Movie Renovation: Pendragon-The Sword of His Father

See original review here.

 

Production Improvements

Pendragon: The Sword of His Father was one of the most under-funded productions that showed the most potential.  Thankfully, this potential was fulfilled in Beyond the Mask, but there were some things that could have improved Pendragon.  In many ways, it seems like Pendragon was filmed over a long period of time, with each part of the movie having a different level of production quality.  Despite the very low funding, the Burns family did their best to make the most out of what they had, which is all we really ask for.  For example, the construction and engineering of the complex battle sets and props was impressive.  However, video quality and lighting were very inconsistent throughout, and a lot of the audio quality was reworked in post.  Essentially, all this production needed was better funding, which the Burns family had in Beyond the Mask, so they followed through on their potential.

Plot and Storyline Improvements

Pendragon is one of deepest and most complex plots we have ever reviewed, especially since it was based on a long historical account.  Unfortunately, the Burns were forced to cram almost four hours of epic content into two hours, which was still an impressive amount of time for an indie film.  Even so, we feel like Pendragon could have been a two-part miniseries had the funding been there.  The characters barely reach their full potential, and their epic journey across time is barely captured in this limited window we are offered.  There is so much more that could have been done here if the budget had permitted.  The first part could have been about the captivity of Artos and his escape, while the second part could have focused on his redemption.  There are so many possibilities here, so maybe one day, we will get a remake?

Acting Improvements

Unfortunately, the casting and acting is by far the biggest detractor of Pendragon.  Obviously, cast options were limited, so their hands were tied.  The good thing is that casting got a major upgrade in Beyond the Mask, including the employment of an acting coach.  Still, if Pendragon were remade, we would need an entirely new cast.  As a side note, however, Marilyn Burns is a great costume designer.

Conclusion

The Burns family followed the indie film model perfectly: they began with an under-funded production that was rescued by a deep and complex plot and were given a greater opportunity to go further in Beyond the Mask.  Now, all that’s missing is a follow-up film (wink wink).  They are a creative team with loads of potential, just waiting to break out.  If they are ever offered a full theater release and distribution contract, then Christian film will never be the same again.

 

2015 Box Office Revolution Awards

Every year, movies are released and cast members show off their talents.  Writers and directors showcase their creativity.  Films are separated into roughly three groups: the truly talented, the potentially great, and the others.  At Box Office Revolution, we believe it is our prerogative to annually recognize those movie makers and players who have the ability to bring revolution to Christian entertainment.

 

Reader’s Choice Movie of the Year: War Room

Runners-up: Woodlawn, Beyond the Mask, Old-Fashioned

 

Staff Choice Movie of the Year: Woodlawn

Runners-up: War Room, Old-Fashioned, Beyond the Mask

 

Staff Choice Actor of the Year: Caleb Castille (Woodlawn)

Runners-up: T. C. Stallings (War Room), Sean Astin (Woodlawn), Andrew Cheney (Beyond the Mask), Rik Swartzwelder (Old-Fashioned), Nic Bishop (Woodlawn)

 

Staff Choice Actress of the Year: Priscilla Shirer (War Room)

Runners-up: Karen Abercrombie (War Room), Kara Killmer (Beyond the Mask), Elizabeth Roberts (Old-Fashioned)

 

Staff Choice Directors of the Year: Andrew Erwin\Jon Erwin (Woodlawn)

Runners-up: Chad Burns (Beyond the Mask), Rik Swartzwelder (Old-Fashioned), Alex Kendrick (War Room)

 

Staff Choice Writers of the Year: Paul McCusker\Stephen Kendrick\Brennon Smith\Aaron Burns\Chad Burns (Beyond the Mask)

Runners-up: Rik Swartzwelder (Old-Fashioned), Jon Erwin\Todd Geralds\Quinton Peeples\Mark Schlabach (Woodlawn), Alex Kendrick\Stephen Kendrick (War Room)

 

Staff Choice Soundtrack of the Year: Woodlawn

Runners-up: War Room, Old-Fashioned, Beyond the Mask

Pendragon: The Sword of His Father (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Artos Pendragon, captured by the barbaric Saxons as a young man, only has one goal in mind: to save his home, the Isle of Britannia, from the invading Saxon forces as the Dark Ages fall upon ancient Europe.  Afforded the opportunity to escape his captors, he is helped by a mysterious seer who reminds him of his family’s Christian heritage and gives him a new hope by telling him to go to a fortress city on the island where King Ambrosia is building a new army to beat back the Saxons from their nation.  Artos begins a new life there are refocuses on the vision God has laid upon his heart: free the people of Britannia from the Saxon oppression.  Little does he know the intrigue, conspiracy, and battles that await him.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

For a very low budget production, Pendragon does the best it can with what it has.  The Burns production crew was quite inexperienced at this point, so they must be given a chance.  The production quality improves as the movie progresses, including the video quality and the camera work.  Some of the battles scenes are well done, but some are not.  The costuming and the sets are very complex and should be applauded when the small budget is considered.  The overarching issue with Pendragon’s production is the large amount of poorly overdubbed lines that are inserted into many outdoor scenes.  Overall, in their debut film, the Burns crew has shown that they have a lot of potential and can do even better with more funding.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

The plot of Pendragon is extremely complex.  In a noble effort to avoid narration, there are a lot of understated elements that need to be explored more.  Though the film is over two hours, it could have been longer due to the sheer amount of content that is portrayed.  Multiple characters have interesting arcs that need to be further developed.  This is not a simple action plot, as it is filled with twists and turns.  The ending is justified due to its historical genre.  Overall, the driving point of the film needs to be better highlighted and the plot needs to be expanded, if at all possible.  Once again, this is difficult to do without proper funding, and Box Office Revolution feels that Burns did the best they could with what they had.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This is the most detracting element of the movie.  If the acting was improved, this movie would greatly improve.  It is evident that many of the main actors are members of the production crew and that this is their first major acting venture.  While there is little to no acting coaching and the best actor has a very small role in the film, they must once again be given clemency, given that they had little money to work with.

Conclusion

Pendragon has a mammoth potential, enough to be a two-part epic movie or multi-part miniseries, due to its highly complex plot and untapped character arcs.  But alas, poor funding often derails great intentions in the world of independent Christian film-making.  However, the good news is that Burns did not settle for less in their sophomore film, Beyond the Mask, which indicates that we can expect even greater things from them in the near future.  The Christian movie scene desperately needs studios like the Burns, who will flip the script and bring new genres of Christian films to the table.

 

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 10 points

Beyond the Mask (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

William Reynolds is not a good man.  As an unofficial contracted ‘enforcer’ for the East India Company, he has committed many undocumented international crimes.  That’s why his boss, Charles Kemp, enlists him and his partner to steal and replace an incriminating Parliamentary report that could shut down the entire company for unethical business practices.  However, after this mission is complete, William intends to put his criminal life behind him.  Little does he know that Kemp has other plans for him.  After secretly surviving a failed attempt on his life, Reynolds is forced to take on the identity of the man who foiled the murder—a young vicar headed to a local parish.  It seems easy until Reynolds must fabricate a knowledge of the Scriptures and come to grips with his newfound love for a local girl who has no idea who he really is.  What Reynolds learns is that life in hiding is anything but straightforward, especially during the tumultuous political times of pre-Revolutionary War England and America.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

Burns Family Studios did an excellent job on the production of this adventure epic movie, including camera work, special effects, and historical costuming.  It would have been very easy for this type of large scope movie to be cheaply produced, but this was not the case.  The editing must have been very tricky, given the time that the movie covers, but it is done fairly well.  There are virtually no errors here.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2 points)

However, the same cannot be said about the plot.  Box Office Revolution believes talented writer Paul McCusker bit off more than he could chew with this historical epic.  The movie covers at least two years of highly important content, and it walks the line of being too fast paced and being just good enough.  In some respects, the plot moves too fast to develop the characters, but in other respects, it is a very exciting movie full of intriguing plot twists.  It is creatively woven around historical events, yet BOR wonders if Mask should have been two movies or even a miniseries.  At the same time, BOR realizes that money is always an issue with independent Christian films, so it is likely that McCusker and Burns Family Studios did the best they could with what they had.  In short, the only real errors in this aspect of the movie are the fast paced plot and some small yet unrealistic action scenes.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Andrew Cheney and Jon Ryhs-Davies are obviously well-seasoned actors, and they are coached well.  However, the ‘amateur’ actors are also coached very well.  BOR noted that staff positions on the production of this movie were devoted to acting coaching, something that other Christian productions need to take note of.  There are virtually no acting errors in Beyond the Mask.

Conclusion

In short, there are two ways of looking at Beyond the Mask, much like the masks of William Reynolds.  Either McCusker and Burns Family Studios did the best with what they had or they did not do enough.  BOR chooses to adopt a position in between these two options.  Beyond the Mask is clearly above average and Paul McCusker has always been known as an excellent story writer.  The movie is a breath of fresh air in the Christian movie industry and has made BOR very excited to see the future movies of Paul McCusker and Burns Family Studios.

 

Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points