurprisingly, it always works out badly. The first such choice belongs to Igraine, who causes the death of her husband, Gerlois (Clive Russell), and couples with Uther (Mark Lewis Jones) to produce Arthur, an heir who’ll be able to unite Christians and pagans. Morgaine goes off to be trained at Avalon by Viviane, while Arthur is raised by Merlin (Michael Byrne). Igraine will eventually regret her decisions and seek the forgiveness of Christianity at a convent, where many of the women eventually end up.

It takes a while for the story to gather much traction. Morgaine and Arthur are tricked into making love, not knowing each other’s identities. Morgaine decides to give birth to the baby, Mordred, but refuses to allow Viviane to raise him as the natural successor to Arthur. Instead, she puts him in the hands of Allen’s Morgause, who early on establishes herself as a selfish villain by placing a curse on Arthur’s bride, Gwenhwyfar (a Welsh spelling of Guinevere), assuring that she won’t bear an heir. Gwenhwyfar (Samantha Mathis) spends most of her time feeling guilty over the fact that she really loves Arthur’s buddy Lancelot (Michael Vartan) and lets Arthur talk her into a brief menage a trois.

Despite its density, this story, packed with constant scheming, is ripe material for rip-roaring TV but somehow director Uli Edel can’t bring it all together. Trying to see multiple sides of characters, he ends up stripping them of personality and confusing the audience as to where these people stand. Strong-willed, oversized characters get reduced to brooding depressives, particularly Morgaine. Margulies, Huston and Allen — certainly a potentially solid triumvirate –mostly stare out into space and make awkward comments about the end of an age, with only occasional expressiveness. They’re also shot mostly as talking heads, and the whole pic, with the exception of an elaborate climactic battle scene, has a staid, awkward feeling, with lots of undefined space and constant reaction shots.

Edel, along with d.p. Vilmos Zsigmond and productions designer Rodger Maus, clearly sought to craft a gritty depiction of the Arthurian era, and the pic has a realistic look mixed in with its picturesque fantasy sequences. But it’s also quite bland, and the same images return over and over with little variation.

This sense of monotony ultimately dooms this pic about the doom of Camelot. Every element of the film seems permeated by a decided slowness, with all the actors speaking at the same stilted, methodical, relentlessly lethargic pace. Lee Holdridge seems to have composed the score according to this same beat. It’s all remarkably lulling.

The Mists of Avalon

Miniseries; TNT; Sun. July 15 and Mon. July 16, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Prague by the Wolper Organization and Constantin Film in association with Warner Bros. Intl. Television. Executive producers, Mark M. Wolper, Lisa Alexander, James Coburn; producers, Gideon Amir, Bernd Eichinger. Director, Uli Edel; writer, Gavin Scott, based on the novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Crew: Cinematography, Vilmos Zsigmond; production design, Rodger Maus; costumes, Carlo R. Poggioli; editors, Benjamin A. Weissman, Michael Friedlander; music, Lee Holdridge; casting, Jeremy Zimmerman Casting, Iris Grossman. 4 HOURS.

Cast: Viviane - Anjelica Huston Morgaine - Julianna Margulies Morgause - Joan Allen Gwenhwyfar - Samantha Mathis Igraine - Caroline Goodall Arthur - Edward Atterton Lancelot - Michael Vartan Merlin - Michael Byrne Mordred - Hans Matheson Uther - Mark Lewis Jones Gerlois - Clive RussellWith: Tamsin Egerton, Christopher Fulford, David Calder, Hugh Ross, Edward Jewesbury, Freddie Highmore, Ian Duncan, Noah Huntley, Honza Klima, John Corner, Karel Dobry, Klara Issova, Biddy Hodson, Tony Curran, Philip Lenkowsky, Lucy Fillary, Elias Zerael Bauer, Justin Muller, Gabriella Zajickova.

More TV

  • Supergirl -- "Crisis on Infinite Earths:

    'Crisis on Infinite Earths' Recap: A 'Titans' Cameo and a Fallen Hero

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part One,” the premiere of the 2019 “Arrowverse” crossover. Bringing “Crisis on Infinite Earths” to the small screen has been years in the making, so it’s no surprise the epic five-part crossover kicked off with plenty of action on Sunday night [...]

  • Supergirl -- "Crisis on Infinite Earths:

    'Arrowverse' Team on 'Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part One' Loss and Crossover Stakes (SPOILERS)

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part One,” the premiere of the 2019 “Arrowverse” crossover event on the CW. The “Arrowverse” “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover kicked off with a bang: Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow’s (Stephen Amell) death. With “Crisis” finally here, Harbinger (Audrey Marie [...]

  • Caroll Spinney & The Grouch36th Annual

    Caroll Spinney: Henson Family, 'Sesame Street' Colleagues Salute Muppet Performer

    Caroll Spinney, the puppet performer behind “Sesame Street’s” indelible Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, was remembered by friends and colleagues as a gifted artist who dedicated his professional life to the show’s mission of educating pre-schoolers. Spinney died Sunday at his home in Connecticut at the age of 85. He limned the Big Bird [...]

  • Rene Auberjonois at the International Myeloma

    René Auberjonois, 'Star Trek' and 'Boston Legal' Actor, Dies at 79

    René Auberjonois, best known for his roles in “Boston Legal” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” died at his home in Los Angeles due to metastatic lung cancer. He was 79. His son Rèmy-Luc confirmed the news to the Associated Press. Auberjonois was a prolific television actor, appearing as Paul Lewiston in 71 episodes of [...]

  • Caroll Spinney, with "Oscar the Grouch,"

    Caroll Spinney, Puppeteer Behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Dies at 85

    Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer who played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for 49 years at “Sesame Street,” died Sunday in Connecticut after living with dystonia. He was 85. Sesame Workshop announced his death, calling him an “artistic genius” whose “legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending.” Spinney’s death [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content