The Sword in the Stone
Once again, I have to admit that I am not that familiar with the source material, which is the first part of T.H. White’s tetralogy The Once and Future King. And I’d have to say that this one has some of the same problems as Alice in Wonderland, mainly that it is great execution and not enough heart. I never felt deeply involved in the plot, and didn’t have as much empathy for young Wart (AKA Arthur) as I should have. Someone pointed out in an article on Disney’s Sleeping Beauty that it was really the story of the three fairies, since their doings take up the most screen time. (Briar Rose/Princess Aurora only appears for 18 minutes.) In a different way, this seems to me to be the story of Merlin, who is much the more interesting character. Wart is unformed—the whole point of the story being Merlin’s education of him. Then, abruptly, he stumbles on the sword, and is hailed as the King. He’s done nothing to deserve it, and that pisses me off a little. When Wart pulls the sword from the anvil and stone, a light shines down, presumably from Heaven, which looks like an endorsement of the Divine Right of Kings. Of course, that was the prevailing sentiment at the time, but I don’t have to like it. As I said, he’s done nothing, and his education is woefully incomplete. He doesn’t even know how to read yet. If God was picking, his criteria were as inscrutable as usual.
Merlin, on the other hand, is fascinating. He has traveled in time and knows about all sorts of future inventions. But he’s a little absent-minded, and can’t keep it all straight. His battle with the mad Madam Mim is the high point of the movie, richly inventive and a lot of fun to watch as each transforms into different animals in an attempt to gain an advantage.
PC Smoking Warning: Merlin smokes a lot, and sees visions in the clouds of smoke, so once again we can’t be sure what he’s smoking, but I wouldn’t count on it being tobacco.