John Boorman's grave take on the Arthurian legend, Excalibur, almost never was. The meticulous sets and sweeping wide shot locations were originally intended for an adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, but rights could not be obtained. Fans of sword and sorcery and the epic legends of King Arthur should rejoice, as the movie is often beautiful and one of the best films made of its kind.
It lacks the modern technical flair of say, Peter Jackson's Ring trilogy, but here it is a good thing. After seeing so much of it, and so much of it not used in the great ways Jackson did, CGI has become boring. It 's interesting to see actors actually fighting while encumbered by heavy armor.
The movie is close to three hours long and sometimes suffers from it's deliberate pacing and it can take a short while to become accustomed to the strange tone and casting. While seeing a young Helen Mirren (as a mysterious and erotic Morgana Le Fay), Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson is great, the casting of Nigel Terry, who resembles a village idiot as the young Arthur is perplexing.
Still, for all it's flaws is it a must see for fans of the genre and lovers of lush cinematography. I love that the film takes itself seriously and it was both a critical and popular hit when it was released in 1981. You can watch it on demand with Netflix.