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Hate-watching Cursed on Netflix



CURSED
A tragically dull lead, boring villains, dreadful writing, dreadful costumes... okay effects?


It seems Netflix shows these days are a little bit like playing Russian Roulette. There are a few gems, but a lot of them are burning heaps of trash. The fantasy show Cursed unfortunately falls into the latter category. I was looking to satisfy that craving for fantasy that I suspect we all feel from time to time. But I should have been looking elsewhere to satisfy that appetite. The pilot episode alone is so abysmal, that only my desire to watch a complete train wreck could compel me to watch further episodes. I have currently watched up to episode 3, but just in the pilot episode alone there is enough awfulness that runs consistent throughout the show. Is it fair to judge a show by 3 episodes alone? I think its at least fair game for criticism.

So, lets talk about it.

Cursed is yet another take on the Arthurian legend, although it is unclear where and when exactly this tale takes place. A lot of the shooting locations seem to be in the UK, so I suppose they are going for some sort of pseudo medieval England, but it remains vague. The show starts off with our heroine riddled with arrows, sinking in the water. This scene remains unexplained as of watching this. According to the comments, this is eventually explained. Although I do not expect a good reason, given the show's poor writing.

I think one of the show's biggest problems is the boring lead and the incompetent writing. The pilot episode is rife with inconsistencies, bizarre plot choices and coincidences, and bare bones dialogue. The show is also terrible at communicating travel distances. But we'll get to all of that, lets talk about the casting first.

Katherine Langford plays the lead role of Nimue, and acting-wise she does an adequate job with the material she's given. I feel however that she is dreadfully miscast as a leading lady. She is so boring and she never succeeds at convincing the audience that she can carry this show. There is just nothing compelling about her portrayal of this character that makes you want to watch more. Gustaf Sharsgard does a fine job as drunk Merlin, although he's basically just playing the exact same character as he was on Vikings (or so I'm told). Then there is Arthur, played by Devon Tyrell... which is an odd choice. Apart from the fact that again he's not very compelling to watch, the casting of black actors feels really off in this show. I'm all in favor of diverse representation, but considering the setting and time period (which remains a bit of a mystery) it is just odd seeing black actors in some of these roles (including a black nun in an abbey). It is also odd seeing two nuns kiss (each other) and use foul language. Yeah, this show is all over the place. Should there be more ethnic diversity in fantasy movies and tv shows? Absolutely. But is this medieval England or not?

Nimue is chased out of her village for using her dark fey magic (conjuring a minor Entanglement spell basically), which seems to trigger whenever she gets emotional... but conveniently doesn't work when the plot calls for it (such as when a monk is murdering her own mother in front of her). These monks seem to have it in for her throughout the show, and magically appear wherever she goes, regardless of what distance she travels... they are just there. It is not entirely clear what religeon these monks are supposed to belong to. They do crucify suspected witches on crosses (which they are some how able to do in the middle of raiding a village, which is really quick), but we never see them wearing obvious Christian symbols, but they are all dressed as if they walked straight out of Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch. So these are supposed to be baddies, but again the actors here are not convincing villains. They don't give off any menacing vibe what so ever, and are cartoonishly evil.


(You would be forgiven for thinking this was a villain from the Dungeons & Dragons movie.)

I won't go over the messy plot in its entirely, but at some point the show introduces a mysterious villain who is always dressed in a dark cloak and hood. But the show seems undecided if they want to keep him a mystery or not, because they constantly show his face, and then film him from behind again so we can't see his face. Make up your mind! Also, he looks like his mascara is drooping down his face; not very intimidating. The costuming is also not very inspired here. Everyone is dressed so bland.

Wait, what is happening? Why is the show all animated now? Ah yes, the scene transitions. What a bizarre stylistic choice. The show has the most jarring scene transitions. Where a simple cut would have sufficed, the show instead uses these elaborate Adobe After Effects-like animations that do not fit the tone of the show at all. They look tacky, as does the effect of blood splattered over the screen which the episode ends on. It should come as no surprise that everyone who dislikes the show, mentions the jarring scene transitions.


(All of these costumes look brand new, like they've never been worn. It is so jarring.)

The costumes on this show are also pretty terrible. Not only do they look very generic (especially on the leads), but they all look like they have never been used. I'm not saying that all medieval peasants need to be covered in mud, but some semblance of wear would have made the show look a lot more convincing. None of these costumes look like they've ever been worn. They look fresh out of the box, and everyone looks like that, even the extras!

The travel scenes in this show are weird and confusing. The villains seems to teleport all over the place whenever needed, and its never quite clear how far the various locations are apart from each other. When Nimue flees on horseback and hides in the forest, all of a sudden her friend Arthur is also there.... without a horse! How did he catch up to her so fast? He didn't flee with her, and I didn't see him on a horse. Then she goes to another town, -and oh look- , it is the same monks again, lead by the same villain, who are now also there. I think Nimue is being railroaded by the Dungeon Master. He just wants her to stop dodging his carefully crafted encounters.


(Some of these effects are honestly not bad at all)

The special effects in the show are adequate for the most part (and less jarring than some of the Witcher's effects). There are some CGI background replacements, which look servicable. There are some CGI creatures, such as CGI wolves in episode 1, and a bear in a later episode. While clearly CGI, they look okay for a tv show. CGI animals are very hard to do, so I'm a bit more forgiving for a Netflix tv show, since not every fantasy show has a budget like Game of Thrones had. That said, the need to have these creatures in the story to begin with is far more questionable. Why is she fighting wolves now? Where did they come from all of a sudden? Why doesn't she ever use her powers when it would be really useful? And why does she swing that sword around like a paraplegic woodcutter? Also, where the hell did she get that sword?


(Apparently people were all over these wolf effects, but they look fine to me.)

I had to rewind a bit, as my attention was waning. Surely there would be a proper set up for how she gets the all important magical sword? No... no there isn't. Her mother just has it, for some reason, and tells her to take it to Merlin. Then her mother (who also has magical powers) gets murderered by a single monk. Nimue thinks hard what to do: Should she run away? Should she use the magic sword? Should she use her magical powers, which manifest during emotional situations? She chooses to do neither one of these things, and simply watches as her mother is murdered by this one monk, and then she flees.

The production design is alright. The town sets look pretty convincing, and they've clearly used some real locations for some of the interior shots. Although that abbey in episode 3 looks really familiar. Isn't that the same location they used for the king's castle in episode 1? I would have to go back and check. For the most part, the sets look fine. Some of the fantasy forest bits clearly were on a very small set, because you can tell the camera and actor movement is really restricted. But they do have a couple of good looking city scenes here and there. I keep trying to spot modern lighting fixtures whenever they shoot a scene in an abbey, because you can clearly tell what are sets, and what are real locations.

Where it really all falls apart is the writing and the casting. This show is desperately in need of a better lead and better villains. The writing may improve (although I do not expect a season 2), and it could introduce new villains, but the show would still be stuck with a tragically dull lead.
 
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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I wasn't keen at first, but it grew on me. It's definitely "young adult" generic fantasy, and plays very fast and loose with Arthurian legend, but then lots of things play fast and loose with Arthurian legend. It's OK; not great, but I found it watchable. My biggest issue was that everything looked a bit too clean and new, from clothes to locations; even the dirt looked clean.

I definitely don't ding a fantasy show for 'realism'. None of it's real, including the witch, the magic sword or the wizard or all the fey people.
 

Tonguez

Legend
There was an interview with the Arthur actor in which he did mention his suprise in being cast as the Once and Future King of Britain, until someone pointed out to the cast that the entire Arthurian cycle is fictional, its a medieval fantasy inspired by a British history that never happened.

Because its fiction then having black Arthur and weird Fey killing Inquisitors is ok, its part of the shows conceit.

Ive watched the whole thing and how the sword came to be with Nimues mother and how she ended up in the water is explained. It is a very pristine show as youve noticed and it does get confusing at times, but it was an okay watch.

It doesnt get ‘better’ though, if you havent liked up to episode 3 then you wont like much else about it
 

There was an interview with the Arthur actor in which he did mention his surprise in being cast as the Once and Future King of Britain, until someone pointed out to the cast that the entire Arthurian cycle is fictional, its a medieval fantasy inspired by a British history that never happened.

Because its fiction then having black Arthur and weird Fey killing Inquisitors is ok, its part of the shows conceit.

That is true of course. Although the casting is still very distracting. Whenever a show tackles the Arthurian legend, people expect medieval England mixed with fantasy. They expect something that looks like medieval England, but with some magic thrown in. A black Arthur is an odd choice, but perhaps not as jarring as two nuns kissing in an abbey.

It is interesting hearing from people who did like the show, and specifically what they liked about it.
 

Ryujin

Adventurer
I did rather enjoy it. OK, it's not high art and doesn't follow any of the old Arthurian legends, but they're pretty much all over the place on their own. It's no more "out there" than the novel that cast Morgana as the victim ("I, Morgana") or the one told from the perspective of the women in the piece ("Mists of Avalon"). It's teen angsty and all that but it's easily consumable, not requiring much attention from me to follow. I also had fun playing "spot the errors" in story, character, or even just when something seemed really anachronistic. "Oh, look! The guy is wearing chain on his stomach, but cloth on his chest and arms. Wonder how well that works in a fight?" And yes, manicured lawns seem a bit off.

But, then again, the show "Norsemen" had a major battle that took place in a perfectly rectangular field, cut to lawn height, and surrounded by carefully placed trees.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Whenever a show tackles the Arthurian legend, people expect medieval England mixed with fantasy. They expect something that looks like medieval England,

I don't know. Whenever I see a science fiction or superhero show anymore, I have an expectation that the future will look vaguely like British Columbia, or Toronto.

This is a corollary to a lesson I learned when I first watched Jackie Chan in Rumble in the Bronx and marveled at the green mountains of New York City.
 



Li Shenron

Legend
I haven't watched it, but I might. I am generally a lot more demanding on the verisimilitude of sci-fi movies/series than fantasy, which I can sometimes enjoy even when goofy.
 

Tonguez

Legend
, but perhaps not as jarring as two nuns kissing in an abbey.

It is interesting hearing from people who did like the show, and specifically what they liked about it.

Personally I was most interested in the world building aspects of the story, how they developed the various factions of Fey & Humans (Uthers court, Paladins, Church, and Others (spoiler)).
the set peices (Northern village, human town, forest, Uthers court, Paladin camp etc) were emblemic of the factions so I didn’t mind them being close, especially when you remember the the Saxon kingdoms like Wessex and Kent were relatively tiny

It was also fun to note the references like Nimues cave and the names of Arthur’s sister and the names of other characters too)

not sure the issue with the Nuns kissing is, it’s a common trope and easy/lazy short hand for showing the pair are rebellious and maybe just there as a hideout rather than due to faith...
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Life's too short (and there are too many other things worth watching) to hate watch something. If it's not working for you, dump it. My wife is watching it, but I think it's kind of lame, so I leave it to her to watch while I do or pay attention to something else.

For what it's worth, I thought the wolf effects in episode 1 were a mixed bag. Some of it was good but there were some shots that looked really odd.
 

jerryrice4949

Adventurer
I wasn't keen at first, but it grew on me. It's definitely "young adult" generic fantasy, and plays very fast and loose with Arthurian legend, but then lots of things play fast and loose with Arthurian legend. It's OK; not great, but I found it watchable. My biggest issue was that everything looked a bit too clean and new, from clothes to locations; even the dirt looked clean.

I definitely don't ding a fantasy show for 'realism'. None of it's real, including the witch, the magic sword or the wizard or all the fey people.
This is kind of my take as well. It is not great but I find it satisfactory fantasy and my wife likes it. We have finished episode 5 and plan to watch the whole season. I like it better than the Witcher. That show has horrible dialogue, poor acting and tragic costumes and effects. I don’t mind cheesy but the Witcher is beyond cheesy.

May biggest gripe with Cursed is the writing. The dialogue could use a lot of work. I know from the start they wanted an original take on the characters and they accomplished that though the Merlin character is meh.

Overall I would give it a B- or C+ for a grade.
 



Gradine

Final Form
The Witcher was basically Xena with blood and boobs and people saying ":):):):)" a bunch, what's not to love?

I'll definitely recommend Cursed to my partner, though, this sounds like it might be up her alley, even if she ends up hating it.
 

Ryujin

Adventurer
I don't know. Whenever I see a science fiction or superhero show anymore, I have an expectation that the future will look vaguely like British Columbia, or Toronto.

This is a corollary to a lesson I learned when I first watched Jackie Chan in Rumble in the Bronx and marveled at the green mountains of New York City.

You have no idea how many actors and crew are pissed at Vancouver constantly subbing in for Seattle :ROFLMAO:
 

ccs

40th lv DM
Thanks for the review/warning.
I've seen this in the lineup but not gotten around to watching it yet.

Maybe when I need something fairly mindless on in the background when I get to painting a new batch of 40k stuff. (I tend to use the endless 70s/80s D list movies on Amazon for that.)
 

rgoodbb

Adventurer
This was definitely an Ooooh that's bad! for myself and my partner. The script was poor from the start and everything was too colourful and clean. It turned us off before the halfway point of the first episode.

A shame, because we too are looking out for the next series to watch. There's only so many Snow Piercer's left.
 

GreyLord

Hero
When you say young adult show is it more like that Elfstones of Shannara type young adult (with all the teen angst and cheesy effects and such) or like Doctor Who type young adult (or more a family oriented) show?

I like the latter type of show FAR more than the former type of show.
 

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