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Mists of Avalon, The
The last few years have seen a flood of mystical, high-concept TV movies about gnomes and giants and stuff like that. TNT's The Mists of Avalon is based on Marion Zimmer Bradley's classic novel reimagining the legend of King Arthur from the point of view of the mystical women who helped pave the way for the legendary tales.
Mists features a trio of high-powered stars: Angelica Huston plays Viviane, the Lady of the Lake, Julianna Margulies plays her successor Morgaine, and Joan Allen plays Morgause, whose own desire to control the powers of Avalon causes a lot of drama. At three hours, Mists gives these actresses, and their huge supporting cast, ample time to carve out an epic story full of battles, spells, vengeance, and love.
This bloated production, however, lacks a sense of excitement. The lead actors don't manage to work up a lot of energy (or consistent accents, for that matter) and the pacing trots along at something less than a gallop. Battles are rather messily staged and the emphasis on countless characters leaves many without much depth. Even the incestuous subplot between Morgaine and her half-brother Arthur plays more like an after school special than the epic medieval soap opera that it wants to be. Fans of the original book generally find the movie a disappointment. There is something about the slack storytelling style and the generally unenthusiastic performances that doesn't let the magic of the events shine through.
The anamorphic video is fine. Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography is often shot through a mystical haze, but the muted colors and earth tone production design helps set the stage. The transfer is mostly clean and clear. Compression is handled well, although the image can be a touch soft at times.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack sounds fine. Lee Holridge's score is particularly lively and dynamic. A 5.1 French track is also available, as are subtitles in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
The main extra is a nice selection of deleted scenes. Since much of the material from the book necessarily needed to be cut to reach the still bloated running time, these scenes are valuable additions. Some of them really add details that are missing from the finished film. There are also bios and photos.
The Mists of Avalon is a tough watch. The pacing and acting bog it down and the story isn't told very well. It drags, particularly in the second hour, where it feels like it may just go on forever. Fans of Arthurian legend may want to give it a rent (or wait for a TNT rerun) but they'll likely find it less enthralling that other films about the same characters. Those who loved the book should also give it a peek, but be aware that it will probably not live up to the original's dramatic weight.