NOTE: This review was written under a previous rating system. Some of the older reviews may express opinions and judgment calls that are not in line with our current standards.2008
Burns Family Studios
There is something about the word “epic” that appeals to our imaginations, our ideals, and even our very sense of the ideal. The word “epic”, standing alone, conjures up images of inspiring scenery, impressive weapons, and heroes who fight because they could lose everything. Claims to “epic-ness”, coming from an independent film company, are rather audacious, and perhaps a bit foolhardy—or perhaps more than a bit. The word “Christian”, coming from an independent film company, tends to appeal more to our emotions than our intellects, teaching us to divorce the two, because the word “Christian” has sadly come to represent woefully inferior concept, scripting, acting, and all the rest. So, what does an independent, Christian, epic movie look like? What should it look like? In my opinion, it ought to look a good deal like what Pendragon would have, if it had been maybe the Burns Family Studios’ third or fourth project, instead of their second.
My praise for Pendragon: Sword of His Father falls into some unexpected categories; my disclaimers for its imperfections, not so unexpected. The plot might have been finessed, might have been presented a little better, and might have felt more like the focus of the film. Still, the subplots were generally well maintained, and the important task of thickening the plot was fairly well executed—enough predictable points for comfort and apprehension’s sakes, alternately, and enough twists to keep us from giving a complete synopsis of the movie before we even see it. The acting was never superb, but it tended toward weakness rather than badness, and more toward stage than television quality. The dialogue—the factor that has been the downfall of so many “epic” books and movies—will probably feel a bit contrived to most viewers, and it may feel awkward to some to hear that many lines come off that explicitly Christian… but, of course, anything we aren’t used to is going to feel awkward, isn’t it? The battle sequences…
… are frequent. Very frequent. The fighting is pretty well choreographed, which means that it is realistic, engaging (if a bit lengthy), and fierce. The variety of weapons used in Pendragon is very impressive, without being caricatured into feeling like an extension of the characters’ identities, but it also gives a broader variety to the kinds of violence you are going to see. Arrows, spears, swords, knives, axes, whips and the element of fire are all employed according to their usual purposes. Characters you don’t know are killed in fast-paced, impersonal combat. The longer, scarier parts of the battle, and the more emotionally intense death scenes which follow, are saved for characters you do know.
The sounds and images of women and children running from Saxon raiders might be slightly disturbing to children or more sensitive viewers, though the brevity of the scenes keeps them from being alarming, and although we are not shown the deaths of any women in the raids, we are shown their graves afterward. One woman is threatened with death multiple times, and is in immediate danger at one point. A fairly lengthy funeral procession, enhanced as it is by torchlight and eerie music, comes off a bit unnerving, even though there is no objective reason for it to be.
As much as I would like to say otherwise, the anticipated flaws in the camera work, and the occasional failure to synchronize the speech with the speaker, wouldn’t have been there, if Pendragon had been made by seasoned Hollywood professionals. On the other hand, Pendragon was never meant to be Hollywood’s competition, because it is not aiming for the same goals. It was made for a purpose that Hollywood has never really understood, and has certainly never embraced. Pendragon was made to glorify God, not merely in what it said through the portrayal of courage and integrity, but in what it said aloud. Pendragon: Sword of His Father is among the most unambiguously Christian movies I have ever seen, and one of the stronger and purer of those. If you are a Christian, you will at least respect the message. If you are committed to multigenerational faithfulness to God and his kingdom, you will admire the message. If you like epic adventure, and don’t mind a fairly noticeable weak spot now and then, odds are that you will like Pendragon, and if you are one of those young boys whose favorite music is the ring of steel, you’ll probably love it. Younger boys may be able to handle the violence and the intensity, but I suggest that parents or older siblings preview the movie before letting children under the age of twelve see it.
* The Dove Foundation gave Pendragon a suggested audience of 12+, and a cautionary message before the movie stated that “Parents are urged to exercise discernment with young children.”