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Film / Prince Valiant (1997)

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Prince Valiant is a 1997 Irish-British film directed by Anthony Hickox, written by Michael Frost Beckner, and starring Stephen Moyer, Katherine Heigl, Thomas Kretschmann, Joanna Lumley, Ron Perlman, and Edward Fox. It is a loose adaptation of the long-running Prince Valiant comic strip of Hal Foster, some panels of which were used in the movie.

A young and inexperienced squire, Valiant, masquerading as Sir Gawain, is sent to accompany the Welsh princess Lady Ilene, a guest at Camelot, on her way back home. Little does he know that meanwhile, the King Arthur's wicked sister Morgan has retrieved a spellbook from Merlin's tomb and convinced the Viking warlord Sligon, ruler of the kingdom of Thule, to steal the magical sword Excalibur during a joust tournament. Valiant and the princess become part of the struggle for the sword, which leads them both to love and Valiant to his princely destiny, as it turns out he is the rightful heir to the throne of Thule. After the usurper is killed by his also evil brother Thagnar, they must face a final confrontation with Morgan and Thagnar.

This film features examples of:

  • Blasphemous Boast: When Ilene is mortally wounded, Valiant roars that if God does not save her, he will become His enemy. God was apparently listening because Excalibur abruptly heals her.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Valiant may be a noble knight and prince, but this version doesn't shy away from fighting dirty and uses improvised weapons. When a man challenges him to a fight in a bar, Valiant asks if there are any rules. The man says no, and Valiant immediately tries to pull the rug out from under him, though the tactic fails because the man is too heavy.
  • Cool Sword: Excalibur makes an appearance here, and it certainly proves how cool it is.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Rather than omit him as the 1954 film did, Merlin is long since dead when the film begins.
    • Sligon is killed-off rather than portraying him abdicate as he did in the original comics.
  • False Flag Operation: When the Vikings steal Excalibur, they wear Scottish garb to make Arthur and his court think Scotland was responsible.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Morgan le Fay tries to blow sleep dust into Princess Ilene, but Ilene sneezes, which blows the dust back at Morgan. She gets drowsy and falls to her death. Later, Ilene knocks a mook who was wielding a primitive flamethrower into a vat of oil, with predictable results.
  • Magic Mirror: As any self-respecting evil sorceress would, Morgan has a magic mirror that she consults here.
  • Prophetic Fallacy: After the bad guys steal Excalibur, the sword embeds itself into the floor of their base. Morgan le Fay orders her Magic Mirror to show them a person worthy of pulling the sword out besides King Arthur. It shows what appears to be Sir Gawain, so they try to kidnap him and force him to pull it out. Actually, the mirror had shown Prince Valiant in Sir Gawain's armor.
  • Pulling the Rug Out: Played for Laughs. When a man challenges Valiant to a fight, Valiant asks if there are any rules. The man says no, and Valiant immediately tries to pull the rug out from under him, but the man is apparently really heavy as Valiant isn't strong enough to take him off his feet.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In contrast to her counterpart in the comics, Ilene does not die at any point.