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Screenplay Review &Lsquo;merlin’ by Ed Khmara and David Stevens




Ed Khmara and David Stevens.

Cover of Merlin (Special Edition)

Cover of Merlin (Special Edition)




Ed Khmara and David Stevens

     Although ‘Merlin’ written by Ed Khmara and David Stevens was a two-part mini-series that ran in America in 1998, I chose to review it as I am currently attempting to write a screenplay in the fantasy genre and thought this screenplay would add to my knowledge in this field (not to mention the film stars New Zealand’s very own Sam Neill in the lead role).

     ‘Merlin’ runs for 182 minutes and was split into two parts for television, but in the DVD version it runs all the way through.

     The screenplay tells the story of Merlin – the character from the legend of King Arthur – and follows him from his birth through to old age so it is told in chronological order with the occasional flashback.

     The chief protagonist is, of course, Merlin and the main antagonist is Merlin’s mother Mab. The screenplay includes lots of subplot cutaways – mainly featuring scenes of Mab trying to plot Merlin’s downfall.

     Although it is 200 pages long. The screenplay ‘Merlin’ does contain a three act structure. The first act follows Merlin’s birth and his growth into adulthood. Act I ends with Merlin realising his mother Mab is evil and escaping to live in the world of man.

     Act II focuses on Merlin’s rise as a wizard and his interactions with the kings of Briton. Merlin hopes and prays for a just King to rule the land and his wish is granted with the introduction of King Arthur who Merlin trains as a boy and advises as a king. Act II finishes just before King Arthur’s final battle – the one in which he is eventually slain by his own son, Mordred – when half his army changes sides to oppose him.

     Act III begins with King Arthur’s final battle. When Arthur dies it is up to Merlin to finally defeat the evil Mab once and for all and then find a way to reunite with his one true love, Nimue. The denouement comes with Merlin and Nimue becoming young again and retiring to a cottage in the woods to live out their lives together.

     Due to my own foray into writing a fantasy screenplay, while reading this script I paid particular attention to how the writers, Ed Khmara and David Stevens, described some of the mythical worlds they invented. I imagined they would have to write nearly a page of descriptive text to correctly convey the images they were trying to achieve.

     However, I could not have been more mistaken. Scenes were set simply and succinctly while still giving a vivid picture of the world. For example here are the authors’ scene description for a magical, mythical kingdom called ‘Joyous Gard’, which Merlin is seeing for the first time.

“MERLIN goes to the side of the ship and looks out to see the castle of Joyous Gard built on the side of the sea


YOUNG GALAHAD leads MERLIN into the courtyard. Everything is different. It seems a place set in the 13th Century with knights in shining armour and ladies in silk robes and conical hats.”

     Although the description of Joyous Gard is brief, it gives the reader a real picture of what the world is like by basing it on something based on our own real world – something that had not crossed my mind to do before reading this screenplay.

     Overall, I enjoyed reading ‘Merlin’. This was my first introduction into the world of fantasy screenplays and I found it as easy to read as many Hollywood blockbusters, and definitely easier to read than Woody Allen’s ‘Interiors’.

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