Pendragon: Sword of his father
Review by Philip Pfanstiel
How do I review Pendragon? Do I review it as a Christian movie or as a mainstream Hollywood theatrical film? It is far more than the first (it easily outdoes most of the Christian films that I’ve seen) and so therefore deserves to be measured by the standards I’d apply to mainstream movies. In that sense this review may seem harsher then it needs to be. But any criticism needs to be understood in light of the fact that I’m reviewing it by professional and not Christian standards.
Synopsis: Pendragon: Sword of his father follows the journey of Artos, Aaron Burns, as he learns to lead the Britons in their defense against the Saxons. As the title suggests, this is a retelling of the Author legend but with a very decidedly Christian point of view.
Strengths: The film does many things well. From the authentic sets, realistic period costumes, and night time lighting to the fine acting and beautiful cinematography. Another bonus is that for a Christian film it delivers a solid Christian message but doesn’t come across to preachy and keeps the Christian cheese to a minimum (there is some but it only comes in the end and is expected).
Weaknesses: It seems that the Burns production team tries to do too much. While the main characters are solid actors, some of the supporting characters are not the best and their acting is obviously pained. A number of battle scenes come and go too quickly and they seem like exactly that – haphazard. About half the action scenes are very well choreographed, while some of the others are obviously faked. My only suggestion would be to cut the number of action scenes in half and do the remainder with the same choreography and planning that they use in the opening siege sequence.
Recommendation: I strongly recommend Pendragon: Sword of his father. It was fun to watch and entertaining. Once you watch it, check out the making of featurette. Then as you re-watch it you’ll be amazed at how they were able to pull off this whole production and at such a minimal cost. It reminds me of an independent film made in the early 90’s called El Mariachi (not a family film). This film was shot for $7,000 and launched the career of Robert Rodriguez (The Spy Kids movies) and many other future filmmakers were inspired by it. Pendragon looks even better and I can’t wait to see what the Burns production team can put together with more resources and exposure.
Plot/Writing: Three stars. Solid story but doesn’t deliver anything unexpected and does give into some tired cliches near the end. Also there are some connections, choices and characters that stretch credibility. Again no more than the typical Hollywood movie.
Acting: Three stars. The main actors are solid, but the supporting actors could use some more rehearsals or recasting (ouch! how would you fire someone in your family?).
Production Quality: Four stars. The lighting, audio, soundtrack, visuals, camera, costume and production design were great. Some of the computer graphics were obvious and there were a few scenes where audio and coloring were inconsistent.
Redemptive Qualities: Five stars. A strong Christian message that comes across just right. Not too big, not too little. I heard Jake describe Pendragon as a Christian “Braveheart.” The comparison is apt. While Braveheart has a strong Christian subtext, it was not a family film. This film has a similar feel but is very family friendly.
Objectionable Material / Warning. A lot of fight scenes. There is no blood or extended deaths, but people do get hurt and die. Spoiler alert: Someone that you think is dead early in the film comes back at the end of the film (yes, this is one of the cliches mentioned). Until then some children may wonder what happened to her and why she died.
Final thoughts: Fireproof was the Kendrick brother’s third film and one can see the improvement and refinement through each film. This is a tremendous freshmen effort for the Burns production team (I say team because I counted over a dozen different Burns family members involved). I can’t wait to see what the Burns families can do with more resources and the chance for Aaron, Marilyn and Chad to focus on one or two jobs. In this film they did three or four jobs each. I wonder how much better they’ll be when they get a chance to concentrate on one or two jobs. If they continue improving and refining their talents, these future films are going to be smokin’ the competition at theaters worldwide.
Watch the Trailer or BUY the film here