Facebook

When the teaser trailer for The Green Knight first dropped in February of last year, there was precious little information to process. There were some familiar actors, including Dev Patel (of Slumdog Millionaire and The Newsroom fame) in the lead role, as well as Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie (most recognizable as the parents from The VVitch). But the content of the teaser was frustratingly vague, presenting heavily stylized horror/fantasy vibes with a grimdark color palette that seemed at odds with the colorful title, and imagery that made it unclear who Patel would be playing.

No names are mentioned or displayed in the teaser beyond the title. In some scenes Patel appeared to be set up as a young Gawain in Arthur’s court, while in others he sat bare-chested in a crown holding an orb and scepter before catching on fire (which Gawain does not do canonically). Was this film a prequel, and does Patel become The Green Knight? Or would this be a more straightforward recounting of the classic tale? As a fan of the Arthurian myth, I was eager for the May 2020 release.

Then, well… {motions at the world}

But, like the year-long cycle of the original 14th century poem, The Green Knight returned on Tuesday with a new, more detailed trailer.

Trailer park

In the new trailer, we see the traditional setup of the legend, with a massive axe-wielding nature god striding into Arthur’s court and presenting the beheading challenge. Patel, now clearly established as Gawain (without having to verify with IMDb) takes up the challenge and, after staring in horror as the disembodied head intones “One year hence…” the fey creature rides off, laughing.

From here, the trailer promises the year-long quest to find the Green Knight’s castle that’s only hinted at in the source material. What had originally appeared to be a horror film is now more clearly a fantasy adventure, with an ominous talking fox, nude giants walking through the clouds, some forest ruffians who accost and tie up Gawain to keep him from his quest, and a fair lady in a well-appointed castle who can only be the seductive Lady Bertilak.

But we also see some interesting scenes which suggest that director David Lowery is pulling from other source material. For example, shortly after the beheading, Gawain attends a visibly older and weakened Arthur (played by Sean Harris) in a scene more reminiscent of Parzival and the Maimed King than of any of Gawain’s stories.

More interestingly, however, we see a much older Patel, sporting a greying beard and wearing a similar crown and stylized halo that Arthur wears when sitting court, albei. We also get another angle of the teaser’s opening scene of shirtless royal Patel on fire. This suggests that Patel might be playing dual roles as both Gawain and his father, King Lot of Lothian.

As a Gawain fan, I admit that I’ve always wanted to see more of the dynamic between Arthur and his nephew within the context of Lot’s death. In most versions of the story, Lot is slain by Arthur’s ally King Pellinore during the wars of unification. Rather than taking on his birthright as the new King of Lothian, Gawain instead ends up serving as a knight of Camelot, and the tension between Arthur and Gawain is never addressed again.

However, Game of Thrones fandom notwithstanding, there’s likely little interest in the complex loyalties of knights under Arthur. And besides, a Gawain Romance has far more things to worry about than generational grudges. After all, there’s an invincible magic knight who’s waiting at the end of the trailer to strike off Gawain’s head!

Throughout the trailer, there are little details that make my Arthurian heart sing, especially the dichotomy of the colors yellow and green that were major signifiers in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight of the two titular characters, respectively. And while there’s still plenty of grimdark flavor to the trailer, there’s also the hopeful idealism of the young knight.

The last lines of the trailer feel like they were pulled directly out of T.H. White: Gawain is asked, “And what do you hope to gain in facing all of this?” His response:”Honor. That is why a knight does what he does.”

Ultimately, my biggest disappointment is not with the trailer, but the release date. The source legend begins and ends on New Year’s Day, and the film appears to be keeping more or less to that detail. I’d hoped that a new imagining of Gawain and the Green Knight could have been a new Christmas classic, rather than the summer blockbuster that the revised release date promises.

That said, I’ll be the first in line to see this film, and look forward to finding all of the hidden nods to my beloved Arthurian canon in what promises to be a breathtaking spectacle of an adventure.

The Green Knight opens in US theaters on July 30, 2021.

-30-

Kevin Rhodes
Kevin Rhodes

Kevin Rhodes is a writer and voice actor in Portland, OR. Better known as “Cormac Mor, the Voice of the War,” Kevin is an avid fan and scholar of the Matter of Britain who nearly completed a Master’s Degree in Arthurian Literature before his thesis advisor got spirited away to Texas A&M.

%d bloggers like this: