A Knight’s Tale has plenty of swordplay, little character development

by Preman Koshar || Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor

In honor of what would have been Heath Ledger’s 36th birthday, on April 4th I watched A Knight’s Tale for the first time. Directed by Brian Helgeland, the film centers on three squires, who, after the death of their liege, decide to have one of them, named William (Heath Ledger), impersonate a noble. Impersonating a noble would allow him to compete in jousting tournaments and make a bid for the princess’ hand in marriage. This is made possible by a random run-in with Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany), who, in exchange for help with his gambling problem, agrees to forge William’s patents. These patents verify that William is of noble birth. Much swordplay and jousting commences, while stereotypical foes are fought and subsequently defeated, and the trio, joined by a female blacksmith, does their best to hide William’s true bloodline. William’s ultimate goal is to “change his stars” and change his station in life, all the while securing fame, fortune, and love.

The film has above average cinematography, and repeatedly captures the jousting scenes fluidly. Otherwise, it is not particularly notable, but the effort in the jousting scenes did not go unnoticed. The acting was completely unremarkable, with perhaps the exception of Alan Tudyk, who played an exceptionally violent, but humorous, peasant squire. Heath Ledger and the rest of the cast did not act poorly, but failed to stand out in any way.

The score was, however, very strong, and featured many classic rock songs, as this film was meant to have rock music undertones and themes. The film begins with a great rendition of “We Will Rock You,” and then the score becomes more interwoven into the plot from then on. The plot, while generally interesting, was pretty monotonous. There must have been over twenty jousting scenes, and I’d say that between the jousting and the swordplay, fighting took up over a third of the movie. The pacing was skillful enough that it never became truly boring, but it was still a disappointment to see that level of repetition. There are only so many splintered jousting sticks one can see before they’re ready to turn off the film. Many of the characters were very stereotypical and not well defined, and seemed to be illogical in their reasoning. They also seemed to often have fickle and unpredictable personalities. This made it difficult to sympathize with many of the characters, as it was hard to tell if they had completely good intentions or not. The dialogue was largely what saved the film, with both Alan Tudyk’s peasant squire and Paul Bettany’s Geoffrey Chaucer having numerous humorous and quick-witted lines.

Overall, A Knight’s Tale is filled with stereotypical characters and plot devices, but is redeemed somewhat through its cinematography, strong characters, and dialogue. The film is worth seeing, but I don’t really care to see it again. While it was nice to see Heath Ledger in action, his performance in The Dark Knight is far superior to his acting in A Knight’s Tale. 

First-year Preman Koshar is the Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor. His email is pkoshar@fandm.edu.

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