'The Merlin Collection' [3 DVD+Digital]
(Sam Neill, Helena Bonaham Carter, John Gielgud, Rutger Hauer, Miranda Richardson, et al / 3-Disc DVD+Digital / NR / (1998-2006) 2018 / Mill Creek Entertainment)
Overview: Imagine a world where dreams come true ... and magic is real! Out now, via Mill Creek Entertainment is this wondrous collection of Merlin tales to cast their spells over you: 'Merlin' (1998), 'Merlin: The Return' (2000), and 'Merlin's Apprentice' (2006).
DVD Verdict: In the first tale, 'Merlin' (1998), the legendary wizard tells his story of his war against Queen Mab of the Sidhe and his creation of Camelot.
This is one of the best made for TV movies I've ever seen - surprisingly good, in fact. What made it so entertaining was the script. Over time, some people have gone on about the special effects, but they're no big deal - impressive for television, perhaps, but cheesy by any other standard.
No, what makes this movie work so well is the unique way in which the familiar elements of the Camelot story have been reconfigured. Using Merlin as a point of departure and actually delving into his backstory - rather than Arthur's - I don't think I've seen this done anywhere else (admittedly, I'm no Arthurian scholar, but I have read some of the seminal works, such as Mallory's "Morte d'Arthur," Tennyson's "Idylls of the King," and T.H. White's "The Once and Future King").
Anyway, 'Merlin,' from what I saw, tells a story that's totally new, and provides a fresh take on the events and meanings of the Camelot tale. Basically, Merlin's lifelong struggle with Queen Mab here represents the struggle of Christianity to take hold in Britain, versus the influence of the "ancient" ways, such as witchcraft, superstition and local custom.
No matter what you think of this as allegory, it provides a useful and intriguing "spine" on which to hang all the other familiar stories from the Arthurian legend, which are well told and presented.
In 'Merlin: The Return' (2000), for 1500 years, the powers of Merlin (Rik Mayall) have kept the evil Mordred (Craig Sheffer) and his mother Morgana (Grethe Fox) captive in another world.
When a present-day scientist (Tia Carrere) stumbles upon the gateway between this world and the one Mordred is imprisoned in, it's up to a recently re-awakened King Arthur (Patrick Bergin) Merlin, and Lancelot (Adrian Paul) to stop Mordred from returning.
Well, whether it was meant to be or not, 'Merlin: The Return' is nearly a laugh a minute; and some were probably intentional! The performance of Adrian Paul as Lancelot caused giggles every time he spoke, and a less regal Arthur I cannot imagine.
If you give this film any thought it fell apart even more thoroughly than on a total suspension of disbelief. Only Rik Mayall seemed to have got the joke!
That all said, it's still a better than average story for children of all ages. Maybe easier appreciated first time round by the physically older, it's a story that benefits from repeated viewing. A story that some appear to have a very real viewing allergy to, weirdly enough!
In 'Merlin's Apprentice' (2006), the great sorcerer Merlin has returned to Camelot, a kingdom now vulnerable to ill fates and war since the theft of the Holy Grail, its greatest gift and protection.
With the help of Jack, an irascible young beggar-thief imbued with his own unruly magic, the fight against unknown dangers begins-to find the Grail, restore it to its rightful place, and bring Camelot back to its glory days.
After being tremendously impressed with 1998's 'Merlin,' I was excited to see that a sequel had been made. However, aside from Sam Neill as Merlin (and brief appearances by Miranda Richardson as the Lady of the Lake), there is no comparison to its much superior predecessor!
The original had amazing special effects, a great cast, and wonderful performances. This has a handful of unknown and unimpressive actors walking around. No surprises and nothing to impress, sorry. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:78.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.