The Green Knight Proves We Need A King Arthur Cinematic Universe

With The Green Knight receiving widespread critical acclaim, it seems that now is the time for Hollywood to create a King Arthur cinematic universe. The A24 film starring Dev Patel is a faithful retelling of the traditional English folk tale, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and it proves that audiences are perhaps more receptive to cinematic adaptations of Arthurian legend than it was previously believed. While The Green Knight features knights, kings, and sorcery, it takes a very different approach to its medieval source material than previous films have done, and it seems to have paid off in spades for the film, with The Green Knight changing modern King Arthur movies and challenging perceptions of exactly what they should look like.

The Green Knight follows the saga of Gawain (played by Dev Patel) a hard-drinking member of the King's court who attempts to prove himself in battle against the titular Green Knight. After beheading the mythical fighter, Gawain is shocked to learn that the knight will wait for him in one year's time at the Green Chapel, where he will inflict the same blow on him. Gawain then sets out on a quest across England to find the knight and fulfill his destiny, encountering bandits, ghosts, and giants along the way.

Related: Why The Green Knight Did Better At The Box Office Than Expected

This fresh take on the tales of King Arthur and his knights is particularly interesting because it offers a very different perspective to many other modern adaptations of the legends. This demonstrates that audiences enjoy the legends presented in keeping with their original stories. This approach had previously seemed unthinkable to Hollywood, who have always done their utmost to inject action and excitement into every property imaginable, and it appears that now would be the perfect time for King Arthur to finally get a cinematic universe.

Where other attempts to adapt tales from Arthurian legend have been predominantly action-fantasy affairs, The Green Knight is more a historical fantasy drama than anything else, carving its own distinct niche into wider cinema. The film's more artistic approach gels well with its medieval roots, and The Green Knight received overwhelmingly positive reviews practically across the board. This critical reception is indicative of the shift in what audiences look for in films - where once it was epic action scenes and strict adherence to common tropes, there's now a mainstream market for slower-paced, more artistic cinema, and that's something that The Green Knight was able to tap into.

There's also a level of authenticity to The Green Knight that has previously been missing from adaptations of the legends. While magic has always been a key part of the stories of King Arthur, The Green Knight embraces sorcery as a simple fact of its world, and this makes any potential franchise all the more alluring. Magic is key to the story, with Gawain's mother summoning the Green Knight early in the film, but it's not something that's explored or hardly referenced, which allows scope for a potential franchise of films to expand upon the nature of the medieval magic.

The tale that The Green Knight is based on, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, isn't the most well-known of Arthurian legends, and that actually may have worked especially well in the film's favor. By focusing on a lesser-known story, the film enables its audience to go in with fewer expectations, while still featuring folkloric mainstays such as King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, and Morgan le Fay in roles of varying importance. This proved to work for The Green Knight, and any potential franchise will find numerous similar legends to inspire its films.

There are plenty of Arthurian tales that deserve the Green Knight treatment. While some - like Arthur's youth and rise to power - are well-known stories, others are less told, and there are plenty of relevant themes to explore. For example, the trials of Lancelot (as told in T.H. White's The Once and Future King) are often cited as an allegory for White's struggles with sexuality, which may present a welcome chance for added representation into the somewhat archaic canon. There's also The Mists of Avalon, a story that paints the often villainous Morgan le Fay in a more sympathetic light. Morgan le Fay makes an appearance in The Green Knight, and given that she's already been introduced it could be a logical step to expand upon her character's storied history.

Related: The Green Knight Used The Same Smart Tactic As Marvel's Disney+ Shows

There are also numerous other aspects of the film's world that exist in folklore outside of Arthurian legend. The most obvious is the inclusion of giants in The Green Knight, which are more a part of wider British folklore than characters from specific legends. This is also a way in which a franchise could employ aspects from other stories into subsequent films, expanding on a definitive base of legend and folklore to create a cinematic universe, as well as reimagining other popular Arthurian characters such as Merlin in keeping with the established tone.

Of course, King Arthur has already enjoyed a shared universe of stories for centuries, and the stories' lasting popularity alone is proof enough that there will always be demand for tales of heroism, honor, and sorcery. This exact popularity is why King Arthur and his knights have appeared in a staggering variety of films and TV shows over the years, but very few have been able to truly do the character justice. In fact, as recently as 2017, Warner Bros. failed to start a King Arthur shared universe after the critical panning of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword - but that film was far from the first King Arthur film to fade into obscurity.

Where so many of these films failed (and The Green Knight succeeded) was in making the source material feel exciting without injecting Hollywood fluff into the mix. Naturally, a studio's inclination is usually to treat the stories as an action-based property with minor elements of fantasy, but The Green Knight's more thoughtful and faithful adaptation has rendered the frenetic pace of medieval action obsolete. The universe's real hook, in keeping with that precedent, should be its deep-rooted magical tone, and not its action. After all, in The Green Knight, the titular Green Knight refuses to fight Gawain, instead making the film an exploration for the very human story of measuring one's self-worth against others' perceptions - and that, combined with its stunning visuals, is exactly why it works so well as a narrative. This more traditional approach to the legends - making the characters feel more realistic as human beings - would make for films with far more interesting stories to tell. Where previous King Arthur films have been simple rehashings of established tales with action thrown in, The Green Knight explored wider themes, and that is exactly where so many other failed King Arthur movies have fallen down.

The Green Knight not only made for something of a critical darling, but it has seen Arthurian legend receive increased interest. As faithful a retelling as it is, The Green Knight still updated and improved the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and it marks a significant shift in studios' approach to medieval stories. A shared universe in which the stories of King Arthur and his knights could interact with one another would be a lucrative way to expand upon The Green Knight's success, and as long as subsequent films don't stray too far from what makes A24's film so excellent, the franchise would practically be guaranteed success.

Next: Does Gawain Die At The End Of The Green Knight?



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